Beneath: skin, body and interior in South African twentieth century mining photography

Pinto De Almeida, Fernanda (2014-04)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2014.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: In South Africa, documentary photographs are met with suspicion in critical psychology scholarship either for their connivance with colonial and postcolonial classificatory strategies or their epistemic violence against racialized subjects. This has helped us to take photography, and mining photography within it, at face value, in other words, as particularly embedded in the form of geographic displacement, material dispossession and structural discrimination that race has been historically set to index. Questioning this assumption, while sympathetic to the conditions for its emergence, my method in this thesis is akin to Benjamin’s “literary montage” in Arcades Project (1999, p. 460) – a meaningful and poetic assemblage of a collection of mining photographs from 1910 to 2000, assuming that the figure of the black miner they help to produce is expressed through race, but also, to use Durrheim’s term, troubles it. In other words, my critique constitutes what Nash (2009, p. 23) calls “racial iconography”, to explore the meaningful ways in which race articulates the specificity of appearances at a particular historical time, and in dialogue with a particular set of material circumstances. The latter constitute here the development of capitalist modernity engendered by the gold mining industry, but also a range of historical, literary and philosophical materials that help me situate geographically and historically the figure of the black miner, particularly within three interrelated tropes: surface, digging, and interior. In this manner, I attempt to show the material and abstract underpinnings of the mining archive that allow us to read images as a coherent narrative, understanding my own curatorial process as historically reflexive. I hope to contribute to what Derek Hook (2004, p. 118) has called a “new language of critique” in psychology and a theorization of race in a time marked by a increasing reification of our disciplinary gaze.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: In Suid-Afrika word dokumentêre foto’s binne die kritiese psigologiese vakgebied met argwaan bejeen, óf weens hulle samespel met koloniale en postkoloniale klassifikasie-strategië, óf weens hul epistemiese geweld teenoor rasgedefineerde subjekte. Die gevolg is dat fotografie, en daarbinne mynfotografie, op sigwaarde, dus histories spesifiek veranker binne die raamwerk van geografiese ontheemding, materiële onteiening en strukturele diskriminasie waaronder ras ingedeel word. Met alle begrip vir die omstandighede waaronder dit ontstaan het, bevraagteken my metodiek hierdie aanname. In aansluiting by Benjamin se Arcades Project (1999, p. 460) se ‘literary collage’ metode – behels my metode ’n betekenisvolle en poëtiese saamvoeging van ’n versameling mynfoto’s vanaf 1910 tot 2000, waarin die figuur van die swart mynwerker enersyds in terme van ras uitgedruk word maar ook, in terme van Durrheim, daardeur versteur word. My benadering behels wat Nash (2009, p. 23) “racial iconography” noem, om die betekenisvolle maniere waarop ras die spesifisiteit van voorkoms tydens bepaalde historiese tye, en in wisselwerking met ’n bepaalde stel ekonomiese omstandighede bepaal, te verken. Laasgenoemde omstandighede omvat die ontwikkeling van kapitalistiese moderniteit soos voortgebring deur die goudmynidustrie asook ’n verskeidenheid historiese, literêre en filosofiese materiaal, wat bydra om die beeld van die swart mynwerker geografies en histories, veral binne drie verbandhoudende raamwerke: oppervlak, delwery, en interieur, te bepaal. My strewe is om die materiële en abstrakte grondslae van die mynargief, waardeur ons hierdie uitbeeldings as ’n samehangende verhaal kan lees, aan te toon. Ek beskou hierdie kuratoriese proses as histories terugwerkend. Ek hoop om, in ’n tyd wat deur voortgesette verkonkretisering gekenmerk word, by te dra tot wat Derek Hook ’n “new language of critique” (2004, p. 118) in die psigologie en teorisering van ras, noem.

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