Photography and American Coloniality cover
Photography and American Coloniality
Eliot Elisofon in Africa, 1942–1972
This book is the first to question both why and how the colonialist mythologies represented by the work of photographer Eliot Elisofon persist. It documents and discusses a heterogeneous practice of American coloniality of power as it explores Elisofon’s career as war photographer-correspondent and staff photographer for LIFE, filmmaker, author, artist, and collector of “primitive art” and sculpture. It focuses on three areas: Elisofon’s narcissism, voyeurism, and sexism; his involvement in the homogenizing of Western social orders and colonial legacies; and his enthused mission of “sending home” a mass of still-life photographs, annexed African artifacts, and assumed vintage knowledge. The book does not challenge his artistic merit or his fascinating personality; what it does question is his production and imagining of “difference.” As the text travels from World War II to colonialism, postcolonialism, and the Cold War, from Casablanca to Leopoldville (Kinshasa), it proves to be a necessarily strenuous and provocative trip.
 
Subjects: History | African Studies
Publication Date: April 1st, 2017
348 pages| 6 in x 9 in
Bios
Raoul J. Granqvist is Professor Emeritus of English at the Department of Language Studies, Umeå University.  

Early Praise

“Based not least on five years of extensive on-site research, Granqvist has produced a study of Elisofon’s life’s work that is iconoclastic and intellectually challenging. Best, his reading of Elisofon’s photography demands that we reassess our Western perspectives on both the Cold War in Europe and, most pertinently, the legacy of colonialism in Africa. A vigorous, exhaustive, and demanding study.”
John A Stotesbury, Fellow of the English Association, and former Postcolonial Literary Studies Professor, University of Eastern Finland
 
“Eliot Elisofon was a photojournalist who spent three decades traveling in Africa and documenting what he saw there in visual media that reached millions of spectators. But these were not innocent images. Rather, as Granqvist reveals in this pioneering study, Elisofon's Africa was a commodified delusion reflecting his ingrained Eurocentric views. By carefully scrutinizing the work of this influential image-maker in the context of his times, Granqvist proves Elisofon to have been a biased witness.”
Bernth Lindfors, Professor Emeritus of English and African Literatures, University of Texas at Austin
 
“Based on archival research, in Photography and American Coloniality Raoul J. Granqvist presents a fresh and comprehensive reassessment of the work of photojournalist Eliot Elisofon (1911–1973), who for over 30 years took photographs throughout Africa, many of them published in LIFE magazine. Granqvist argues that far from revealing an “unbiased” realistic depiction of a new Africa, Elisofon’s gorgeously artistic photographs of Africa participated in an ongoing colonial Romanticism in which he framed Africa and Africans as exoticized (and unequal) others. Connecting innumerable details of Elisofon’s travels, exhibits, talks, and films, Granqvist depicts how Elisofon was “both agent and victim of his history.” It is a well-researched and fascinating read that will enrich postcolonial and visual studies.”
Hertha D. Sweet Wong, Associate Professor and Assistant Chair Department of English, University of California, Berkeley

“In this theorized travelogue, a magnificent visual anthropology and gritty experiential and highly engaging narrative, Raoul J. Granqvist takes his readers on an extraordinary photographic and film journey where we meet the characters, re-imagine events, and get easy-to-read and highly lucid critical analysis as well. This book reflects the author’s own everyday experiences in Africa, in compelling and absorbing ways that few have previously achieved. This is theory and practice at its combined best.”
Keyan G Tomaselli, Distinguished Professor, University of Johannesburg and Professor Emeritus, University of KwaZulu-Natal

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