International Workshop on history and visual documents

An international workshop on history and visual documents is to be held on October 7-9, 2009 at Santa Lucia di Talla (Corsica). The workshop is part of a series of meetings held over the years on the issue of history and the use of visual documents. This initiative taken by Prof. Yeh Wen-hsin (History Department, UC Berkeley) and Prof. Christian Henriot (Institut d’Asie Orientale, Institut Universitaire de France) followed their initial involvement in the creation of a databank of historical photographs of Shanghai funded by the France-Berkeley Fund.

The October 2009 workshop will encourage participants to tackle a bit more issues of methodology and narrative. Its broad theme — Visual, Representations, Materiality and Narratives — however is meant to suggest an open exploration of the various dimensions visual sources entail for historical knowledge. The historical discipline is rooted in the careful analysis of textual documents through elaborate methods crafted by generations of historians. The pre-eminence of the written world has found its manifestation in the reliance on archives as the primary material of the historian. These foundations have been shaken by post-modern critics who argued that archives were like all other historical documents, a form of narrative that offered no more guarantee of objectivity than other productions such as the press or even literary texts. This challenge has redefined the way historians ‘think’ and mobilize their sources in the reconstruction of the past.

The study of visual documents goes beyond the field of history, of course. It is a complex field that takes all forms of visual production and representation as its targets of investigation. The production and circulation of visual documents generate for any given period a particular visual culture that sets the environment within which individual documents (whatever their nature) has to be approached. Who does what and when and how does it become visual, in what historical relations do specific images stand to others, what is the social life of an image, what is the relationship between a social actor and the image? Thus the visual offers itself as both material and representational. It is to understand this duality and its implications and to find answers to these types of questions that scholars will get together at the 2009 workshop on history & images.

Cite this blog post
Christian Henriot (2009, October 1). International Workshop on history and visual documents. Blog Virtual Shanghai. Retrieved April 18, 2024, from

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