Zhu, Jing. “Visual Evidence? Rethinking Anthropological Photography in Republican China (1912–1949).” History and Anthropology
0, no. 0 (September 5, 2022): 1–31. https://doi.org/10.1080/02757206.2022.2119228
Focusing on ethnographic photography representing ethnic minorities on China’s southwest frontier during the Republican era (1912–1949), this paper reconsiders the role of photography as a source of evidence. The cross-cultural case in China extends studies of anthropology and photography beyond a European context and complicates our understanding of ‘photographic evidence’ by probing how such evidence was collected, produced, circulated and perceived in Han Chinese society. While photography played a significant role as an evidential force for anthropological and ethnographic endeavors, photography as ‘evidence’ was negotiated within the Chinese social, political, and cultural context of ethnicity. In spite of anthropological photography’s western origins, it is impossible to fully understand work representing the non-Han subject in Republican China without analyzing its relationship with the visual tradition of the Miao album, a late imperial Chinese genre of ethnographic illustration. Through a critical reading of ‘photographic evidence’ pertaining to non-Han women’s work, marriage and dance, this paper reveals the paradox of anthropological photography as visual evidence and highlights the social constitution of such work.