Homework 1
Read the course lecture then read Lutz & Collins essay (both attached), then write notes of what did you read.
According to Lutz and Collins, National Geographic images can be:
    •    Exoticized
    •    Politicized       
    •    Sexualized
    •    Idealized
Homework 2
Read the NY Times article from 2018: National Geographic admits ‘racist’ decades-long coverage 

And write notes.

UNIV2001 Fall 2021
Professor Lisa Karrer

Week #6 Part #1 Lecture

Reading National Geographic

READ: Lutz & Collins Reading National Geographic (Coursepack)

Using past issues of National Geographic as their topic, Catherine A.
Lutz and Jane L. Collins examine how photographs can be editorialized,
manipulated and appropriated as cultural attractions or spectacles, a way
of presenting cultures as “different” from ours. The authors examine how
for decades National Geographic’s success was based on supporting
western stereotypes, keeping these cultures “outside”, to be viewed as
“the other.”


In this essay, the writers:

• Ask how people in other lands have been depicted, what they have
been photographed doing, and how the photo has been composed.
• Look at photographs as they relate to each other (that is, the set of
National Geographic magazines of the period) and to their
historical and social context (the United States since 1950).
• Develop a critical sense of the photograph as an artifact that can
be analyzed with some reference to—but not reducible to—its
makers’ institutional context, constraints, intentions, and
unconscious motives on the one hand, or, on the other, its readers’
construction of meaning.

• According to Lutz and Collins, images can be:
• Exoticized
• Politicized
• Sexualized
• Idealized


• Accentuating cultural differences (strange-seeming rituals or
inexplicable behavior, (see Horace Miner Nacirema)
• The Role of Color Photography presenting an exotically peopled
world; saturated color makes for intrinsically more interesting
• The non-Westerner comes to be portrayed as a ritual performer
living in a sacred (some would say superstitious) world.
• Promoting the view of “the other” as superstitious or irrational
makes the viewer feel superior
• Making ritual routine – flattens (deadens) the emotional life of the
people depicted (see Tom Driver The Magic of Ritual)
• The funeral becomes a moment of cultural display (with special
customs of paraphernalia or dress) rather than a moment of grief
• The Smile – The smiling, happy person evokes the goal of the
pursuit of happiness, written into the Declaration of Independence
• Gentle Natives and Wars Without Brutalized Bodies

• Shunning of the poor, the ill, and the hungry

• Americans see themselves as no longer in possession of a culture
but as holding on to history through their scientific advancements
and their power to influence the evolutionary advance of other
peoples to democracy and market economies (capitalism)
• The Naked Black Woman / The first inclusion of a bare-breasted
woman in the pages of the Geographic occurred in 1896, and was
accompanied then, as now, by shameless editorial explanation
• The imputation of erotic qualities or even sexual license to non-
Westerners (particularly women)
• None of the hundreds of women whose breasts were photographed
in the magazine were white-skinned

• Chiefly derogatory

• Relating to, affecting, or acting according to the interests of status
or authority within an organization, rather than matters of principle
• Compare to The White Man’s Burden: the alleged duty of white
people in authority to manage the affairs of “less developed”

Submit your detailed Written Notes to Week #6 Part 1 Assignment Folder
DUE before Noon Sept 30

A World
Brightly Different:
To make an exact image is to insure against disappearance, to
cannibalize life until it is safely and permanently a specular
image, a ghost.
(Haraway 1984/85:42)
T he result of the production practices and institutional his-tory just described is a rich and voluminous corpus of
magazine issues and photographs. Even decades-old issues
of the magazine have a significant continuing life. Millions
of copies are archived in public libraries, and millions more
inhabit the bookshelves and attics of private homes. Cur-
rent copies are scattered liberally across America’s coffee
tables and doctors’ waiting rooms. This corpus has, then,
both historical significance and contemporary impact. To
understand it, we begin with an analysis of the surface
content of the photos. We ask how people in other lands
have been depicted, what they have been photographed
doing, and how the photo has been composed. The goals
of this exploration are to describe the genre, to glean some
clues as to the models of difference held by the producers
of the magazine, and to relate both of these aspects to
historical sociocultural processes and changes of the post-
war period.
In the next four chapters, we look at photographs as
they relate to each other (that is, the set of National Geo-
Chapter Four
graphic magazines of the period) and to their historical and social context
(the United States since 1950). We develop our own critical sense of the
photograph as an artifact that can be analyzed with some reference to
but not reducible to—its makers’ institutional context, constraints, in-
tentions, and unconscious motives on the one hand, or, on the other
its readers’ construction of meaning. In reading the photographs in this
way, we have drawn on the insights of the social historians and theoreti-
cians of images, including especially Benjamin (1985), Gaines (1988)
Geary (1988), Graham-Brown (1988), Modleski (1988), Sekula (1981)’,
Shapiro (1988), Sontag (1977), Tagg (1988), Traube (1989), and William-
son (1978).l These scholars have drawn our attention to the many ways
in which photographs signify—through formal elements such as color,
composition, and vantage point; through narrative structure, including
what is internal to the shot and what results from setting photographs
in a sequence; through specific items in photo and caption that relate
directly to cultural ideas and phenomena outside the picture; through
their position in a cultural hierarchy that includes art, television, and
consumer goods; and through their ability to assume or ignore, to evoke
or discount, their readers’ social experience and values.
In addition to this kind of analysis of individual Geographic photo-
graphs, we took a large set from the period 1950 through 1986 and
systematically asked a series of questions about each. We chose this
period because we wanted to trace effects of the decolonization process
and the Vietnam War. Another consideration was that only after World
War II did a large number of people contribute to each issue. Photo-
graphs before the war reflect individual as much as truly institutional
Our method consisted of randomly sampling one photograph from
each of the 594 articles featuring non-Western people published in that
period.2 Each photo was coded independently by two people for twenty-
1. It is perhaps not surprising that much of the most insightful work on
the relationship between images and society has been done in the two areas of
advertising (among others, Ewen 1988; Goffman 1979; Williamson 1978) and
“documentary” photography. In this latter area, the bulk of the work done
has been on early documentary photos in the U.S. and Europe (Moeller 1989;
Tagg 1988; Trachtenberg 1989) and of tribal peoples (Geary 1988; Green 1984;
Graham-Brown 1988; Lyman 1982).
2. “Non-Western” countries were defined as all areas outside of North
America and Europe (the latter including Greece and Turkey). While Canada,
Alaska, and the Soviet Union were generally excluded from our consideration,
A World Brightly Different
two characteristics (see Appendix A), many of which will be described
and analyzed in the following chapters.3 Although at first blush it might
appear counterproductive to reduce the rich material in any photograph
to a small number of codes, quantification does not preclude or substitute
for qualitative analysis of the pictures. It does allow, however, discovery
of patterns that are too subtle to be visible on casual inspection and
protection against an unconscious search through the magazine for only
those which confirm one’s initial sense of what the photos say or do.
An important set of themes runs through all National Geographic ren-
derings of the non-Euramerican world. The people of the third and
fourth worlds are portrayed as exotic; they are idealized; they are natural-
ized and taken out of all but a single historical narrative; and they are
sexualized. Several of these themes wax and wane in importance through
the postwar period, but none is ever absent. While each region, country,’ •>
or ethnic group has received some distinctive treatment, the magazine’s
global orientation means that readers may be likely to see all regions,
even those occasionally not so depicted, as exotic, ideal, and so on.
Together these themes establish National Geographic’?, style of coverage,
and they have, over the course of a century, helped to set an important
cornerstone of its readers’ definitions of the world. By looking more
closely at some of these features of the photos, we can begin to see how
the process of world definition is achieved.
An Exotic World
The eye of National Geographic, like the eye of anthropology, looks for
cultural difference. It is continually drawn to people in brightly colored,
“different” dress, engaged in initially strange-seeming rituals or inexpli-
cable behavior. This exoticism involves the creation of an other who is
we did include articles on indigenous people of these areas. Articles on native
peoples in the United States were not included because they constitute a very
special group of people for magazine producers and readers alike. In taking our
sample, we used only photographs in which a person was visible (more than a
dot in a distant landscape).
3. The coders were ourselves and a graduate student in anthropology. Exten-
sive preliminary coding led to revision and expansion of initial versions of the
code sheet. After a final code sheet was decided upon, initial agreement between
coders occurred for 86 percent of all decisions. Discussion between coders was
subsequently used to resolve disagreements. The photographic features coded
are described in Appendix A.
Chapter Four
strange but—at least as important—beautiful. At other times and in
other media outlets, the exoticism of other people has been framed visu-
ally and verbally as less beautiful and more absurdly or derisively differ_
ent. Movies, television news, and other postwar cultural artifacts have
frequently trafficked in revolting ethnic difference. Take, for example
the evil penumbra painted around the eventually self-immolating Arabs
in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” or the pathos and ugliness communicated
by news images of Latin American poverty or Ethiopia’s starvation (see
also Postone and Traube 1986). These kinds of ugliness are relatively
rare in the National Geographic.
The exotic other is by definition attractive, albeit in a special, threefold
sense. When the camera looks for the unusual, it ensures a reader whose
attention is riveted by the intriguing scene. It draws attention, at least
implicitly, to things that define “us” in our unmarked and usual state of
humanness, that is, as people who dress and act in “standard” ways. It
also creates a distance that the magazine may or may not have attempted
to bridge in other ways. The distance is a product of making the pictured
person a kind of spectacle, the latter defined as something that both
demands attention and “offers an imagistic surface of the world as a
strategy of containment against any depth of involvement with that
world” (Polan 1986b:63). One of the effects of the emphasis on spectacle
is to discredit the significance of the foreign, even to create a sense of
its fictitiousness.
A World of Ritual. No single feature renders the third world exotic
more forcefully than the magazine’s focus on ritual. Nearly one-fifth of
all photographs with non-Westerners in them feature people engaged in
or preparing for a ritual—ritual being defined in the narrow sense of
sacred and formally organized group behavior. These pictures are among
the most dramatic in the magazine, often chosen by the editors to spread
across two pages in brilliant polychrome. A director in the photography
department explained that all photographers naturally gravitate to ritual
events because color and action make for intrinsically more interesting
material. The interest also derives from cultural themes and helps repro-
duce them. The non-Westerner comes to be portrayed as a ritual per-
former, embedded (perhaps some would read encrusted) in tradition and
living in a sacred (some would say superstitious) world. This is an em-
phasis that National Geographic has shared with earlier photography of
the non-Western world, whose focus on ritual “reflected the assumption
A World Brightly Different
f Boas’s generation that ritual contained distilled history and cultural
isdom that it was the most conservative and thus the most meaningful
mnant of culture” (Banta and Hinsley 1986:106). In other instances,
this focus on non-Western ritual can be consistent with a view of the
ther as superstitious or irrational and might be responsible for contempt
for the native mind (Drinnon 1980:442). National Geographic appears not
to have taken this perspective, at least in the postwar period and in
relation to the world’s “great religions.”
Much of the text accompanying pictures of ritual in the National Geo-
graphic makes explicit reference to an area’s rituals and religion(s) as part
of a long, ancient tradition. So the caption to a 1962 photograph of a
New Guinea marriage feast notes that “tribal life still lies locked in
millenniums-old patterns.” Context for a Tibetan shaman at prayer in a
1977 photo is provided by a caption which asserts that “the ancient
Tibetan way of life . . . combines animism with the teachings of Bud-
dha.” The magazine tends to downplay a ritual’s contemporary actuality
and the historical changes that preceded its current form, although reli-
gious syncretism is often highlighted as a special kind of contrast narra-
tive. Fascination with ritual stems from the sense that it is a key to the
past and a sign of the trip through time taken by the photographer and
writer. Anthropology has made parallel connections between past time
and other people (Fabian 1983; Price 1989). Two primary features of
exoticism—living close to the sacred or supernatural and living with the
past—are actually combined in many of these pictures. By presenting
the ritual as a feature of custom or tradition, these pictures can also have,
for many readers, the unintended effect of flattening the emotional life
of the people depicted. This is because the ritual procession can be seen
as a routine that people follow rather than as an expression of individual
and group faith. The funeral becomes a moment of cultural display (of
special paraphernalia or dress, as well as custom more generally) rather
than a moment of grief (Rosaldo 1989).

Indexical Dress. In more than half of the photographs in the sample
set, the non-Westerner is shown in indigenous dress, tribal fashion, and/
or ritual costume. The National Geographic searches out native clothing
in its most elaborate form. The Indian woman is often dressed not sim-
ply in an everyday sari, but in a gold-embroidered one, and she is fes-
tooned with jewelry. A Tibetan couple in the July 1955 issue stand,
arms down, in a full-front portrait with little in the background or
Chapter Four
The narrative structure of photographs
is often organized around an undiluted
display of indigenous dress, which in-
dexes exotic cultural difference, as in
this 1954 photo of a Masai woman.
(Photo: W. Robert Moore, © National
Geographic Society)
their gestures to distract from their bright silk and brocade outfits. A
photograph such as that of a Masai woman (1954) is cropped so as to
narrate a story about native styles of dress.
Exotic dress alone often stands for an entire alien life-style, locale, or
mind-set. This is true not only of the National Geographic but of other
Western photographic work on the third world as well. Local costume
suggests something about the social stability and timelessness of the
people depicted (Graham-Brown 1988), and in a story drawing attention
to the social transformation of a people, changes from native to western-
A World Brightly Different
style dress are often highlighted by photographs that set locals in the
two styles of dress in explicit contrast. A photo from the January 1983
Geographic shows young South American Indians dancing, some in na-
tive skirts and loincloths, some in jeans and T-shirts. A central story of
the picture, told by way of dress, is of an encounter or passage between
an exotic cultural pattern and a familiar one. The Western observer is
likely to see Western dress as saying something about the mind-set of
the person wearing those clothes. The man in Western dress can be
understood as desiring social change, material progress, and Westerniza-
tion in other spheres. Exotic dress can stand for a premodern attitude,
Western dress for a forward-looking Western orientation.
The highlighting of native dress contributes not only to a view of
others as different, but also to their framing as picturesque and erotic,
beautiful and sexually alluring (Graham-Brown 1988:118). The orange
silks and fur-trimmed shirts of the local elite wrap whole peoples in an
imagined sensuality and luxurious beauty. Because differences in dress
can easily be interpreted as questions of style and because they draw
attention away from such matters as conflict of interest, they make
the entire notion of difference among people easily digestible (Bolton
1990:269). Difference becomes assimilable to the idea of taste, and, like
that concept, allows the renaming of poverty as “bad taste” and unlike
values as matters of consumer choice.
The focus on native dress in National Geographic shows some fluctua-
tions during the postwar period, dropping slowly over two decades to
44 percent of the total in 1970. A sudden reversal of this trend put the
figure at 63 percent in the early seventies, but that increase was again
steadily eroded through the next fifteen years. It is not until the mid-
eighties that the proportion of native dress found in photographs reached
the lower levels of the late sixties. The editors of the magazine now face
a substantial challenge in how they will deal with the theme of exoticism
as differences in dress play less and less into defining cultural difference
and as more and more tourists have already seen the dress and the festi-
vals that have done the work of painting an exotic other.
The Role of Color Photography. Contemporary National Geographic
photographs display vibrant, striking colors. Advanced printing tech-
niques now allow ink to be laid down in such a way that color virtually
hovers above the glossy page. Giving the magazine its allure and self-
definition, color has distinctive qualities both for those who take the
Chapter Four
pictures and those who read them. Polan (1986a) contrasts the glamorous
and wish-fulfilling qualities of color with the mundane factuality sug-
gested by black and white. Advertising photos have, since the 1950s,
almost always been made in color, while news photography has until
recently almost always been reproduced in black and white. Through
these practices, color has become the language of consumption and
plenty, black and white the conduit of facts, often spare or oppressive.
Color is the vehicle of spectacle, black and white of the depth of facts
behind the screen. Accordingly, for journalists and some artists, color
photography came to be seen as “frivolous and shallow,” black and
white, with its focus on light and shape, as “more artistic and creative”
(Bryan 1987:295).
On the whole, however, color photography has been perfectly suited
to the National Geographic project of presenting an exotically peopled
world. While photographs of animals, geological formations, and Amer-
ican and European subjects are also, of course, presented in color, color
in relation to people in exotic places can and does lend different potential
meaning to a photograph. The color of an orange shirt on an American
man can be absorbed as a visual pleasure in itself, while orange-colored
robes on a Buddhist monk might become “saffron” in caption or in the
reader’s imagination, thereby underlining cultural difference.
Some photos continued to appear in black and white into the period
we are examining, particularly through I960,4 and it is instructive to
note what subjects the editors have tended to portray in black and white
when its use was declining. A significant number of these pictures show
the Western narrator of the article, often explorer or anthropologist. It
is almost as though the black-and-white photo says, “This is a person
of a distinct type, standing to his ‘colored’ brethren as the factual black
and white does to the fantasy, multicolor shot.” Here, more clearly than
elsewhere, the Western observer or explorer is portrayed as scientist,
whose presence needs to be reported but whose appearance need not be
examined in detail. Rarely treated in black and white are the ritual, the
spectacle par excellence; and the portrait, a study of personality, the
“colorful” individual.5 Declining use can also mean that a black-and-
4. Of the 568 sample pictures containing non-Westerners, 65 are in black and
5. Ritual tends to be depicted in color (x2 = 3.008, df = 1, p = .083); only
three of fifty portraits are shown in black and white.
A World Brightly Different
white photo is likely to be interpreted as an old photo by contemporary
Idealizations: From Noble Savage to a Middle-class World
The American Museum of Natural History bears striking similarities to
the National Geographic magazine (on the former, see Haraway 1984/85).
Both began as scientific institutions in the last third of the nineteenth
century, with the aim of collecting natural artifacts from around the
world and making them available to a public much wider than an edu-
cated or scientific elite. Both made extensive use of photographs, and
both were concerned to present nature as highly ordered rather than
random, creating, in effect, a world without blemish or handicap. Just
as the Museum’s dioramas never included old or feeble exemplars of
elephants or zebras, so too has National Geographic presented, until the
late 1970s, photographs that virtually eliminate the ill, the pockmarked,
the deformed, or the hungry.
The idealization of the non-Westerner, like the idealization of nature,
has its roots in the magazine’s explicit editorial policy. More broadly,
we can see this beautification of the world’s people as linked to a number
of themes in American cultural history. The first is the notion that nature
represented a spiritual domain in which the ills of civilization could be
cured (Nash 1982). Since at least some non-Western people were sub-
sumed under the category natural rather than cultural, their perfection
and beauty would be represented. There are in the magazine traces of the
nineteenth-century religious scientism in which nature was considered
divine. These pieties, once centered in the wilderness concept and now in
some kinds of environmentalism, echo Schiller’s statement, “Everything
that nature achieves is divine” (cited in Monti 1987:80). The ambivalence
toward modernity that arose with the new middle class at the turn of
the century (Lears 1981) could also be played out in these views of beauty
and nature in a simpler, more natural overseas world.
Another factor in idealizing is an anxiety about threats of chaos or
decay. An ideal world, free of suffering, does not require work to bring
about change. Connectedness and responsibility are downplayed, as the
world’s peoples become aesthetic objects to appreciate. The act of appre-
ciating them lets the viewer see himself or herself as both humane (be-
cause the photographed are still recognized as people) and as cultured
(because the photograph is like a museum piece, a work of art). The
Chapter Four
beauty of these pictures can also be seen, as Haraway (1984/85) points
out for nature photography and taxidermy and as Stewart (1984) points
out for the souvenir, as the attempt to simultaneously arrest time and
decay and to allay elite and middleclass fears that the wealth of the
American twentieth century might be lost.
Finally, in looking for and finding perfection, the National Geographic
camera may prevent the reader from finding the exotic other too differ-
ent. Motivated by its classic humanism, the Geographic has cleaned up
the culturally different person in the same way that other photogra-
phers have created images of gays and lesbians in America, presenting
“clean-cut, shiny-haired, Land’s End citizens with a difference” (Grovcr
1990:168). The move to create a beautiful image can stir up new prob-
lems, however, for the search for beauty can produce an intensification
of the “fracture, partial identification, pleasure and distrust” (Rose
1986:227) that might accompany much visual experience.
We can now consider some of the techniques by which the magazine
achieves its idealization of others.
The Smile. Though National Geographic editors see themselves as
documenting naturally occurring behavior, the non-Westerners they
photograph often acknowledge and turn to the camera. Twenty percent
of all pictures have at least one foreground figure looking at the camera,
and almost one-third of all photos show one or more people smiling.
The smile, like the portrait, follows cultural conventions in defining and
depicting the person. The smiling, happy person evokes the goal of the
pursuit of happiness, written into the Declaration of Independence.
These conventions stand in marked contrast to other ethnopsychologies
(Lutz 1988) and other, more serious modes of composing the self for the
photograph (King 1985). The smile is a key way of achieving idealization
of the other, permitting the projection of the ideal of the happy life.
Portraiture. The portrait often aims to capture the subject at that
person’s best; because it is posed, it allows for maximum control by
both photographer and subject. Moreover, the goal of humanizing the
other—giving the reader a sense that these are real people—is furthered
when people are photographed as individuals and encountered as read-
able faces. National Geographic staff, recognizing the value of the portrait,
makes it a staple of virtually all articles. Nine percent of the photos we
A World Brightly Different
examined show a person close up and often outside of a recognizable
context, and this percentage has remained relatively constant.6 Many of
the photographs that National Geographic staff have selected as classic
examples of photographs of the non-West are portraits. Portraits fre-
quently adorn the walls of editorial offices; they are heavily reproduced
in the book Images of the World (1981), which was published to define
and celebrate National Geographic photographers; and they dominate in
a centennial article on the magazine’s photography (Livingston 1988).
Of the twenty photographs in the article, which describes an exhibit in
1988 of National Geographic photos at the Corcoran Gallery in Washing-
ton, D.C., thirteen were of people, and nine of those were portraits.
The portrait allows for scrutiny of the person, the search for and
depiction of character. It gives the ideology of individualism full play,
inviting the belief that the individual is first and foremost a personality
whose characteristics can be read from facial expression and gesture. In
a related, although seemingly incongruous way, the portrait may also
communicate a message of universal brotherhood. Many at the Geo-
graphic might agree with Carder-Bresson’s assessment of portraits:
“They enable us to trace the sameness of man” (Galassi 1987). They
do this by stripping away culture and leaving the universal, individual
Benjamin (1985:682) notes that portraits were very popular when the
camera was first invented as part of a “cult of remembrance,” a kind of
ancestor worship. The National Geographic portrait may likewise be re-
lated to what Rosaldo (1989) calls imperialist nostalgia, that is, mourning
the passing of what we ourselves have destroyed. But the National Geo-
graphic portrait, like all close-ups of only a part of the body, leaves us
with a fragment of a person. According to Mulvey, the close-up “gives
flatness [and] the quality of a cut-out or icon” (1985:809) to the depicted.
This can sometimes be amplified by the namelessness and exoticism of
the photographed non-Westerners in past National Geographies.
The portrait, then, has potentially paradoxical or different effects on
viewers, highlighting the other as a personality, that central feature of
the Western self, which yet remains unnamed, unapproachable, and frag-
mented. The portrait humanizes and yet constantly threatens to be ab-
6. The portrait is a popular form of photography in all genres. The portrait
in National Geographic is relatively uncommon in comparison with family and
advertising photos, which prominently feature the face or full-body posed por-
trait. Further research might reveal whether and how these differences in portrait
rates occur by subject and genre.
96 97
Chapter Four
sorbed into a taxonomic outcome—the mode of much previous photo-
graphic work on non-Westerners, which has “presentedfed] them as
ethnic types rather than individuals” (Geary 1988:50).
Group Size. When going beyond the portrait, the National Geo-
graphic still prefers to photograph non-Westerners in small groups. Al-
most sixty percent of the sample photos show people in intimate groups
of one to three persons, twenty-five percent in medium-size groups of
four to twelve, and less than seventeen percent in large groups. Although
National Geographies photographic subjects were rarely named until the
1980s (the exceptions were famous figures such as Imelda Marcos or
King Hussein), individuals and small groups are nonetheless often de-
picted in what might be read as rugged individualist stances. An African
man is shown working alone plowing a field; a Japanese couple in their
fishing boat reel in a heavy net. By contrast, print and television photo-
journalism often shows large groups engaged in mass protests and the
like, limiting small group photos to celebrities or the elite. Individuals or
small groups appearing in other photojournalism often come in “human
interest” stories, where they may include families undergoing a calamity
such as a fire or earthquake.
Gentle Natives and Wars Without Brutalized Bodies. In keeping
with the stated policy of showing people at their best, very few National
Geographic photographs show their subjects engaged in, being victimized
by, or in the obvious aftermath of violent encounters. Only four photo-
graphs from the entire sample show local people fighting or threatening
to fight or giving evidence of previous violence. This does not necessar-
ily indicate that the American audience for these images sees violence or
militarism as negative; it may, though, when the violence is perpetrated
or threatened by foreigners. Thus, to show these people at their best
requires a nonaggressive subject. Western photographers in other pe-
riods and genres have also hesitated to record militant non-Westerners,
as when German photographers hesitated to depict King Njoya of cen-
tral Africa in uniform during a period of anticolonial tension after 1909
(Geary 1988:53-59). In fully twelve percent of our sample photographs,
however, there is some military presence, particularly men in uniform.
In these photos, the military is presented as a regular, not unpleasant
part of everyday life in the third world, but is rarely seen in internal or
A World Brightly Different
cross-national conflict. The military as an institutional force has been
normalized, anger or aggression erased.
The National Geographic represses what some other representations of
non-Westerners prominently feature—the violent potential of the savage
other. Aggressivity could be and has been seen as a sign of regression,
a primitive loss of control (Gilman 1985:99). Violent resistance to empire
building, American or European, has usually been treated as a personal-
ity trait of natives rather than a situational response to the theft of land
or other mode of attack (Drinnon 1980). This view of aggression as lack
of control has led to non-Westerners being culturally constructed, like
women and mental degenerates, as both physically strong and character-
ologically weak (cf. Taussig 1987). While …

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