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Writing on Water: experiments with historical forms through Daniel Morolong and Joseph Denfield’s photographs of the East London coast

The project aims to unpack the multiple ways that photographs depicting the sea can be utilised for formal experimentation and disruption in history writing. It engages with the photographic collections produced by Daniel Morolong and Joseph Denfield in the port city of East London, South Africa, in the 1960s in the context of intensified racial segregation and restructuring of the city in accordance with apartheid policies. In both collections the East London coastline figures prominently as both a setting and a photographic subject. Drawing from scholarship that argues for photography as a mode of performing history, and history-writing in tum as a way of constituting a spectacle, the project aims to generate experimental texts that are attentive to the discipline of history by invoking Hayden White’s critiques of the distinction between history and fiction. As material objects marked by expansiveness and instability of meaning in both form and content, Morolong’s and Denfield’s photographs draw attention to how historical knowledge is produced, rather than found, thus allowing for formal disruptions and novel modes of writing that enact a mode of critique of disciplinary reasoning.


Fellows involved in this project

Iso Lomso visiting scholar
South Africa

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