An Object of Comparison: The Orientalist Photographer


Ali Behdad, UCLA

An Object of Comparison: The Orientalist Photographer

The word “comparison,” as Marriam-Webster reminds us, means “an examination of two or more items to establish similarities and dissimilarities.” But, can we speak of comparison without the co-presence of two or more cultural or literary objects? In my talk, I wish to elaborate a notion of comparison as an analytics to suggest that comparison need not always entail an act of interpreting the similarities or differences between literary and cultural objects, arguing that any object is inherently comparative to the extend to which it can be read in relation to, or even against its own aesthetic, cultural, historical, and political contexts. I put forth the notion of a “comparative frame of mind,” by which I mean a critical practice that is neither invested in the intrinsic connections between cultural and literary objects, nor attempting to disclose the incommensurable difference between them. With a comparative frame of mind, I suggest, we can look for meaningful patterns in whatever literary object or cultural archive we happen to study. Focusing on what I call the Orientalist photograph, I would like to offer three analytical concepts through which we can make a single object, in this case the “Orientalist photograph,” the object of comparison—these concepts are “network,” “circulation,” and “mediation.” Although I will not define these terms in any specific way, I hope my uses of these analytical concepts in the context of my object of study provide an understanding of how they can help us move beyond our conventional way of organizing knowledge according to the logic of similarity or difference and to recognize the incommensurable, partial and provisional nature of comparison itself.


Mon Feb 29, 2016
6:00 PM - 9:00 PM EST
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Usdan University Center Usdan 300 (Daniel Family Commons & Lounge)
Venue Address
45 Wyllys Avenue, Middletown, CT United States
Center for Humanities Monday Night Lecture Series