Visual Ethnography: The Travelogue Illustration as a Site of Encounter
Catherine A. Molineux, Vanderbilt University
Between the 1730s and 1780s, a French traveler’s tale about the coronation of a West African king circulated throughout France, England, and the Netherlands. Embedded in this description of Hueda rituals surrounding kingship was a story about European rivalry for the favor of a key African player in the Atlantic slave trade. As this commercial drama played out in Europe through multiple retellings of the story, engravers transformed the single image that accompanied it, reworking the original sketch into a full-color engraving. The illustration’s evolution tells a modern story about the role of the visual in securing imperial hierarchies threatened by the encounter with African sovereignty.
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