Four acts of seeing
The veil as technology of illumination
in Empires of light
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This chapter examines the emergence of the Indian landscape into the visibility of the Western world, drawing upon the iconography of unveiling as consonant with the trope of ‘discovery’. In the context of the civilising mission of empire, such acts of unveiling served as technologies of illumination, bringing light into benighted lands. The images examined foreground not only epistemological issues where visibility implies a transcendence of the darkness of Oriental mystique but are equally invested in aestheticising landscapes, so that exotic lands emerge as sites of visual pleasure. The ritual of unveiling dramatises the act of seeing, holding out the promise of an unmediated vision and the revelation of buried secrets and hidden pleasures.

Empires of light

Vision, visibility and power in colonial India


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