Postcolonialism: An Historical Introduction.
Oxford: Blackwell, 2001

I found the photograph, taken by Stuart Heydinger, for the cover of this book in a collection of war photography. The book is a disturbing and depressing collection of photographs of violence and killing. Having lived with such violence for so long in writing the book--I wrote about some of the disturbing photographs that I had encountered in writing the book in the Preface--I wanted to find a photograph that would do something more than document another instance of colonial brutality--I was looking for something that would reflect the theme of the book, which was an overwhelmingly positive view of the powerful and extraordinary testimony to human endeavour that the anticolonial movements represented. They were, as I wrote, movements in which millions of people fought for things in life that many in other societies, including those in which I live, accept as an unquestioned part of their daily existence--freedom, autonomy, dignity. When I came across this photograph I knew immediately that it was the one that I wanted for the cover of the book that I was writing. What I liked about it was that it reversed the typical agency of colonial rule. Here the veiled woman, not so veiled that you do not see her fashionable shoes peeping out from below, comes up behind the relaxed, and sexually ambivalent, endearingly camp, French soldier. In the full photograph, reproduced below, it looks as though she is about to whack him with her shopping bag. The totally unambivalent regard caught here as she looks at him, he all the time unawares, is picked up in the photograph by the boy whose oblique regard almost stares at the camera but in fact shows indifference to it.. Alongside them are the signs of everyday ordinary life--the boxes of bubble gum, the shopping--amongst  which the soldier mingles as he stands there, hand on the barrel of his machine gun, his thoughts far away lost in the phantasmatics of reverie.



December 2005