Stuart Hall: “Cultural Identity and Diaspora”

Reflection:

“Cultural Identity and the Diaspora” by Stuart Hall

Oxford dictionaries’ definition of diaspora is, “The dispersion or spread of any people from their original homeland” (Oxford Dictionary 2015).

 

Before reading this article I was curious to find out what Stuart Hall’s outlook was on cultural identity. I soon found that he believes that identity is ever changing and building. He expresses “identity as a ‘production’ which is never complete” (Hall.S:222). However, he also states that “this view problematises the very authority and authenticity to which the term, ‘cultural identity’, lays claim” (Hall.S n.d.:222).

 

Hall then carries on to talk about the importance of context, “what we say is always ‘in context’, positioned” (Hall.S:222). The relevance is to us at that moment and that place, it is due to what has happened to us in the past. Hall explains to the reader his context, its his background for why he writes as he does.

 

Hall describes different ways of thinking about cultural identity. One way to approach it is to think “in terms of one, shared culture, a sort of collective one true self” (Hall.S:223). He further explains that it is this that people of diaspora should “bring to light and express” (Hall.S:223). Perhaps through my project I am bringing to light the Anglo Indian essence, the Anglo Indian shared culture.

 

Another way to approach cultural identity is to recognize that “as well as the many points of similarity, there are also critical points of deep and significant difference which constitute ‘what we really are’; or rather – since history has intervened- what we have become” (Hall.S: 225). I understand this as what we have experienced in life changes us, what context we have endured alters what we are “becoming as well as being” (Hall.S:225).

 

Can we understand where identity has formed or what it will form into? “The second view of cultural identity is much less familiar… identity does not proceed, in a straight, unbroken line, from some fixed origin, how are we to understand its formation?” (Hall.S: 226). There are two sides that Hall has explored, “the vector of similarity and continuity; and the vector of difference and rupture” (Hall.S:226). It is both of these sides that effect cultural identity. My Grandfather’s (Dudley Traish) identity was affected by both of these points, however, adapting his identity to his surroundings was a stronger influence.

 

Hall investigates the idea, that despite differences, people of diaspora have been through similar experiences, “unified” (Hall.S:227) by it, however, they have now been torn away from each other and their past.

 

This essay explores black Caribbean identities’; this has led me to ask what Anglo Indians have as a common history. Through research I have found it to be; working on the railways, Christianity, food, music, social class, and experiences of the Raj. Hall explores the presence of Africa, “languages were spoken, in the stories and tales told to children, in religious practices and beliefs, in the spiritual life, the arts, crafts, music and rhythms… This was-is- the ‘Africa’ that is alive and well in diaspora” (Hall.S:230). Having read this it has made me want to explore the stories of Anglo Indians that are also alive and well, despite the diaspora. Unlike Stuart Hall I am unable to find any cultural constancy, in the project I would like to capture memories for posterity.

 

 

References

Hall, S. (n.d.) Cultural Identity And Diaspora [online] 1st edn. Richard. L. W Clarke. available from <http://www.rlwclarke.net/Theory/SourcesPrimary/HallCulturalIdentityandDiaspora.pdf&gt; [8 March 2015]

 

Oxford Dictionary, (2015) Diaspora – Definition Of Diaspora In English From The Oxford Dictionary [online] available from <http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/diaspora&gt; [8 March 2015]

 

2015-04-02 12.13.30

 

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Audio

 

Audio:

 

Having researched into contextual readings I found Allan Sekula’s work aided to to broaden my understanding on the topic of diaspora. He also assisted by ideas around how Anglo Indian diaspora could be presented as a project or exhibition. In Sekula’s work I felt that use of quotes were beneficial as they assisted the viewers understanding on Polonia and the photographs on exhibit. I have started to think about possible ways that I could include extra details to aid the viewers understanding. I considered the use of audio and have come to the conclusion that this will support my photography, allowing my participant to have a voice in the work as well.

 

 

I therefore researched Emily Jacir’s “Material for a Film”, “an installation comprised of photographs, text, video and sound pieces (The Electronic Intifada, 2007). This influenced my decision to include a number of different types of media material in my own work. Therefore creating a multi dimensional piece. Here I am exploring audio, allowing my participants to talk about their experiences. Having read Solomon-Godeau’s summary of Martha Rosler’s, ‘In, Around and After Thoughts’, I am aware of the power a photographer has. I do not want to make my participant’s powerless, I want to narrate our story of our Anglo Indian cultural past together. I realise that even though I am an insider of my family, I may not fully understand the Anglo Indian diaspora as I did not experience it myself. For this reason I am giving the power to my participants, letting them tell the audience about our families past experiences. My aim is to produce a piece where the audience understand and empathise with the subject of my work. My intention is to celebrate the cultural journey of discovery, from a fragmented past.

Overview of Anglo Indian Culture

Overview of Anglo Indian culture…

Why I feel its necessary to produce this project:

 

In India Anglo Indians were very separate community from the Indians in the British. This is a point that they find very difficult to get across to anyone who isn’t part of the community. They have Indian and European blood, they spoke English, were Christians and they wore European style clothes, they listen to the BBC radio, but they enjoyed curry and rice. They had a thriving social community and particularly enjoyed dancing, but only with the other Anglo Indians, they didn’t really mix with Indians or the ruling British.

 

The community grew from the need the British had for running the infrastructure of the colony of India. Once independence came the British left and the Indians wanted their country to be run by Indians. So when that happened many Anglo Indian families emigrated to Britain and other British colonies, some of my ancestors went to Australia and Canada.

 

Once he came to England grandad didn’t really speak about being Anglo-Indian. He possibly thought it was too difficult to understand, or worried he may be discriminated against, so he just said he was British who happened to be living in India.

 

Anglo-Indian culture was a part of Indian history, just a moment in time and could only be retained in the memories of those who lived through it. Once they left India they started to marry into their adoptive countries, the bloodline became diluted and the culture dissolves through the generations, only to be kept alive by the capturing of his memories before it’s too late.

Reflection and artist research:

Anthony Feedback and my reflection afterwards:                        (18.03.15)

It was commented that I have done some great experimentation, it was great to see that I have been getting used to using the darkroom, the studio and the Mamiya RB 67, along with the application of colour on prints. It was mentioned that perhaps it is time to really narrow down the project by working with people and objects that I am actually investigating. This is perfect as it was what I had planned for the Easter break. I have now practiced and explored different techniques to use in my project; I can now use this as I narrow down my investigation. I have a month of visiting people, places, and collecting objects for still life photographs. I can use this Easter break as a month to be productive and travel to where is needed. I plan to visit my Great Aunt in Launceston that is over 200miles to drive there from my house in Surrey. Therefore, it will be better to do this during the Easter break. Travelling requires a lot of free time, and managing to fit in with other people if I am visiting them for my project.

Melanie Manchot was mentioned as a possible photographer to look at and her series of work “Moscow Girls”. This body of work “examines the relationship between documentation and narrative through a set of portrait photographs of nine young women and their sound recorded stories” (MelanieManchot.net 2004). In the gallery space the photographs were accompanied with sound pieces of their stories. I also intend to accompany my photographs with audio recordings so this will be useful. The sound pieces do not directly link to the photographs, you cannot identify who is speaking. The women tell stories about the transition from soviet to capitalist in Russia. This is a stimulating body of work in relation to sound and photography.

Melanie Friend was also mentioned as a photographer who uses sound and photography. I have found her project “Homes & Gardens: Documenting The Invisible” from 1996 which uses sound recordings along side her photography.

“This work focused on the ‘police state’ of Kosovo during the mid 1990s. The exhibition used a soundtrack of voiced testimonies, mostly in Albanian, juxtaposed with images of innocuous, peaceful, ordered domestic interiors and gardens where violent abuse by police or security forces had taken place” (Melaniefriend.com 1996).

The audio adds to the series, without the audio the audience would wonder what these photographs were showing, with the audio they show a completely different story to what we are expecting. The images are calm, yet the stories are horrific and terrifying. The contrast between the audio and the images creates a strong series that is full of impact with a distressing message.

I realise that I need to make my audio technically crisp, I also realise that I may have to produce a lot of audio recordings to then have enough to edit stories from. I intend to collate my audio recordings over the next few weeks.

References:

Melaniefriend.com, (1996) Melanie Friend → Selected Images From Homes & Gardens: Documenting The Invisible [online] available from <http://www.melaniefriend.com/homesandgardens-images/&gt; [30 March 2015]

Melaniemanchot.net, (2004) Moscow Girls, 2004, Nine C-Prints « Melanie Manchot [online] available from <http://www.melaniemanchot.net/category/moscow-girls/&gt; [30 March 2015]

2015-04-02 12.11.43

Reflection: ‘Inside/Out’ by Abigail Solomon-Godeau

‘Inside/Out’ by Abigail Solomon-Godeau

I read a summary of Abigail Solomon-Godeau’s ‘Inside/Out’ in Ashley la Grange’s ‘Basic Critical Theory for Photographers’(La Grange 2005), to further my understanding on different approaches of photographers and the impact on the viewer.

Solomon-Godeau noticed that in Sontag’s, ‘On Photography’, Sontag mentions that there are photographers who approach in such a way that it objectifies people. This then hinders the viewer from feeling sympathy or understanding for the subject. Sontag sees Diane Arbus as this style of photographer. For some photographers the camera is a barrier between them and their subject, allowing them to photograph, but not interfere, or get involved. Many theorists, such as Sontag believe this is a bad approach to photography, as this also separates the viewer from feeling empathy.

Solomon- Godeau also explores Martha Rosler’s, ‘In, Around and After Thoughts’, this explores how the power of the photographer can effect the subject, taking away their power. Rosler refers to this as ‘victim photography’, an outsider approach. A way to counter this would be to give the participant a way to self-present themselves. I realise that even though I am an insider of my family, I may not fully understand the Anglo Indian diaspora as I did not experience it myself. For this reason, I have given my participants a voice. The audio allows them to represent themselves; the viewer listens to their words. I also asked my participant about what objects they held onto that represents our Anglo Indian past. I was careful to give my participants power, as I am aware of the issues surrounding objectification. My aim is to produce a piece where the audience understand and empathise with the subject of my work. My intention is to celebrate the cultural journey of discovery, from a fragmented past.

Although many photographers deal with similar issues when photographing society, the approach they take can completely change the outcome. For example, Nan Goldin’s work, her participants are her family, something she is a part of. They see the camera as part of her, she isn’t a voyeur, and she is a part of it, even turning the camera on herself. She does not distance herself from her subject, or use the camera as a boundary. I feel that my photographical approach is similar, I have not distanced myself from my Anglo Indian heritage, instead I am involving myself in it, a journey of discovery. I too plan to be in my photographs, I do not see myself as separate, but a ‘we’. This is a project about my discovery and our families Anglo Indian past, celebrating its memories, something to keep hold of, not to be lost.

References:

La Grange, A. (2005) Basic Critical Theory For Photographers. Oxford: Elsevier Focal Press

Hand Tinting Photographs

 

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Hand Tinting Photographs

 

As my project was inspired by my Grandad’s photo album I feel it is appropriate to use the same processes that he used. I therefore decided to use a medium format camera, fibre-based paper, and colour my images using hand-tinting processes. When visiting my other Anglo Indian relatives I found that many of their photographs were also hand tinted. Above (right) is an example of 2 images from the Heppolette’s archive, and below are examples from my Grandad’s album. As my project is contemporary I felt it was relevant to also look at a contemporary photographer who uses paint and tinting in their works. I have therefore looked at Esther Teichmann (see above left), as she is a contemporary photographer who uses paint directly on her photographs. I intend to experiment with different mediums, such as Gouache, watercolour, and inks. I want to emulate the process used in my Grandad’s album. Having looked at a contemporary artist I feel that it may not be relevant, as I want to reflect the historical techniques used in the 1930’s.