October 5, 2016 – Deborah Hutton

Professor of Art and Art History, The College of New Jersey

“A Thoroughly Modern Major: Photography, Identity, and Politics at the Court of Hyderabad, India”

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the rapidly-changing courtly culture of the Indo-Islamic state of Hyderabad coalesced around the qualities of cosmopolitanism, hospitality, and sportsmanship. This talk unpacks the role photography played in defining that culture. It will do so by focusing on the Nizam of Hyderabad’s charismatic aide-de-camp, Sir Afsur ul-Mulk, both a prolific patron and celebrated subject of photography. As someone whose image can be read as simultaneously fulfilling and subverting social expectations, Sir Afsur allows us to rethink how categories such as race, religion, and “traditional” courtly culture have been constructed vis-à-vis modernity and modern visuality, as well as how the medium of photography was tied to the growth of a visual culture of “celebrity.” 

Deborah Hutton