Christopher Pinney

Christopher Pinney is Professor of Anthropology and Visual Culture at University College London. He is invited by Caterina Guenzi (CEIAS) from February First till February 28th 2019.

Christopher Pinney has held visiting positions at the Australian National University, University of Chicago, University of Cape Town, Northwestern University, Boğaziçi University (Istanbul), and Jagiellonian University (Krakow). His research interests cover the art and visual culture of South Asia, with a particular focus on the history of photography and chromolithography in India. He has also worked on industrial labor and Dalit goddess possession. Amongst his publications are Camera Indica (1997), ‘Photos of the Gods’ (2004), The Coming of Photography in India (2008), Photography and Anthropology (2011), The Waterless Sea (2018), and Lessons from Hell (2018).


Lecture Series


Citizens of Photography: The Camera and the Political Imagination

  • February 2019

This lays out the background and some of theinitial results of acurrent multi-sited project funded by the ERC. The research (in Nicaragua, Greece, Nigeria, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Cambodia) explores the resonance of ideas developed by Ariella Azoulay in the context of photojournalistic practices for vernacular practices. At its heart is the assumption that photographs might be more usefully viewed as ‘prophetic’ and ‘proleptic’ rather than records of the past. The camera may be adevice that allows us to see what is yet to come.


Photoshop and Democracy in India

  • February 2019

The session will explore the use of Photoshop by the Hindu right in India. It will investigate different theories of photography and ask whether we are really living in the age of "photography after the end of photography". It will be argued that the ‘event’ of photography has so far proved to be surprisingly enduring. The discussion will attempt to show the relevance of visual anthropology for the understanding of contemporary political landscapes.


An Insurgent Family of Man: People’s War in Nepal

  • February 2019

Three major photographic engagements with Nepali politics are considered in this session: Gopal Chitrakar’s documentation of the 1990s Democracy Movement, Kunda Dixit’s travelling exhibition of images of the 1996-2006 insurgency, and a Maoist critique of this. All three projects invoked “people” in strikingly different ways being titled respectively People Power, A People War, and The People’s War in Pictures. Drawing on interviews with the key figures behind these representations, the visual construction, and political potential, of different kinds of multitudes and publics is explored.


The Eternal Time of Photography: Comparative Perspectives from South Asia

  • February 2019

The boldest 20th century theorization of photography, by Walter Benjamin, has pitted photography against the cultic. Benjamin’s approach was hardly ethnographic and he often has cause to lament the divergence between the effects photography should have and the uses to which it was actually put. The massed studios, of the Nepali pilgrimage destination of Dakshinkali seem intent on trying to supress the contingency that so enthused Benjamin. Dakshinkali images speak to that repetitive and ‘arthritic’ nature of ritual performance that Maurice Bloch has described so well, and through the mobilization of repetitive structures and actions attempt to conjure what Eliade described as illud tempus. Dakshinkali photography provides an entrance into a “sacred time” which is “indefinitely recoverable, indefinitely repeatable”. How should be understand the time and the event of photography ?