War, Photography, and Visual Citizens: Territorial and Visual Expansion in the Construction of Chile and Argentina (1860s-1880s)

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2018

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This dissertation explores the development of war photography in crucial decades of the construction of Chile and Argentina as nation-states (1860s-1880s). This was a moment of intense change and expansion of visual media, epitomized in the growth of photographic business and the emergence of new illustrated journals. The appearance of new and improved modes of production and circulation of images coincided with Chile and Argentina's aggressive expansionist agendas. In this project, I focus on the Triple Alliance War, the War of the Pacific, and two moments of the larger processes of Indigenous dispossession and massacre known as the "conquest of the desert" and the "pacification of the Araucanía." The portrayal of state action was no minor matter for these newly independent countries, as they actively sought to install an image of their imagined nations, both locally and internationally. However, their mastery of visual discourses was temporarily shuddered as they failed to recognize the importance of photography, while focusing more on promoting the arts--particularly painting. In other words, in the representation of military action, photography was overlooked. Commercial photographers created unexpected challenges in the process of the consolidation of official narratives since they saw in war a commercial opportunity and produced new representations of what war-and those wars in particular-were like. By studying the different visions of the wars of territorial expansion coming from photography--in comparison to those in painting and the illustrated press--I uncover the visual decisions and strategies that develop as the command of these visual devices grew stronger. In this moment of massive education of the gaze, many of the questions raised by the expansion of these visual technologies overlap with crucial issues of the nation-building process. This project thus also explores the institutional, commercial, and educational practices that molded visual literacies by formulating long-lasting conventions that governed the creation and interpretation of images about historical events.

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Marini, Candela (2018). War, Photography, and Visual Citizens: Territorial and Visual Expansion in the Construction of Chile and Argentina (1860s-1880s). Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/17446.

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