Projecting Citizenship

Photography and Belonging in the British Empire

By (author) Gabrielle Moser

Hardback - £71.95

Publication date:

11 January 2019

Length of book:

248 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271081274

In Projecting Citizenship, Gabrielle Moser gives a comprehensive account of an unusual project produced by the British government’s Colonial Office Visual Instruction Committee at the beginning of the twentieth century—a series of lantern slide lectures that combined geography education and photography to teach schoolchildren around the world what it meant to look and to feel like an imperial citizen.

Through detailed archival research and close readings, Moser elucidates the impact of this vast collection of photographs documenting the land and peoples of the British Empire, circulated between 1902 and 1945 in classrooms from Canada to Hong Kong, from the West Indies to Australia. Moser argues that these photographs played a central role in the invention and representation of imperial citizenship. She shows how citizenship became a photographable and teachable subject by tracing the intended readings of the images that the committee hoped to impart to viewers and analyzing how spectators may have used their encounters with these photographs for protest and resistance.

Interweaving political and economic history, history of pedagogy, and theories of citizenship with a consideration of the aesthetic and affective dimensions of viewing the lectures, Projecting Citizenship offers important insights into the social inequalities and visual language of colonial rule.

Projecting Citizenship contributes new thought and visual material to the field in a theoretically savvy manner and in dialogue with a number of theorists of photography and colonial projects. Moser lays out how colonial photography worked with other material to form a pedagogical mission to define ‘imperial citizens.’ This is a must-read not only for those interested in colonialism’s use of photography in defining colonial subjects but also for those readers of photography and European imperialism who understand the intersubjective process as one fraught with anxieties, dangers, and promises but also containing the underpinnings of colonialism’s eventual unmaking.”

—Stephen Sheehi, author of The Arab Imago: A Social History of Portrait Photography, 18601910