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Making the Empire WorkLabor and United States Imperialism$
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Daniel E. Bender and Jana K. Lipman

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781479871254

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479871254.001.0001

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The Photos That We Don’t Get to See

The Photos That We Don’t Get to See

Sovereignties, Archives, and the 1928 Massacre of Banana Workers in Colombia

(p.104) 4 The Photos That We Don’t Get to See
Making the Empire Work

Kevin Coleman

NYU Press

This chapter describes a photograph of five male workers posed for a picture in Magdalena, Colombia. Against a backdrop of infinite black space, these workers came together in their best, representing themselves as serious and dignified, in spite of their impoverishment. As such, the photo reveals how five working people sculpted themselves for a camera, projecting themselves to unknown viewers as respectable people at home with the comforts that the formal studio setting staged for early-twentieth-century cosmopolitan imaginaries. More importantly, it exposes one way that imperial sovereignty was challenged and reasserted. The workers went into the studio as self-conscious strike leaders, seeking to fashion a way of producing bananas that was consistent with Colombian labor laws.

Keywords:   cosmopolitan imaginaries, imperial sovereignty, photograph, formal studio, working people

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