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Agitating images

  • Author / Creator
    Campbell, Craig
  • The title of this thesis gives away little beyond an engagement with the visual and the implication of some sort of trouble: Agitating images. In many ways it is a project defined by trouble: trouble that is analyzed and historicized but also trouble that is expected and invited. The agitation refers initially to the project of communist agitators working in the 1920s and 30s among indigenous Siberian peoples. Soviet society was at war with illiteracy, at war with backwardness and, in central Siberia it was at war with shamans and wealthy reindeer herders. In relation to images, agitation is something altogether different and my metaphorical leap from a communist agitator to image as agitator can only exist through analytical fiat. What are agitating images? I argue that all photographs are actually agitating, even the most mundane and transparent images are agitating. They pose as media amenable to interpretation and the ascription of meaning; in fact they undermine meaning and they undermine interpretation. I demonstrate this in three distinct parts of the thesis. Part I offers a comprehensive articulation of my project. It is illustrated in a more or less conventional manner with archival photographs from Siberia. Part II is a demonstration of history and photography in conflict. I show how the Soviets—faced with an enormous inland territory and what was perceived as a culturally anterior population—developed the Culturebase, a unique technology to facilitate the shaping and manipulation of indigenous cultures. Part III of the thesis presents an altogether different approach. In this section I eschew the conventions and limitations of the printed page and offer a digital alternative. The format of Part III is agitating as well. As a website it is a performative act of perpetual openness. Agitating images is ultimately not about the end of interpretation, ethnography, or history. Rather, it is a generative work that reflexively apprehends its own place in the production of knowledge.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    2009-11
  • Type of Item
    Thesis
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
    https://doi.org/10.7939/R3ZM5N
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
    English
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
    Doctoral
  • Department
    • Department of Sociology
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Sayer, Derek (Sociology/History)
    • Siemens, Elena (Modern Languages and Cultural Studies)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Zivkovic, Marko (Anthropology)
    • Fletcher, Christopher (Anthropology)
    • Shields, Rob (Sociology/Art and Design)
    • Gérin, Annie (Art History)