Monthly Archives: March 2013

Old Court House Street, Calcutta by Johnston and Hoffman

This is a photograph/postcard of Old Court House Street in Calcutta (7088) taken by the commercial photography firm, Johnston & Hoffman. They were active in Calcutta and the wider Bengal region from around 1870-1918. Some of their photographs are held in the Royal Commonwealth Society Photographs Collection , Cambridge, UK. We would like to investigate this studio in further detail, and to produce a visual compendium of how they saw and captured Calcutta in their ‘commercial’ prints and postcards.

Johnston_Hoffman_old court house st

Their everyday street scenes capture ordinary life and rarely show the classic iconic views and buildings associated with tourist postcards. The idea behind these images was to convey the ordinary, almost banal quotidian street scene. Calcutta is not being presented here as the quixotic, oriental or ‘other’. Instead we see classical architecture, jewellry shops. There is an efficient tram system running along purposefully straight streets, and terminating with an ‘English’ church steeple (barely visible in this poor quality scan).

Mapping Calcutta

Maps are significant resources in our quest to interpret and understand the Indian city. A collection of maps produced over time reveals how a place has grown and developed whilst other parts are erased and superseded. Maps should not be thought of as simply a means to navigate (although this is very important); they are not innocent documents but highly political modes of representation. The mapping of a territory suggests ownership, domination and control. What is included (and left out) of a map also needs careful consideration, for each map is produced with a specific purpose and cannot show ‘everything’. This process of editing and privileging certain information above other data can reveal agendas, how the city was seen and wider social concerns particularly in the notions of defence and sanitation. The brochure below was produced by Centre for Studies in Social Science, Calcutta with cartography from the Visual Archives, with text by by Keya Dasgupta. Maps of Calcutta from 1742 – 2008 are included.

Click the link to view a PDF of the booklet: Mapping Calcutta

Photographs of Calcutta by Pablo Bartholomew

Pablo Bartholomew (b 1955) is one of India’s leading photographers and photo-journalists with a long list of international exhibitions and commissions for leading publishers. Often photographing the ‘margins of society’, as well as tackling subjects of migration, memory and the mundane his work forms an important corpus of interest to this project. The link below includes some everyday street scenes of Calcutta in the 1970s, images of the Chinese community and the film maker Satyajit Ray.

French Language Books on India

Here is a link to a bibliography prepared by Ian Magedera that lists more than a thousand titles, including texts from the following eighteen different genres: administrative, anthropological, biographical, bibliographical commercial, economic, ethnographical, fine art, geographical, historical, legal, literary, medical, philosophical, political, religious, as well as examples of bande dessinée and travel narratives. Given both this vast range of different approaches and the diversity of landscapes and cultures that the regions which are now known as India offer those writing in French, it is not surprising that innovation and discovery are two of the most common elements found in French-language texts.

PhD Funding Opportunity

We are looking for a PhD student to join us on the ETIC project, based at Liverpool University. We are indebted to UKIERI and the School of the Arts at Liverpool University who have generously provided funding to enable the creation of a ‘fees paid’ studentship. If you have a research idea that aligns with our aims to further understanding of the Indian city, and want to work on this project then please get in touch.

We will be advertising this studentship soon (and will post details here), but wanted to spread the word as soon as possible through this blog.

Potential applicants from a variety of academic backgrounds and disciplines including, but not limited to, Architecture, English & French are very welcome.

Welcome to the Envisioning the Indian City project blog

This project seeks to further our understanding of the crucial role played by Indian cities in negotiating contact between India and Europe, and the UK in particular.
Its 4 main objectives are:
(1) to examine how and why cities functioned as the focus of cross-cultural exchanges both in colonial and post-colonial India;
(2) to compile case-studies exploring marks left by such exchanges on the socio-cultural and imaginative identities of particular cities;
(3) to analyse their impact on the physical fabric of the cities; and
(4) to create a conceptual map of how such exchanges vary both synchronically and diachronically.

For a more detailed description of the project, please see the About page.

We welcome comments and suggestions and would be delighted to hear your views on the ‘Indian City’. If you have any photographs, paintings, maps or other such ephemera that in some way reveals how the Indian city was viewed by ‘outsiders’ then please get in touch; we would very much like to collaborate with you.