16 Apr 2015 - 17 Apr 2015 All day CRASSH, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, CB3 9DT - SG1&2


Register online
Conference fee: £50 (full), £25 (students) – includes lunch, tea/coffee
Deadline: Monday 13 April 2015

Twitter Hashtag: #ColonialPrint


Andrew Arsan (History and St John's College)
Emma Hunter (History and Gonville and Caius College – from January 2015: University of Edinburgh)
Leslie James (University of Birmingham)


Across the colonial world, the nineteenth and twentieth centuries saw a flourishing of newspapers and periodicals – some fleeting newssheets, others enduring forums of discussion, some published by the colonial state, others by enterprising editors and entrepreneurs. In recent years, a growing body of literature has explored the role of these print media in colonial societies. This, however, has tended to focus on the content rather than the form, mining newspapers for information rather than considering their constitution. What’s more, it has tended to focus on certain publications and regions at the expense of others. This conference brings together scholars working in different disciplines on the colonial societies of Africa, the Middle East, East and South East Asia to consider colonial newspapers in a comparative perspective. It will consider the newspaper, the journal and the magazine as tools of education and government whose owners, contributors and readers often thought of these media as edifying publications.  They were purveyors not just of knowledge about their own societies and the wider world, but also of political prescriptions, linguistic conventions, and ethical norms, which reinforced notions of the self and the other, the state and society, modernity and its lexicons. Together, we hope to encourage enduring and inter-disciplinary conversation amongst scholars about the place newspapers, magazines, and journals played in the constitution of vernacular modernity in various locales, and to lay down the foundations for a new global history of print in the long twentieth century.

Conference panels will focus on the following themes:

  • Newspapers and periodicals as a didactic space or ‘encyclopaedia’
  • Authorship, editorial policy, financing and the legal framework in which newspapers and periodicals in the colonial world operated, particularly relating to censorship, sedition, defamation and libel laws.
  • The relationship of periodicals to the colonial state and the role of the newspaper in shaping modes of political engagement and mobilisation, and understandings of the public.
  • Language and the role of newspapers and periodicals in standardising and popularising vernacular language and new lingua francas.
  • The visual in colonial newspapers (illustration, caricature, photography, typography, lay-out).



Supported by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (CRASSH) and the Trevelyan Fund.

Accommodation for speakers selected through the call for papers and non-paper giving delegates

We are unable to arrange or book accommodation, however, the following websites may be of help.

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Administrative assistance: events@crassh.cam.ac.uk


DAY 1 - Thursday 16 April 2015




  • Shawn McHale (George Washington University): Barbarian States and Cosmopolitan Public Spheres in the Colonial World 

PANEL ONE – Newspapers as a didactic space – publics

  • Leigh Denault (Cambridge University): A world of words: popular print and global news in colonial north India, c. 1870-1900 
  • Sara Marzagora (SOAS): The role of Sylvia Pankhurst’s “New Times and Ethiopia News” in Ethiopian intellectual history
  • James Poskett (Cambridge University): Paper minds: science in nineteenth-century Bengali print culture

Discussant: Harri Englund (University of Cambridge)




PANEL TWO – The operational space of colonial newspapers: editorship, financing, authorship, censorship, and sedition

  • Bodil Frederiksen (Roskilde University): Managing a public sphere in colonial Kenya: The role of the press in the political and discursive wars of the 1940s and 50s
  • April Shelford (American University): Cultivating Knowedge: Agricultural Debate in the Periodicals of Saint-Domingue, 1764–1768 
  • Su Lin Lewis (Bristol): Informed communities: cosmopolitan press cultures in Southeast Asian port-cities, 1900-1940

Discussant: Stephanie Newell (Sussex University)


Coffee break


PANEL THREE – Printing the political: public engagement, mobilisation, and the state

  • Kate Lakin-Schulz (Boston University): African Voices in Changing Times: Tracing the Debate on West African Cultural Evolution from Paris-Dakar to Dakar-Jeunes 
  • Rachel Leow (Cambridge University): May Fourth refractions: transnational and translocal readings of a Southeast Asian Chinese newspaper, 1919-1922 
  • Ruth Watson (Cambridge University): Empire Loyalism and Pan-Africanism in The African Times and Orient Review

Discussant:  Florence Brisset-Foucault (Université Paris 1 Panthéon- Sorbonne)





  • Rudolf Wagner (Heidelberg University)
DAY 2 - Friday 17 April 2015

PANEL FOUR – Newspapers as a didactic space – governmentality     

  • Lachy Paterson (University of Otago): The New Zealand Government’s ‘Niupepa’ and their Demise
  • Michael Shin (Cambridge University): Governmentality and the Culture Movement in Colonial Korea
  • Myles Osborne (University of Colorado): Africans and Britons in the Pages of Jambo Magazine, 1942-1945

Discussant: Tim Harper (Cambridge University)


Coffee break


PANEL FIVE – New lingua francas: print media and the standardising of language

  • Karin Barber: Print, “openness” and linguistic cohabitation in 1920s Yoruba newspapers
  • Sandra Lobo (CHAM-Portuguese Centre for Global History): O Anglo-Lusitano=The Anglo-Lusitano (1886-1897): constructing identity and public opinions across languages and empires

Discussant: Andrew Arsan (University of Cambridge)




PANEL SIX – Visualizing the printed page: the role of illustration, typography, photography, and caricature in colonial newspapers

  • Johanna de Schmidt (Heidelberg University): Experiencing colonies from aboard a ship: Periodicals on intercontinental vessels in the 19th century
  • Ranu Roychoudhuri (University of Chicago): In Search of Lost Auteurs: Printed Images, Public Discourses, and Bengali Photographers
  • Lorelle Semley (College of the Holy Cross): Scottsboro on Trial in the Black Press in Paris

Discussant: Leslie James (University of Birmingham)


Tea break



With Stephanie Newell, Emma Hunter, Andrew Arsan, Leslie James


PANEL 1 – Newspapers as a didactic space – publics

Leigh Denault (University of Cambridge): A world of words: popular print and global news in colonial north India, c. 1870-1900

Examining North Indian newspapers at the outset of Gelvin’s and Green’s ‘age of steam and print’ (ca. 1850-1930), this paper argues that Hindi and Urdu print media were simultaneously didactic and ‘market-driven’, globally aware and locally responsive. Rather than a ‘hybrid’ or diffusionist colonial print capitalism as the tool of a nationalist elite, I would argue instead that the Hindi press offers an entry point to a historical process of linking oral and scribal cultures to new technologies of circulation and dissemination, technologies which increasingly connected colonial India with a broader Asian and Indian ocean world of ideas. Two forms which emerged in the second half of the nineteenth century, the samacharvali (news summary) and satirical political cartoons, demonstrate how print media offered new possibilities for collapsing time and distance, forming a new basis for cultural and political power, as well as questioning models of sovereignty and statecraft. They also suggest that North Indian audiences, far from representing a parochial hinterland, were intensely interested in Eurasian geopolitics and world news, which, placed alongside local items, brought colonial South Asian affairs into a global frame of reference. The ‘messy’ transnational and polyglot world of these North Indian newspapers therefore gives us a window into a different vision of colonial South Asian politics and society, one in which neither ‘the provincial’ nor ‘the nation’ is the key frame of analysis. Instead, the interconnectedness of print media with wider social movements and both Indian and global reading publics is clear when we examine the technologies, writers, editors, readers and listeners engaged in shaping new colonial print publics, even as early as the nineteenth century.

Sara Marzagora (SOAS): The role of Sylvia Pankhurst’s “New Times and Ethiopia News” in Ethiopian intellectual history

As part of her campaigning efforts against the Italian invasion and occupation of Ethiopia (1935-1941), in 1936 Sylvia Pankhurst founded the English-language newspaper “New Times and Ethiopia News”. The weekly newspaper was printed in London and had a circulation, at its height, of 40,000 copies in Europe, West Africa, North America and the Caribbean. Some of its copies were translated in Amharic and distributed clandestinely in Italian-occupied Ethiopia. The newspaper kept circulating in Ethiopia in the post-occupation period and was only discontinued in 1956. 

While the newspaper was often used by scholars as a historical source of information for the Italo-Ethiopian war, few studies have considered the broader role it played in Ethiopian intellectual history. I will argue, in particular, that “New Times and Ethiopia News” was pivotal in systematizing Ethiopia’s dominant historiographical narrative, generally referred to as the “Great Tradition” or “Grand Narrative” of Ethiopian historiography. Based on the transcendental notion of divinely-ordained nation with a thousand-years-old continuous existence, the Grand Narrative had always been an essential component of the Ethiopian imperial ideology. In the post-1941 period, Emperor Haile Selassie promoted a comprehensive institutionalization of the Grand Narrative both as an academic discipline and as a political doctrine (onto which, for example, the 1955 Ethiopian Constitution was modelled) for his objectives of power consolidation. 

This paper will particularly analyse the contradiction whereby “New Times and Ethiopia News”, which started off as an anti-colonial publication, ended up legitimizing Haile Selassie’s absolutism, the Amhara-centric cultural assimilationism he imposed within Ethiopia and his territorial ambitions in the Horn of Africa (particularly with regards to Eritrea). 

James Poskett (University of Cambridge): Paper minds: science in nineteenth-century Bengali print culture

“Paper, ink, and pen… the press, the publisher, the steamer… such are the means and many motives which we possess, to enable and prompt us to widen the fields of human knowledge, and disseminate it among all ranks of men.” (Cally Coomar Das, President of the Calcutta Phrenological Society). From the 1840s onwards, certain sections of Bengali society believed print would give them the power to disseminate science. As a case study, this paper takes the group of Bengali phrenologists who founded the Calcutta Phrenological Society in 1845. By 1850, they were publishing their own periodical: The Pamphleteer. In the European context, the SciPer (science in the nineteenth-century periodical) project clearly demonstrated the merits of a close study of individual periodicals. This paper extends such an approach to South Asian history of science for the first time. Whilst there is a very well-developed literature on Bengali print culture, there are no detailed studies of individual scientific periodicals nor the communities which organised around them. By studying The Pamphleteer, this paper reveals how one group of Bengalis imagined the global spread of science and print. Throughout this paper, I emphasise the materiality of print, examining the layout of title pages, the use of illustrations and the choice of formats. More broadly, this paper suggests the history of science and global intellectual history have much to offer one another, particularly in the context of print culture.


PANEL 2 –  The operational space of colonial newspapers: editorship, financing, authorship, censorship, and sedition

Su Lin Lewis (Bristol University): Informed communities: cosmopolitan press cultures in Southeast Asian port-cities, 1900-1940

In the early twentieth century the port-cities of colonial-era Southeast Asia saw the emergence of pluralistic print cultures, and hence multiple ‘imagined communities’ co-existing in the same civic spaces. This paper traces the growth of the vibrant and diverse press cultures of Penang, Singapore, Rangoon, and Bangkok, where a growing reading public used the press as a tool with which to argue for social and political change despite growing censorship restrictions. These cultures did not exist in isolation, but were connected to each other via syndication networks, news wires, and roving editors moving throughout the region. Within the context of local pluralism and regional interconnection, the Asian-owned English press allowed diverse communities to shape a cosmopolitan public sphere, while challenging structures of power in late colonial society.

Bodil Frederiksen (Roskilde University): Managing a public sphere in colonial Kenya: The role of the press in the political and discursive wars of the 1940s and 50s

In Kenya’s late colonial period a public sphere matured in a contested field of forces where African and Indian anti-racist, (cultural) nationalist discourses opposed and entered into dialogue with local European print cultures. Newspapers, magazines and newssheets were central. Debate, enlightenment and news in Indian newspapers was outward oriented – towards the Empire with, of course, a heavy emphasis on developments in India/Pakistan, and the situation of Indians in East and Southern Africa. African newspapers were inward looking, openly resisting subordination and lack of rights, and demanding recognition. Government sponsored material and control of newspapers, pamphlets, books and radio became key techniques in what started in the late 1930s, prompted by preparations for the War, and what towards the end of the 1940s and during the Mau Mau revolt evolved into a propaganda war. The colonial authorities engaged with but had difficulties in managing this vocal anti-colonial non-European public sphere, as is evident from the number of charges of sedition brought against Indian and African newspapers. Here I want to discuss a set of government and commercial publications in Kenya from the 1940s and 50s, with a special emphasis on the colonial efforts to counteract the establishment of a politically sophisticated public sphere, dominated by non-European voices – some from the wider colonial world, and the sources and resonance of those voices.

April Shelford (American University): Cultivating Knowedge: Agricultural Debate in the Periodicals of Saint-Domingue, 1764–1768 

In the 1760s, Saint-Domingue, France’s wealthiest and most productive Caribbean colony, experienced an efflorescence of periodicals. This paper focuses on how two of them, the Affiches Américaines and the Journal de Saint Domingue, determined to fill lacunae in Caribbean agricultural knowledge. They invited readers to share their knowledge on agricultural problems that ranged from finding suitable crops for refugees settling in arid areas to cultivate, to developing more effective pumps for irrigating cane fields. They succeeded in creating a forum in which discourses of improvement and useful knowledge central to Enlightenment intellectual endeavor converged with discourses of patriotism and civic-mindedness, utility and emulation. But they also sparked debates that raised important epistemological questions: What were the most certain foundations of agricultural knowledge?  Who possessed the intellectual authority to “certify” it? And how should contributors conduct themselves? Intentionally or not, these periodicals gave planters an opportunity to express their “autonomisme,” a prickly sense of American independence that jostled sometimes uncomfortably with their identity as French men and French citizens. Finally, they laid bare divisions in the reading public, between the periodicals and its contributors, and between contributors and colonial and metropolitan intellectual institutions. This paper thus contributes to our knowledge of two neglected topics: French colonial periodicals, and Caribbean agronomic literature.


PANEL 3 – Printing the political: public engagement, mobilisation, and the state

Kate Lakin-Schulz (Boston University): African Voices in Changing Times: Tracing the Debate on West African Cultural Evolution from ‘Paris-Dakar’ to ‘Dakar-Jeunes’

In January 1942, the Vichy government and its supporters in Dakar established a new weekly publication entitled Dakar-Jeunes to serve Vichy interests in French West Africa and to promote its causes among the educated African elite.  Dakar-Jeunes ran until February 1943 and was a carefully constructed vehicle for Vichy’s National Revolution propaganda.  Content was designed to appeal to the target audience and wartime news was ignored in favor of culture and sports while editors sought to promote the participation of the African reading public by publishing editorials and cultural exposés from authors across AOF.  The most provocative of these was a long-running discussion on West African cultural evolution launched by Ousmane Socé, who reprised a debate on the role of assimilation in both education and society from the previous decade.  Several articles contained echoes of the burgeoning Negritude movement, though close examination proves that West Africans were divided on amount of assimilation to promote or reject in the territory.  In this paper, I will examine the candid debate on African culture that occurred in the seemingly inhospitable publication that was Dakar-Jeunes, highlighting its direct connection with engaged cultural and political discourse that was published in AOF’s main daily newspaper, Paris-Dakar, primarily in 1937.  While exploring the evolution of the debate in print media from Paris-Dakar to Dakar-Jeunes, I argue that the culturally critical articles that appeared in Dakar-Jeunes in 1942 can be linked to changes in colonial education policy that occurred nearly a decade prior.

Rachel Leow (University of Cambridge): May Fourth Refractions: Transnational and Translocal Readings of a Southeast Asian Chinese Newspaper, 1919-1922

Newspapers, as one Singaporean editor of a major Chinese newpaper wrote in 1933, are ‘the eyes and ears of society, tongues of the people, looking-glasses of mankind, leaders of the literary circle, food for the present age, and light for the future’. This paper aims to examine the reverberations of the May Fourth movement across newspapers in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore during the 1920s. These three cities—at once jewels in the crown of Britain’s Asian empire, at once urban sites of vigorous Chinese intellectual debate on the southern ‘fringes’ of what has traditionally been seen as the northern heart of the May Fourth Movement—offer rich grounds for examining the function of newspapers in reporting and analyzing the events and immediate aftermath of the 1919 moment. Based on a small but select set of key newspapers in these three cities, the paper will trace the commonalities, but more importantly the differences, in the language and discourses of reports and editorials, in the styles of reporting, and in the expressions of varied and ambiguous Chinese nationalisms. It thus places newspapers at the heart of both British colonial and Chinese transnational society to present the complex and multiple refractions of this synchronous moment of political and intellectual transformation.

Ruth Watson (University of Cambridge): Empire Loyalism and Pan-Africanism in ‘The African Times’ and ‘Orient Review’

Launched in July 1912, The African Times and Orient Review was aimed primarily at English speaking Africans and Asians across the British Empire. Its proprietor was Dusé Mohamed Ali, who moved to London in the late 1880s and claimed to be Egyptian-Sudanese. After spells in the theatre and gaining some notoriety for publishing a largely plagiarised text titled In the Land of the Pharaohs, Dusé launched his newspaper, which he kept alive until December 1920, albeit with significant gaps in the print run. He wrote much of the content, but the paper also republished articles from British, West African and American newspapers.

From its first issue, the Review combined a vigorous advocacy of African and Asian rights with fervent expressions of loyalty to the British Empire. The newspaper did not see an incompatibility between advocating ‘one bond of Imperial British Citizenship’ while simultaneously asserting ideas of a universal racial brotherhood. This paper will analyse the apparently contradictory discourses of pan-Africanism and Empire loyalism peddled by the Review and reflect upon the making of a reading public in interwar West Africa.


PANEL 4 – Newspapers as a didactic space – governmentality     

Lachy Patterson (University of Otago): The New Zealand Government’s ‘Niupepa’ and their Demise

In January 1842, less than two years after formal colonisation began, the New Zealand government published its first niupepa (Māori-language newspaper), Te Karere o Nui Tireni. A number of government niupepa appeared under various titles, with the aim of encourage Māori to accept Crown sovereignty and the colonial legal system, and to adopt European practices with regard to religion, commerce, education, and general customs.  Waging military campaigns against Māori in the North Island, the central government ceased production of Te Karere Maori in 1863.  As this niupepa was terminated, the provincial government of Hawkes Bay, under the formidable colonial politician Sir Donald Mclean, initiated its own newspaper, Te Waka Maori o Ahuriri at Napier.  As Native Minister within the central government, McLean then shifted the niupepa to Wellington as Te Waka Maori o Niu Tireni in 1871.  This newspaper continued until 1877 until effectively killed off by a politically inspired libel case and attacks from parliamentary enemies.  This paper surveys the 35 years of official involvement in Māori-language newspaper production and analyses, as the nature of New Zealand colonialism changed, the government’s withdrawal from this field, first in 1863 then in 1877.

Michael Shin (University of Cambridge): Governmentality and the Culture Movement in Colonial Korea

This paper seeks to examine relation of newspapers to the colonial state in Korea after the March First Movement in 1919 through their deployments of culture both as discourse and as a form of praxis.  Stunned at the widespread rejection of its rule, the Japanese adopted a new approach to colonial rule, called the Cultural Policy (Bunka Seiji), that placed more emphasis on the building of ideological state apparatuses.  The relaxation of publication laws enabled the revival of the vernacular newspapers that had been shut down with the beginning of Japanese rule in 1910.  The domestic nationalist movement also became active, organizing what it called the Culture Movement (Munhwa undong).  This paper will focus on the newspaper Donga ilbo (East Asia Daily), which had the highest circulation in the 1920s and was one of the centers of the Culture Movement.  The first part will examine how the newspaper covered and commented on the Cultural Policy.  The second part will discuss not the newspaper’s more explicitly political activities but its promotion of a “cultural” lifestyle.  Most scholarship on the Culture Movement, mainly published in South Korea, has been rooted in a state-vs-civil society dichotomy that conceives of culture as a realm of freedom outside the reach of the state.  This paper, however, will use Foucault’s notion of governmentality to show how colonial power defined culture as a specific intervention into the social life of the colonized and how the newspaper’s seemingly non-political activities were engaged in a direct struggle with forms of colonial governmentality.

Myles Osborne (University of Colorado): British perceptions, African voices: inside the pages of ‘Jambo‘ magazine during World War II

Despite the significant volume of work published on media in colonial Africa, the years of the Second World War have largely escaped scholarly attention. This paper is therefore an attempt to provide an entry into this field by focusing on Jambo, the glossy magazine of East Africa Command. Jambo appeared on a monthly basis between 1942 and 1945, and usually contained 64 pages per issue. Though sometimes referenced – but never the source of sustained study – Jambo was read by African and British troops serving in locations ranging from Abyssinia to South Asia. Firms from Chrysler to Tusker recognized the breadth of Jambo’s audience, and advertised in every issue: for no colonial-era magazine had such geographical range, nor was read by Africans and Britons in such large numbers. 

Jambo is, therefore, a unique source for study. It sat at the nexus between African and Briton, and was rare in that works authored by both appeared in its pages. Over the course of the war, Jambo’s British authors shifted the way they wrote about Africans, and cartoons depicting Africans altered dramatically in content. At the same time, Africans wrote letters to the editor of the magazine, and on occasion, submitted articles for publication. By exploring the pages of Jambo, this paper reflects on the changing relationships between Africans and Britons during the war, and demonstrates the complexities of the colonial experience that varied between theaters of war and the colonies themselves.


PANEL 5 – New lingua francas: print media and the standardising of language

Karin Barber (University of Birmingham): Print, “openness” and linguistic cohabitation in 1920s Yoruba newspapers

The print culture of Lagos, Nigeria in the 1920s was characterised by the intimate relationship of the Yoruba and English languages. There was unprecedented newspaper activity in this decade, stimulated by political wrangles with the colonial government – eleven English-language newspapers and five Yoruba-language ones competed for the attention of a small reading public, emulating and at the same time asserting superiority over each other’s linguistic resources. The vigorous and self-conscious production of Yoruba-language print culture contributed to the idea that formerly local or private knowledge could be made openly accessible to an indefinitely large public. Openness or publicness was closely associated with the standardisation of the written language; and this in turn was influenced by the contestatory cohabitation of Yoruba with English.  

Sandra Lobo (CHAM-Portuguese Centre for Global HistoryUniversidade Nova de Lisboa): ‘O Anglo-Lusitano=The Anglo-Lusitano‘ (1886-1897): constructing identity and public opinions across languages and empires

The paper will focus the early years of the newspaper O Anglo-Lusitano=The Anglo-Lusitano, published in Bombay by the elite of the Goan migrant community between 1886 and 1955. Strategically addressing the particular agenda of this elite marked by its situation – educated Indians from upper caste background living in this colonial metropolis of the British Empire but holding the title of Portuguese citizens – the newspaper was bilingual. But contrary to the norm of native bilingual newspapers in British India, of which we find several cases amongst the Goan community, its bilingualism was not intended to bridge English and vernacular readership, but both lingua franca of the British and Portuguese empires. By doing so, at once they opened the scope of its potential publics (British authorities, Anglo-Indian and English educated Indian natives, Goans spread through the British and Portuguese empires, Portuguese authorities, Portuguese European public opinion), the presence of which we find evidences during the newspaper’s life; and asserted a particular intellectual identity through language affiliations. At present we will detain ourselves in two moments of its cultural and political construction of identity discourses: the founding moment itself, not by chance soon after the first meeting of the Indian National Congress; the period of 1895-1897, when all press activity was banned from Goa due to a revolt that culminated a period of high tension between native elites and the colonial power.


PANEL 6 – Visualizing the printed page: the role of illustration, typography, photography, and caricature in colonial newspapers

Johanna de Schmidt (Heidelberg University): Experiencing colonies from aboard a ship: Periodicals on intercontinental vessels in the 19th century

Publishing a newspaper was a popular undertaking for passengers aboard intercontinental vessels during the nineteenth century. For the most time of the voyage, the passengers found themselves in almost complete isolation for weeks or even months, touching some selected shores and ports only occasionally. However, they still saw the need to publish a regular periodical aboard. As such shipboard publications were private undertakings by the passengers, everyone aboard could contribute by submitting articles or writing letters to the editorial team, thereby sharing his or her own experience. Following a short presentation of the source material in general, my paper sheds light on both the production and the content level of these amateur publications on the move. They typically deal with everyday issues aboard the ship, reflect on the place of departure and mirror the expectations for the place of arrival (regardless if these were located in in the colonies or in Europe). By putting into focus ships’ newspapers as unique historical sources, I trace how these publications are linked to both the experience of being confined to the narrow limits of the shipboard community as well as the experience of stopping in foreign (colonial) ports.

Ranu Roychoudhuri (University of Chicago): In Search of Lost Auteurs: Printed Images, Public Discourses, and Bengali Photographers

Introduction of halftone printing technology in the 1890s was a watershed in the history of photography in India; photographs for the first time moved beyond the small clientele of studios, private albums, art salons, anthropological documents, and crowded into print in numerous periodicals and newspapers.

Led by printer-photographer Upendrakishore Raychowdhury (1863-1915), prominent Bengali photographers published in vernacular periodicals photographs along with treatises focused on photography’s aesthetic status; texts and images addressed the “taste” of their indented audience. These writer-photographers derived their authority from participation in the British dominated photographic salons and publication in British journals. They uniquely argued that indexical quality of photographic images was not an obstacle but an essential element for pictorial photographs to become works of art. However as printed images travelled from Bangla periodicals to Bangla newspapers, the preoccupation with artistic status of photography was replaced by the function of photography as a tool for visual verification of written news. Debate over photography’s status as art vis-à-vis documentation was not resolved; but public discourses over the issue no longer remained relevant.

Through a close reading of photographs and discourses on photography from early 20thC Bangla periodicals, I argue that circulation of photographs through the press not only democratized photography but also crated a class of auteur image-makers, who appeared as the legitimate vanguard of the photographic aesthetic. The “auteur” identity of Bengali photographers depended on their claim of pictorial verisimilitude in photographic images – an identity, which was lost in the flood of press photographs in newspapers.

Lorelle Semley (College of the Holy Cross): Scottsboro on Trial in the Black Press in Paris

The infamous 1930s Scottsboro Trials exposed racial injustice in the US and became an international cause célèbre. The case played slightly differently on the pages of the Paris-based black Communist newspaper Le Cri des Nègres, edited by Malian activist Tiemoko Garan Kouyaté. While the story of nine young black men falsely accused and convicted of rape evoked universal tropes of black men as oppressed, impoverished, and sexually dangerous, Le Cri des Nègres consistently juxtaposed the Scottsboro case alongside critiques of the 1931 International Colonial Exposition as part of a larger anti-imperial narrative. In order to explore the background, context, and broader implications, I analyze the Scottsboro coverage as part of what I refer to as a “trans-African” framework to reconceptualize the continental, oceanic, and ideological networks that Africans, people of African descent, and their ideas traveled around the world. Indeed, the coverage of the Scottsboro Trials in “Black” Paris provides an example of a different type of “network news.”

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