Stereoscopic Vision in the Plantationocene

22 May 2024, 5:00 pm–6:30 pm


Media and Capitalocene Series

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







Kirsty Sinclair Dootson – SELCS


North-West Wing Lecture Theatre G22
UCL Main Building
Gower Street
United Kingdom

Stereoscopic Vision in the Plantationocene

This talk draws on my ongoing work towards a monograph titled "Tropical Machines: Extractive Media and Plantation Modernity.” I track 19th century experiments with media technologies in tropical islands that, I argue, served as laboratories for modern regimes of labour, resource extraction, as well as vision. I locate this story in the era of emancipation, in the wake of the abolition of plantation slavery in British colonies in 1834 which created a massive demand for labour to replace the labour of those who were formerly enslaved. This story is therefore plotted along the itineraries of indentured and technically voluntary “coolie” labour from South Asia to sugar colonies such as Mauritius and Fiji. In this talk I focus on the short-lived technology of the stereoscope which was extensively used in the 1860s-1910s to image plantations and their workers. I speculate on the popularity of stereographic “plantation views” to ask if it is time to displace the city and the factory as the founding sites for film history. Building on work that posits the plantation as the precursor to the factory and modern regimes of labour management, I set up a parallel between the stereograph and the plantation as tropical machines that generate new techniques of the body and new regimes of vision.

About the Speaker

Debashree Mukherjee

Associate Professor at Columbia University

Debashree Mukherjee is Associate Professor of film and media in the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies (MESAAS) at Columbia University. She is author of Bombay Hustle: Making Movies in a Colonial City (2020), which approaches film history as an ecology of material practices and practitioners. Her current book project, Tropical Machines: Extractive Media and Plantation Modernity, develops a media history of  South Asian indentured migration from the 1830s onwards. Debashree edits the peer-reviewed journal BioScope: South Asian Screen Studies and has published in journals such as Film History, Film Quarterly, Feminist Media Histories, Representations, and Modern Asian Studies. Her latest publication is the edited anthology, Bombay Talkies: An Unseen History of Indian Cinema, based on an unprecedented photographic archive collated by a German cinematographer who emigrated to India in the 1930s (Mapin & Alkazi Foundation, 2023).