Using Photographs to study Women’s History – II

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SLIDE 14 marriage photographs

By Geraldine Forbes

As contemporary authors have noted, family collections are notorious for their omission of pain, ill health, discord, and rupture. (Hirsch quotes Jo Spence on family collections: “There is no record of my appalling health. . . ; no record of the pointless years shunted around schools inside formal education … ; no record of a broken marriage and the havoc this so-called failure caused me; no record of hard work done for countless  employers; no record of me trying to please parents and other authority figures; no record of struggles. .. .  Moreover, those “happy,” “serious,” “loving,” “miserable,” but always  passive visual moments which do exist … give no indication at all of the wider social, economic, and political histories of our disgusting class-divided society,” Hirsch, p. 134,   Jo Spence, “Visual Anthropology,”  in co-edited Family Snaps, pp. 82-83.) As working documents, these photos give the family cohesion, perpetuate myths about their solidarity and happiness.


* Geraldine Forbes is Distinguished Teaching Professor, Dept. of History, State University of New York, Oswego. She presented this in a Lecture Series organized by Centre for Manipur Studies (CMS), Manipur University (MU), and transcribed by Aheibam Koireng, Faculty, CMS, MU.

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