Anthropology and Photography 2014 (1)

British Museum, Clore Centre, 29-31 May 2014


Originals: The consequences of photography: reconstructing our view of the early anthropological surveys in the UK

Location Studio
Date and Start Time 29 May, 2014 at 15:30


Jos Dudding (University of Cambridge)  email
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Short Abstract

The centrality of photography in the Ethnographic Survey of Ireland of 1891-1903 reveals much about the use of the camera in the then emerging anthropological survey. When re-examined over time and space, complex issues arise regarding photography, intertextuality and the politics of representation.

Long Abstract

This panel re-imagines the 'magic lantern' show compiled by A.C. Haddon during a series of surveys of the West Coast of Ireland between 1891 and 1903 that projected to colleagues, students, and public alike notions of Irish race and culture onto both a geographical and imagined space. This Ethnographic Survey of Ireland was the precursor and benchmark for many subsequent anthropology surveys. The presentation will consist of three linked projections.

The Collection: Dr Jocelyne Dudding places the Haddon collection in MAA Cambridge in context by reference to other sources in multiple collections and sites (theoretical and archival) in order to better understand the role photography played in the early development of anthropological methods.

The Source /Subjects: Dáithí de Mordha (Folklorist and Ethnologist) is the Great-grandson of the some of the people visited by Haddon (1890) and surveyed by Browne (1897). He will review the photographic survey of 1897 in terms of (a) the folk memory of that time/place and (b) a contemporary understanding of the community visited by Haddon and Browne.

Photography in Context: Ciarán Walsh places the ethnographical activity of Haddon and Browne in context in terms of the photographic documentation of life in the west of Ireland, arguing that images of Irish 'primitives' inadvertently challenged Anglo-Saxon hegemony with surprising consequences for contemporary attitudes to anthropology.

Discussant: Dr Mark H Maguire

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Haddon and the role of the original photograph in anthropological surveys

Author: Jos Dudding (University of Cambridge) email

Short Abstract

Haddon’s engagement with modernity cultivated his use of photography as an anthropological survey tool. Yet his survey photographs of the Aran Islands were equally concerned with evidencing cultural identity before the perceived loss of the ‘Islander race’ and destruction of their way of life.

Long Abstract

In 1891 Alfred Haddon, concerned with how little attention had been given to the anthropological and sociological study of the Irish 'self', organised an Irish Ethnographic Survey. As part of this inaugural work in the Aran Islands, and modelling his practices on prior work by Francis Galton and John Beddoe, Haddon endorsed the worth of the photographic record for such surveys. Subsequently he did the same during his expedition to the Torres Strait in 1898-9. Haddon published his methodologies in the photographic sections of Notes and Queries, and as a result his concepts were adopted by other anthropologists, and a number of other photographic surveys ensued.

Yet the complexity and ambiguity of these survey photographs is demonstrated by Haddon's statement that the promise of a copy of the sitter's portrait 'as a reward' usually offset being measured and photographed. Despite their original intent, these survey photographs therefore were, and continue to be, active in the definition and representation of 'self'. Their evolving construction of identity and history in terms of both the sitter and viewer will be the focus of this paper.

Looking for pygmies in the back yard, Alfred Cort Haddon and the Irish Ethnographic Survey 1891-1903

Author: Ciarán Walsh ( / Maynooth University) email

Short Abstract

The ethnographical activity of Haddon and Browne, when reviewed in the context of photographic documentation of life in the west of Ireland, challenges Anglo-Saxon hegemony and ideas of civilisation / primitivism in the UK, with surprising consequences for contemporary attitudes to anthropology.

Long Abstract

This paper deals with Haddon's early adoption of photography as evidence, using his journals, sketchbooks and lantern slides to show how illustration - graphic and photographic - were an extension of direct observation in his early experiments in ethnography. Shortly after his return from the Torres Strait in 1889, Haddon encountered Philip Lavelle, King of Iniskea North, during a fishing survey off the west coast of Ireland. The encounter profoundly disrupted Haddon's sense of civilisation and influenced his formulation of the Irish Ethnographic Survey, the vehicle for Haddon's transition from zoology to ethnology. Haddon and Charles R. Browne set out to unravel the origins of the Irish 'race' (including a mythical race of pygmy-like people) against the background of a culture war that pitted Anglo-Saxon against Celt, a proxy for the real war that was taking shape in revolutionary circles. Largely forgotten, the Irish Ethnographic Survey is, in some ways, the 'missing link' in the early development of British anthropology. The publication of the photograph albums of Charles R. Browne in 2012 has brought it back into focus, disrupting the narrative of the early development of anthropology in Britain and challenging contemporary perceptions of anthropology in Ireland.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.