Visuality, Coloniality and Modernism in the Gran Chaco: Assessing Grete Stern's Indigenous Photographs

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Abstract

In recent years, Grete Stern's series of photographs of indigenous people from northern Argentina's Chaco region have been the subject of increasing attention. Most critics argue that in these images it is possible to find one of the best examples of the convergence of her humanist concerns with the fate of oppressed and persecuted people and her modernist approach to photography. Consequently, a narrative is put forward that connects Stern’s earlier experiences, both as a Jew during the rise of Nazism and as an exponent of the Bauhaus style, with her representations of indigenous people. The aim of this article is to suggest a more complex study of this photographic series, mainly by shifting the focus of analysis from Stern'€™s figure to the photographs themselves, therefore locating them in relation to previous and subsequent visual representations of Argentina'€™s indigenous cultures. Firstly, I will examine to what extent these photographs introduced an aesthetic and ethical break with the visuality of the Gran Chaco produced by late nineteenth- and early twentieth- century anthropology, in line with the occupation of this region by the national state. Secondly, I will analyze how they contributed to a shift towards an increasing aestheticization of indigenous communities, an aestheticization that would go on to be recuperated and influence the work of contemporary photographers. This aspect will be the focus of the last section of this article, taking Guadalupe Miles’s Chaco series as a case study.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-242
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Latin American Cultural Studies
Volume24
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jun 2015

Keywords

  • Grete Stern
  • Chaco
  • bauhaus
  • visuality
  • coloniality
  • indigeneity
  • race
  • latin america

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