Plenária do projeto Photo Impulse

Mesa 1 - 14 de Julho

This panel will present some of the aspects that guided the research developed in the project “The Photographic Impulse: Measuring the Colonies and the Colonial Bodies. The Photographic and Filmic Archive of the Portuguese Geographic and Anthropologic Missions”, which received public funding from the FCT, and which we have been developing since the end of 2018.

In this archive, there are images that document scientific practice, where we see doctors or geographers in action; and images that are understood as scientific, that is, those that seek to constitute a corpus of observation on which scientific evidence and the production of knowledge should be based. The colonial disciplinary framework constitutes a bias and a preconception that must be criticized today. This visual archive, here, today, among us, intending to be scientific and descriptive, is, after all, a witness to the colonial violence that was planned. Or, as Nkaka Sessa says, it is “the proof of crime”, the crime of colonialism. Sessa is a young Angolan musician and artist, living in Portugal, and the main author of the “Antiracist Fanzine”, 2021, one of our project’s outputs (see it at our website). In these presentations, each in our own way, we will reflect on the multiplicity of senses, the conscious and the optical unconscious, of colonial images, and investigate the ways photographs and films become more than what the colonizers intended them to be. These images may become an affirmation of presence and testimonies of counter-narratives and counter-images that inhabit both the colonial archive itself and its erased and forgotten margins, which when summoned, problematize the entire archive. And our present.


Undisciplined Images: Marks on the Floor, Marks on the Body (working title)

Teresa Mendes Flores

Participação: presencial


This presentation aims to address the challenges of research in a colonial archive of images, showing the incongruities of the archive and the possibilities of resignification and counter-narratives present in it, taking as a starting point, the indexical condition of the photographic.


Teresa Mendes Flores is a photography and film historian and a researcher on optical media theories, visual culture and semiotics. She is a full researcher at ICNOVA, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, holding a Phd on Communication Sciences from the same university. Her dissertation explored the relations between photography and space - "Photography in the Production of Space. A Research on the Imaginary of Top Views in Western Visual Culture" (FCSH, 2010). At ICNOVA she coordinates the research group on "Culture, Mediation&Arts" (since 2019) and co-edits the journal RCL- Communication and Languages Journal. She published 4 books, as well as several book chapters and papers in various academic journals. Present interests include gender and visual culture, the archaeology of immersion media, photography and science in colonial contexts, namely the scientific expeditions, and memory studies. She is the principal investigator of the “Photo Impulse” research project funded by Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (more information on the project's website: She is a research member at the 2021 FCT project Curiositas, based on Lusófona University, where she teaches Art, Culture and Communication and Photography and Anthropology, at the School of Communication.

Racial science in images at the 1st Portuguese Colonial Exhibition of 1934

Antonio Fernando Cascais, Richard Cleminson

Participação: presencial (first author)

Palavras-chave: colonialism; exposure; racial science; photography; anthropobiology


The Portuguese Colonial Exhibition in Porto in 1934 is part of the lineage of thematic exhibitions that included the public exhibition of human beings whose racialized bodies were paired with the display of resources (mineral, agricultural and forestry, vegetable, fauna and game, etc.) of colonized territories. Exhibited as exemplars of the indigenato under the tutelage of the colonial authorities, these individuals appeared in the exhibition reduced to the status of exoticized objects illustrating and legitimizing the civilizing mission of Portuguese colonialism, the supposed European superiority and as available labor for the exploitation of natural resources of the overseas possessions, but they also served as a sample of racial specimens for the study of Colonial Anthropology. The epistemological foundation of this discipline is rooted in the work of António Augusto Esteves Mendes Correia, who initially developed it applied to the field of Forensic Anthropology and Criminology, by the so-called Escola Antropológica da Universidade do Porto. Transposed to the scope of Colonial Anthropology, it embodied the epistemopolitical framework that supported the various Anthropological Missions, between the 1930s and 1950s, to the then colonies of Guinea, Angola and Mozambique, with extensions to Macau and Timor, Cape Verde and territories under Portuguese administration in India. Divided into areas of ethnographic and anthropobiological study, the research undertaken on a large scale in the colonized populations began by being tested in the group of individuals selected to integrate the Colonial Exhibition, which constitutes a true experimental pool model, from which a considerable number of images were taken. In addition to the photographs included in the official publications of the Exhibition, the originals of the photographs taken at the Institute of Anthropology of the University of Porto and the respective reproductions of some of them in scientific publications of the specialty are the object of analysis of this communication. These photographic remains, largely still poorly studied, constitute a unique documentary collection on the visual culture of Portuguese racial science, the history of colonial exploration and the history of scientific photography, in addition to everything that parallels or underlies the Colonial Exhibition, but which has its axis in it. The present communication intends, finally, to make known the very significant relationships that unite the Exhibition to colonial science and the Anthropobiological Missions to the colonies. Twinned with the survey and description of natural resources, flora, fauna, minerals, agricultural crops, the anthropological missions recorded the bio-ethnic characteristics of the populations, the strength and vitality of individuals, their prospects for development and progress, the customs of the ethnic groups, psychic qualities, abilities and tendencies, especially in view of their use as a workforce, that is, their ergometric value. As Mendes Correia himself would say, it was an integral inventory of the human factor from the point of view of its inestimable interest, which was as much scientific as it was economic and national. Measuring the physical characteristics in order to assess the work capacity that the individual would be able to provide, and this also depending on the training that would be possible to give him depending on his psychotechnical skills, aimed at taking advantage of his service as an available resource within the scope of colonial exploitation.


Blanchard, Pascal; Bancel, Nicolas; Böetsch, Gilles; Deroo, Éric; Lemaire, Sandrine, eds (2011), Zoos humains et exhibitions coloniales. Paris: La Découverte
Dorothee Brantz, ed. (2010), Beastly natures: animals, humans, and the study of history, Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press
Edwards, Elizabeth (2001), Raw Histories: Photographs, Anthropology and Museums. Oxford: Routledge
Falcucci, Beatrice (2021), “Visualizing Colonial Power: Museum Exhibitions and the Promotion of Imperialism in France, Belgium, and Italy”, Nuncius, 36 (3), pp. 676-722
Grandsart, Didier (2010), Paris 1931: Revoir l’Exposition Coloniale. Paris: Éditions Van Wilder
Matos, Patrícia Ferraz (2014), “Power and identity: the exhibition of human beings in the Portuguese great exhibitions”, Identities, 21(2), pp. 202-218
Putnam, Walter and Jeff Persels (2012), “‘Please Don’t Feed the Natives’: Human Zoos, Colonial Desire, and Bodies on Display”, French literature series, 39, pp. 55-68
Stoler, Ann Laura (1995), Race and the Education of Desire: Foucault’s History of Sexuality and the Colonial Order of Things. Duke University Press
Vargaftig, Nadia (2016), Des empires en carton: Les expositions coloniales au Portugal et en Italie (1918-1940). Paris: Casa de Velázquez


António Fernando Cascais is a professor at the School of Social and Human Sciences of NOVA University of Lisbon and an integrated researcher at ICNOVA. He organized the books: Mediações da Ciência - Da Compreensão Pública da Ciência à Mediação dos Saberes - Um Reader [Mediations of Science - From Public Understanding of Science to the Mediation of Knowledge - A Reader] (ICNOVA, 2019), Olhares sobre a Cultura Visual da Medicina em Portugal [Views on the Visual Culture of Medicine in Portugal] (Unyleya, 2014), Indisciplinar a teoria [Undisciplining theory] (Fenda, 2004), A SIDA por um Fio [AIDS by a Thread] (Vega, 1997) and, in collaboration, O Vírus-cinema: Cinema Queer e VIH/sida [Cinema-virus: Queer Cinema and HIV / AIDS] (Lisbon, 2018), Queer Cinema and Culture. Queer Lisbon - Queer International Film Festival (Lisbon, 2014), Hospital Miguel Bombarda 1968 - Fotografias de José Fontes [Miguel Bombarda Hospital 1968 - Photographs by José Fontes] (Documenta, 2016), Lei, Segurança, Disciplina. Trinta anos depois de Vigiar e punir de Michel Foucault [Law, Security, Discipline. Thirty years after Discipline and Punish by Michel Foucault] (CFCUL, 2009), and nº 19 (1994), 33 (2004) and 38 (2007) of the Journal of Communication and Languages. Researcher responsible for the FCT Projects History of the Visual Culture of Medicine in Portugal and Models and Practices of Science Communication in Portugal.

Ideas of return to humanity. Invitation to dance through an mnemonic atlas of “flash (moving) images”

Maria do Carmo Piçarra

Participação: presencial

Palavras-chave: scientific films; analytical camera; oximoric film gaze; flash images.


The Industrial Revolution made the extractive model, shaped by capitalism, hegemonic in the relationship between man and nature. This had implications for the way of doing science (and cinema). With evolutionism, taxidermy, entomology, the creation of herbaria and anthropometric anatomy interposed in the relationship with life on the planet. The logic of progress applied to species resulted in the normalization of power relations, systemic subalternization and practices that supported theories of racism and practices of slavery. Scientific cinema often promoted (Frodon) this “order of discourse” (Foucault). The study of scientific films made during the Estado Novo, when anachronistically Portugal maintained “overseas provinces” is still incipient due to the difficulty of accessing this archive. Exploratory analysis reveals that a significant part of the collection promotes Lusotropical (Freyre) rhetoric. Other films, made for presentation in classes or at conferences, constitute an atlas created in a colonial situation, which both proves the extractivist attitude and denotes a fascination with cultural difference. However, film analysis unveils details that went unnoticed when the sequences were shot. Due to the oxymoronic film gaze (Cassetti), one can see disruptive elements. This presentation proposes that one must consider the “flash images” (Didi-Hubermann) that scientific films present while understanding the genealogy of gestures that condemned earth to its current situation in which, as proposed by Krenak, we need “ideas to postpone the end of the world”. Critically questioned, the image reveals meanings that escaped ideological control. I propose that the “analytical camera” (Gianikian, Ricci Lucchi) is a fruitful epistemological device for decolonizing the archive. Researchers can and must operationalize a dematerialized “analytical camera” framed by ethics to reveal images that, in spite of all, escaped control in the take and, dialectically, unveil what is less obvious in the shot or what has been left out of shot.


Maria do Carmo Piçarra is a researcher at ICNOVA-UNL and a professor at the Universidade Autónoma de Lisboa, Holding a PhD in Communication Sciences, she is a film programmer and was deputy chair of the Portuguese Institute of Cinema, Audiovisual and Multimedia (1998-1999). Among other books and articles, she published Projectar a ordem. Cinema do Povo e propaganda salazarista 1935 - 1954 (2020), Azuis ultramarinos. Propaganda colonial e censura no cinema do Estado Novo” (2015), Salazar vai ao cinema I e II (2006, 2011). She was principal editor of (Re)Imagining African Independence. Film, Visual Arts and the Fall of the Portuguese Empire (2017) and of the trilogy Angola, o nascimento de uma nação (2013, 2014, 2015).

Respondent to the session: Margarida Medeiros


Margarida Medeiros is a researcher of ICNOVA and Professor at the School of Social Sciences and Humanities of NOVA University. She teaches in the fields of History of Photography and Visual Culture. She participated in the funded projects Visual Culture of Medicine in Portugal (2010-1013) and Stereo Visual Culture – The Portuguese Stereoscopic Photography (2012-2015). Co-editor of ICNOVA’s journal of Communication and Languages, she has also published regularly in specialized journals, is the sole author of Fotografia e Narcisismo – o auto-retrato contemporâneo (Lisboa, Assírio & Alvim, 2000); Fotografia e Verdade – Uma História de Fantasmas (Lisboa, Assírio & Alvim, 2010); A Última Imagem – fotografia de uma ficção (Lisboa, Documenta, 2012) and has recently edited the anthology of essays Fotogramas – ensaios sobre Fotografia (Lisboa, Documenta, 2016). She is a photography critic and curator, being responsible for the following recent exhibitions: Augusto Bobone, Fotoradiografias – 1896 (Fundação EDP / Lisbon, 2014), 19th Century Portuguese Photography Treasures (in collaboration with Emília Tavares (MNAC / Lisbon, 2015)), Andar nas Nuvens – duas propostas para um diálogo entre a terra e os céus (Fundação Medeiros e Almeida / Lisboa, 2016 and Fundação Abel Salazar / São Mamede do Infesta, 2017), Fotografia e Viagem (Museu Photographia Vicentes / Funchal, 2019).