Skip to content


After Nature

Images of Body, Travel, Science and Empires (XVIIIth-XXth Centuries)

Add to calendar 2022-09-07 09:30 2022-09-07 18:30 Europe/Rome After Nature INHA Paris 2 Rue Vivienne, 75002 Paris YYYY-MM-DD


07 September 2022

9:30 - 18:30 CEST


INHA Paris

2 Rue Vivienne, 75002 Paris

Organised by

This workshop, in the context of the ARER Marie Sklodowska-Curie project, proposes to reflect body representations made by travelers. Please note that the workshop will take place in-person in Paris, France.

At the time when anthropology was becoming institutionalised as a discipline, most anthropologists studied extra-Western populations from the metropolises, on the basis of visual and material corpus collected in situ. Before the advent of photography and cinema, this practice was first based on drawings and its variations (watercolors, paintings) as well as plaster casts made from nature.

This workshop proposes to reflect body representations made by travelers, a common term that includes adventurers, ethnographers, anthropologists, geographers, merchants, soldiers, missionaries and naturalists. All of them share, beyond their specific skills, a practice of observation based on the eminently artistic notion of ‘after nature’. While Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison’s reference book Objectivity studies this notion in the field of botany, we would like to focus on the images of bodies gathered in travel diaries and facial casts made in vivo, and to question these representations in the light of the notions of the innocent eye, the witnessing eye, the naturalist eye or the scientific eye. The aim is to analyse the ideological stakes of these different point of views and to study their relationship to field experience, which claims to document a process of authentic knowledge, as close as possible to reality. It also questions the diffusion and circulation of drawings and body casts in the collective imagination (travel literature, illustrated press), as well as in anthropological works, museums and exhibitions where they are set up as scientific evidences.

These representations also support theories of population classification, and the term 'from nature' is invoked by anthropologists in scientific texts as a guarantee of authenticity in order to legitimize the objectivity of their thesis. The study of these visual and material corpus, finally, constitutes a new perspective to problematise the notion of informal empire and to understand the links between images, science and empire in contexts that are not exclusively colonial.

The workshop, taking place at Institut d'Historie de l'Art in Paris, is open for in person participation. Should you wish to attend the workshop, please write to Lucia Piccioni.

This workshop has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No 896185.

Go back to top of the page