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Grave Visions: Photography, Violence, and Death in the American Empire, 1898 – 1913

Stricklin, Krystle (2022) Grave Visions: Photography, Violence, and Death in the American Empire, 1898 – 1913. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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During the Spanish-Cuban-American War (1898) and the Philippine-American War (1899 – ca. 1913), US soldiers and mainland citizens photographed, sold, and bought grisly images of imperial violence and death which were kept in private albums to memorialize US victories in these conflicts. The fighting began in 1898 over control of Spain’s waning colonial empire in the Caribbean and Pacific, and evolved into a decades-long armed conflict with the peoples and provinces of the Philippines, who fought for independence from colonial rule. The battles and ensuing military occupations brought a host of camera-wielding US citizens to the island shores of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines. Broad access to affordable cameras and advancements in photomechanical printing fueled the transoceanic spread of war images and the development of new practices of album-making. Ubiquitous within these albums are photographs of death and violence inflicted by US and Spanish forces upon countless Filipinos, Puerto Ricans, and Cubans, in the pursuit of US imperial dominance.
The images discussed in this dissertation include original snapshots and widely sold photomechanical prints that depict scenes of military executions, battlefield death and burials, and snapshots of US soldiers desecrating cemetery burial pits – or boneyards. This dissertation surveys these interrelated images and examines how they were collected and viewed within private photo albums owned by US soldiers and other agents of empire. This study is the first to delineate a network of circulation and exchange of photographic images among soldiers, photographers, and imperialist actors who travelled to and from the US and its new overseas territories.
The three chapters are centered on key albums and images that have been understudied or absent from previous histories of photography and visual studies of US imperialism. This study demonstrates how private and public narratives of US imperialism and military occupation relied on photographic images that allowed US citizens the ability to “see” the dead bodies and bones of the nation’s perceived enemies. It offers a new lens for understanding how private albums and images were collected and used by mainland citizens to display and perpetuate US imperialist visions and ideals.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Stricklin, Krystlekes178@pitt.edukes178
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairSavage,
Committee MemberJosten,
Committee MemberEllenbogen,
Committee MemberZboray,
Date: 20 July 2022
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 1 April 2022
Approval Date: 20 July 2022
Submission Date: 4 April 2022
Access Restriction: 2 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 2 years.
Number of Pages: 179
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History of Art and Architecture
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Photography, Violence, Death, Empire, Philippines, Cuba, Visual Culture
Date Deposited: 20 Jul 2022 15:48
Last Modified: 20 Jul 2022 15:48


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