November 11, 2020

New Book Explores How French Visual Culture Exposed Citizens to Racialized Ideas of Life In the Empire

New Book Explores How French Visual Culture Exposed Citizens to Racialized Ideas of Life In the Empire


LOS ANGELES, CA—By the end of World War I, having fortified their colonial holdings in the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa, the Indian Ocean, and Asia, the French could rightly claim to have expanded their dominion to the four corners of the earth. This point was celebrated in the summer of 1931 when 33 million people attended the Paris Exposition Coloniale Internationale. In that world’s fair, imperialism was not a subtheme, but rather the explicit purpose; visitors could, as the government’s slogan advertised, have a “tour of the world in a day,” touching down on continents and oceans that represented the breadth of France Overseas.

Visualizing Empire: Africa, Europe, and the Politics of Representation (Getty Publications, $55.00) examines how an official French visual culture normalized the country’s colonial project and exposed citizens and subjects alike to racialized ideas of life in the empire. Essays analyze aspects of colonialism through investigations into the art, popular literature, material culture, film, and exhibitions that represented, celebrated, or were created for France’s colonies across the sea.

The essays in this volume focus on a collection of materials held in the Getty Research Institute, acquired from the Paris-based Association Connaissance de l’Histoire de l’Afrique Contemporaine (ACHAC) archives. Through a diverse and interdisciplinary range of studies, Visualizing Empire reveals the complex ways in which the French displayed, defined, and represented their empire.



Rebecca Peabody is head of Research Projects and Programs at the Getty Research Institute.


Steven Nelson is dean of the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., and professor emeritus of African and African American art history at the University of California, Los Angeles.


Dominic Thomas is Madeleine L. Letessier Professor and Chair of the Department of European Languages and Transcultural Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.



"Visualizing Empire delves deeply into colonial image making and the difficult issues of conquest, race, media, and cultural stereotyping through a peerless collection of visual artifacts of colonial imagery. The authors frame these works within a multidisciplinary context that at once deepens, broadens, and enhances our knowledge of French colonialism and how it worked both in the metropole and in the complex geographical and cultural worlds in which the French were engaged. Through a close examination of these forms—architecture, mapping, dress, caricature, zoos, fairs, games, advertising, and localized sites of encounter, Visualizing Empire provides us a seat at the table to experience up close the ever-expanding thirst of empire that shaped the modern world."—Suzanne Preston Blier, Allen Whitehill Clowes Professor of Fine Arts and of African and African American Studies, Harvard University



Visualizing Empire

Africa, Europe and the Politics of Representation

Edited by Rebecca Peabody, Steven Nelson, and Dominic Thomas

Getty Research Institute

200 pages, 7 x 10 inches, paperback

88 color and 5 b/w illustrations

ISBN 978-1-60606-668-3

US $55.00, UK 45.00


PUBLICATION DATE: January 19, 2021



Maureen Winter, Getty Publications

(310) 440-6117


About Getty Publications

Getty Publications produces award-winning titles that result from or complement the work of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Conservation Institute, and Getty Research Institute. This wide variety of books covers the fields of art, photography, archaeology, architecture, conservation, and the humanities for both the general public and specialists. Publications include illustrated works on artists and art history, exhibition catalogues, works on cultural history, research on the conservation of materials and archaeological sites, scholarly monographs, critical editions of translated works, comprehensive studies of Getty’s collections, and educational books on art to interest children of all ages.

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