Photography, Vision, and the Production of Modern Bodies

By Suren Lalvani

Subjects: Cultural Studies
Series: SUNY series, INTERRUPTIONS: Border Testimony(ies) and Critical Discourse/s
Paperback : 9780791427187, 265 pages, November 1995
Hardcover : 9780791427170, 265 pages, November 1995

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations


1. A Theoretical Framework

2. Photography and the Bourgeois Body

3. Photography and the Deviant Body

4. Photography and the Body of the Worker

5. The Visual Order of the Nineteenth Century




Examines photography and its contribution to changing notions of the body in modernity.


Lalvani argues that modernity represents the powerful privileging of vision and the introduction of a paradigm of seeing that is historically distinctive. Taking the introduction of photography in the nineteenth century as a crucial development in the expansion of modern vision, he draws on the writings of Alan Sekula, John Tagg, Jonathan Crary, Norman Bryson and Martin Jay to examine in a comprehensive manner how photography functioned to organize a set of relations between knowledge, power, and the body. However, in taking a broad cultural studies approach Lalvani situates the practices of photography within the larger visual order of the nineteenth century. He demonstrates how the new lines of visibility formed not only by photography but by new urban spaces and new modes of transportation resulted in a particular organizing of the social order, of subjectivity and social relations.

Suren Lalvani is Assistant Professor of Humanities and Communications at Pennsylvania State University-Harrisburg.


"This book brings together in an original way a wide range of literatures and discussions that have occupied center stage for some time now. It affords not only a very good introduction to these arguments (about the formations of power in the nineteenth century), but it also makes a valuable contribution to the discussions about modernity and power. " — Lawrence Grossberg, University of North Carolina

"The author weaves back and forth between the classical thinkers (Descartes, Freud, Marx, Sartre, Weber) and the contemporary. The strength of this book is its argument that the visual ought to be understood in terms of the spatial, the objective/transcendental, and power/ideology. Lalvani shows how a technological form emerges within a Cartesian worldview and a capitalist structure simultaneously. The author does so brilliantly by crafting an organic whole rather than fragmenting them as true in most scholarship that employs camera obscura as a metaphor. It's as intellectually rewarding as any book I've read in a while. " — Clifford Christians, University of Illinois

"Lalvani mobilizes Foucauldean perspectives in a nuanced and powerful way. While there have been other works utilizing a Foucauldean approach to the study of the photographic apparatus, most have operated within a formalist or art historical framework. This work positions the concerns of photography and bio-power within larger social, philosophical, and political debates. It will make a central contribution to the fields of communication, cultural studies, photography and the sociology of the body. " -- Martin Allor, Universite Concordia