Thèse : Collecting images of Mexico: A polychromatic view through the lens of Teobert Maler, 1860–1910
- Leysinger, Claudine
- Piccato, Pablo (dir.)
- Columbia University, 2008, 1 vol. (408 p.).
- Thèse de doctorat : philosophie : Graduate School of Arts and Sciences : Columbia University : 2008.
This dissertation centers on the life and work of Teobert Maler (1842-1917), a nineteenth-century German expeditionary photographer in Mexico, who thanks to his multifaceted work and interests allows to straddle the history of archaeology and photography in nineteenth-century Mexico, as well as examine these disciplines within a transnational context, as they were both influenced by European trends. It thus traces the development of Mexican anthropology—used in its broadest definition referring to all the anthropological disciplines—and its study by foreign explorers and antiquarians in the second half of the nineteenth century (1860s to 1910).Drawing on a variety of sources—photographs, drawings, letters, diaries, travel reports, archaeological treaties, and Mexican and German government records—this study challenges postcolonial theories, which equate foreign archaeologists and photographers active in colonized or formerly colonized countries to imperial agents. The work of Teobert Maler shows that even though foreigners asserted themselves in the field in more than one way, Mexican elites nevertheless found means to use the oeuvre of foreigners for their own goals, thus complicating the idea of Western dominance. Mexican politicians and intellectuals of the Porfiriato (rule of Porfirio Díaz, 1876-1911) found Western interest and involvement in Mexico’s pre-Hispanic past useful in more than one way. Not only did they increasingly view their country’s ancient history as a means to promote a cohesive national narrative, but they also saw the science of archaeology as a chance to propel their country into the ranks of modern nations. They understood foreign interest in Mexico’s pre-Columbian past as a way to foster progress by welcoming this new science and the men (and less often the women) who carried out and shaped this new discipline. This dissertation thus traces the development of Mexican anthropology during a time when Porfirian elites pursued nationalist and cosmopolitan aims—two forces that pulled in opposite directions. The outcome was a marked Eurocentrism, which was not so much the natural conclusion of the development of anthropology in Mexico, but rather a consequence of multiple factors and circumstances.