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Conference: The Photographic Archive and the idea of nation

The ‘long 19th century’, identified in the West with the age of the rise of nation states, is also the century of the ‘invention’ and diffusion of photography, as well as the birth of modern archival science. Photography was soon placed at the service of the iconic needs of nation states. The photographic collections and archives, both public and private, founded between the second half of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, thus had the function of restoring and creating the fragmented image of the nation, on the one hand, and helping to construct the image of a nation, on the other. Yet the problem of the representation of the national identity is clearly not limited to this period. Following the Second World War, the subsequent disintegration of the world colonial system, and the fall of the Berlin Wall, the national question was once again placed at the centre of attention but now in a planetary dimension. The debate of the contemporary world is thus torn between globalization and forms of national, or even sub-national, particularism. It is also having to face the question of the proliferation of images in a globalized world, in the age of digital media and internet, with its simplification of production (or over-production) of images and access to them. Despite these changing historical conditions, however, photographs have continued, and will continue, to be gathered in collections and archives, with the aim of giving visual substance to the image world of the national identity, and contributing to its formation.

The conference is aimed at studying the relation between photography or photographic archives and the idea of nation, yet without focusing on single symbolic icons and considering instead the wider archival and sedimental dimension.

The conference forms part of a series of international meetings dedicated to photographic archives and the interaction between photography and the academic and scientific disciplines, with a particular focus on the history of art. After London (June 2009), Florence (October 2009) and New York (March 2011), the fourth meeting in the series will once again be held in Florence (October 27-29, 2011).








14.30: Alessandro Nova (Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz): Welcoming remarks


14.45: Costanza Caraffa (Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz), Tiziana Serena (Università degli Studi di Firenze): Introduction


15.00, Opening Keynote: Elizabeth Edwards (DeMontfort University, Leicester): The Invisibility of History: Photography, the Colonial, and the Refiguring of Nation


16.00: coffee break


16.30: Tiziana Serena (Università degli Studi di Firenze): Cultural Heritage, Nation, Italian State: Politics of the Photographic Archive between Centre and Periphery


17.15: Bernhard Jussen (Johann Wolfgang Goethe Universität Frankfurt): Towards an Iconology of Medieval Studies: Approaches to the Pictorial Formation of Historical Knowledge in Modern Scholarship


19.00, Evening Keynote: Joan M. Schwartz (Queen's University, Kingston): Images and Imaginings: Photographs, Archives, and the Idea of Nation





9.30: Roberto Mancini (Università Iuav di Venezia): La fabbrica degli albanesi. Lo studio fotografico Marubi e la definizione della identità nazionale del ‘paese delle aquile’ tra età moderna e contemporanea


10.15: Ewa Manikowska (Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw): Turning local into universal. Museums, Photography and the Discovery of Poland’s Cultural Patrimony (1918-1939)


11.00: coffee break


11.30: Justin Carville (Dublin / Institute of Art, Design & Technology, Dun Laoghaire): Performing Ethnography/Projecting History: Photography, Archives, and Irish Cultural Nationalism


12.15: Josko Belamaric (Institut za povijest umjetnosti – Institute of Art History, Split, Croatia): Il ruolo della fotografia nel Kulturkampf attorno al 1900 in Dalmazia


lunch break


15.00: John Mraz (Instituto de Ciencias Sociales y Humanidades, Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, Mexico / Princeton University): Archives & Icons: Constructing a Postrevolutionary Identity in Mexico


15.45: Julia Adeney Thomas (University of Notre Dame, Indiana): A War without Pictures: Japan's Official Photography Magazines as National Archive


16.30: coffee break


17.00: Pietro Clemente (Università degli Studi di Firenze): Resistenza, memoria e fotografia nei processi identitari dell’Italia postbellica


17.45: Rolf Sachsse (Hochschule der Bildenden Künste Saar): Microfilm Services and Their Application to Scholarly Study, Scientific Research, Education and Re-Education in the Post-War Period: a Draft Proposal by Lucia Moholy to the UNESCO Preparatory Commission, 1945, and its Prehistory in Modern Art


18.30: Patricia Hayes (University of Western Cape, South Africa): The 'struggle archive' and the Loss of the Subject: Portraits of Namibian Contract Workers by John Liebenberg, 1986





10.00: Martha A. Sandweiss (Princeton University): Majestic Landscapes and Disappearing Indians: Photography and the Invention of an American West


10.45: Martina Baleva (Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Berlin): Von der fotografischen Inflation zur nationalen Revolution. Konstruktionen bulgarischer Nationalrevolutionäre im fotografischen Bild


11.30: coffee break


12.00: Lucie Ryzova (University of Oxford / Cairo): Mourning the Archive in Egypt: Vintage Photographs in the Age of Neoliberalism and Digital Reproduction


12.45: Round Table / Final Discussion


Organization: Costanza Caraffa (Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz,  and Tiziana Serena (Università degli Studi di Firenze,


Location: Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz, Max-Planck-Institut, Photothek, Via dei Servi 51, 50122 Florence


Contact: Maja Häderli (


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