Chronicling Empire: Scottish Albums in Colonial Southeast Asia

  The proposed research project seeks to examine the ways colony-based photographers represented and celebrated the success of the colonial-based enterprises in Southeast Asian at the turn of the 20th century. This research will examine photographs and photographic albums associated with Gillian Maclaine, a Scottish entrepreneur who established one of the most significant Asia-based commercial networks operated in the region through the 19th and the first half of the 20th century. It aims to show how the photographic practices that developed in the colonies in parallel with its modernisation created iconography beyond the traditional colonial imagery of “view and type.” Whether modern architecture, industrialised landscape, or portraiture of intimate social circles, those photographs generated distinct visual themes and photographic genres, which reflected the cultural hybridity and social stratification of modern colonial society. Photographs and photographic albums produced within Maclaine’s business circles will allow us to look beyond stereotypical metropolitan views of the colony and take us into the worldview of the colonisers themselves. Their ‘insider view’ made the colonial references appear much subtler in the photographs and moved away from the blunt colonial construction of cultural and geographic difference. Now kept in different archives in Europe, this research will focus on the Maclaine material from the collection of Scottish and Singaporean public archives as well as privates ones. Exploring material from largely understudied archives in Scotland and Singapore, this research will offer a new reading and theorising of both Scottish colonial history and photographic practice in the colony, knowledge which will aid the internationalisation of the history of photography curriculum at the Edinburgh Napier University.

  • Start Date:

    20 February 2017

  • End Date:

    31 March 2018

  • Activity Type:

    Research

  • Funder:

    Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland

  • Value:

    £7446

Project Team