Capturing Birsa Munda: The Virtuality of a Colonial-era Photograph – Daniel J. Rycroft

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Dr Rycroft is Lecturer in the Arts and Cultures of Asia at the School of World Art Studies, UEA. He specialises in South Asian art and anthropological history. He took up this post in 2006, and has since co-founded the journal World Art. He works on numerous individual and collaborative research projects. Previously Dr Rycroft held a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship, focusing on ‘Subalternity and Visual Representation in India’ at the University of Sussex from 2003-2005. He was then also a Senior Research Associate of the Centre for World Environmental History, and organized a conference there on ‘Reinterpreting Adivasi Movements in South Asia’ in March 2005. Since joining the School of World Art Studies Dr Rycroft has been awarded a Teaching Fellowship to develop an image archive covering core aspects of South Asian art. He is currently Director of Postgraduate Taught Programmes. He also convenes the MA programmes in Cultural Heritage and facilitates a research network on Indian anthropology. He is an editorial board member of Art History, and co-founder of the South Asian Arts Group.

Here’s Dr. Roycroft’s research paper on Birsa Munda, that was earlier published in ‘Indian Folklore Research Journal, Vol.1, No.4, 2004’.

Abstract: By using the images of Birsa Munda’s photograph, copy print of a portrait and poster, this article analyses the historical and ideological conditions that brought about the twofold capture of Birsa Munda (the anti-missionary, anti-diku, anti-Raj and freedom fighter from Ranchi) by Anglican missionaries and Raj police in 1895 and discusses the dissemination of these photographic images from camera to archive to mass viewership. It cites the writings of contemporary academics and activists to relate the viewing and celebration of Birsa’s image to issues of post-nationalism. It also debates the form, meaning and history of this memorializing process.

Rycroft-Birsa

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