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Title:Salvage anthropology in a city without history: East London and photographic collections of Joseph Denfield, 1950-1969
Authors:Mnyaka, Phindezwa ElizabethISNI
Bank, LeslieISNI
Periodical:South African Historical Journal (ISSN 1726-1686)
Geographic term:South Africa
colonial history
About person:Joseph Denfield (1944-1967)ISNI
External link:https://doi.org/10.1080/02582473.2013.833288
Abstract:This paper explores the personal and public photography taken in the 1960s by Joseph Denfield, a well-known South African ethnographic photographer and amateur historian in East London. The authors argue that his collection allows for a critical reflection on the narratives of the history and culture of East London during this period. Drawing attention to the economic, infrastructural, political and cultural changes that the city underwent from the 1950s onward, the authors place Denfield's images alongside such changes noting the ways they offer a silent critique of the 'dismantling' of the city's colonial past, and in turn draw on the discursive trope of 'salvage anthropology' to 'redeem' such a past. His images are melancholic and nostalgic, documenting a city in ruins. They lament the passing of an era and the collapse of a particular kind of city. Some of his photographs were deeply personal and private, but they are also of great public significance because they now provide the cornerstone of a heritage-driven representational history of a city which, the authors argue, effectively has no modern history. Notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]