Works-In-Progress with Dr. Alka Patel


SimpsonPOIMedicine, Photography, and Empire: Dr. Benjamin Simpson, OBE, in India
Date: Wednesday, March 2, 2016
Time: 4:00-5:30 p.m.
Location: University Club Library (Directions)

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This presentation by Art History Professor Alka Patel will explore the career of Dr. Benjamin Simpson, both as an army physician and as a photographer in India in the mid- to late 19th century. The coalescence of the medical profession in Britain and its colonies, and the standard technologies and iconographies of photography are both well-developed fields of research. The intersection of medicine and photography in colonial India, however, remains unexplored, and yet has the potential to elucidate the production of biological and early anthropological knowledge, as well as the increasing commercialization of both medicine and photography in the colonies during the 19th and early 20th centuries. In an ironic reversal of roles Dr. Simpson, rather than a "great man" in the vein of colonial biographies, is representative of the "type" of army physician-photographer - akin to the "native Indian types" he popularized through his own early photographs: he and other physician-photographers were instrumental in advancing the chemical processes of early photography in the tropics, and feeding the commercial demand for a remote knowledge of India in the metropole.


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