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Visual Cultures of Travel and Exploration in Latin America (Level 5)


Module description

Focusing on Latin America, we will investigate visual cultures of travel and exploration, raising questions about the history of modern visual technologies within and beyond Europe, and the rethinking of the imperial archive in light of Indigenous agency.

Paying particular attention to the Euro-American exploration of Latin America from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries, we consider key questions about the role of visual artefacts in the making of imaginative geographies, mediating cultural encounters and providing ecological and multispecies insights. Across this period, travellers left their impressions in a variety of records, from visual images in sketches, paintings, charts, photography and film, to written ones in diaries, letters and travel accounts.

Primary materials to be studied include those produced by Alexander von Humboldt, Charles Darwin, Alfred Russel Wallace, Richard Spruce, Guido Boggiani, Hiram Bingham, Alexander Hamilton Rice and Claude Lévi-Strauss, among others.

This module draws upon work in cultural and historical geography, art history, history of science, literary criticism, anthropology and the environmental humanities.

Indicative syllabus

  • Setting the scene: rethinking the visual archive of travel and exploration in Latin America
  • Humboldtian science
  • Naturalists in the field: collecting tropical nature
  • Negotiating wilderness: Tierra del Fuego
  • Macchu Picchu and the making of Andean pre-Columbian heritage in the US
  • Body painting in the Gran Chaco region
  • Filming terra incognita: the exploration of the Amazon

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will have:

  • awareness of a range of theoretical and methodological approaches to visual representation and cultures of exploration
  • familiarity with the complexities of the production, consumption and circulation of visual imagery within cross-cultural encounters
  • considered multiple local and transnational contexts in the history of exploration
  • knowledge of current approaches to visual culture.