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Liliana Gómez: Archive Matter

Liliana Gómez

Archive Matter
A Camera in the Laboratory of the Modern

Softcover, 400 pages

PDF, 416 pages

Questioning the United Fruit Company archive

The establishment of the United Fruit Company as a global political agent with its banana plantations met with considerable resistance. The Company’s resurgent photographic archive is at the center of this book’s considerations on the historical and political agency of photography as a field. By exploring a set of practices, institutions, and relationships, as well as the aesthetic and epistemic contexts of the images in botany, archaeology and tropical medicine, this book argues that the overlooked but important photographic archive made the expansion of corporate capitalism into the Caribbean possible. “Since photographic archives tend to suspend meaning and use; within the archive meaning exists in a state that is both residual and potential,” Allan Sekula maintains.


Reading the photographic archive against the grain, this book examines the images from within their “optical unconscious” and via the archive’s silences and omissions; as residues they attest to the (in)visibility and cultural implications of the violence of the radical man-made environmental alterations. The archive’s powerful imaginaries, envisaged as a chronotope of the eternal transition towards modernity, a promise of modernization itself, have effectively brought the Caribbean into modernity. Yet, the aftermath of the photographs helps scrutinize this modernity and recognize the violence embodied as the foundational act of the archive.

  • 7–14


  • 19–52


  • 53–132

    Camera and Capitalism: the United Fruit Company

  • 133–198

    The Crossroads of Science and Discourse Networks

  • 199–266

    “The World Was My Garden”

  • 267–324

    Ethnographic Eyes and Archaeological Views

  • 325–378

    Epilogue. Upheavals and the Resurgent Photographic Archive

  • 379–400


  • history of media
  • Caribbean
  • cultural studies
  • photography
  • archive
  • capitalism

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Liliana Gómez

is professor of art and society at the University of Kassel/Kunsthochschule Kassel and the documenta Institut. She directs the research project Contested Amnesia and Dissonant Narratives in the Global South. Post-Conflict in Literature, Art, and Emergent Archives. Recently she edited Performing Human Rights. Contested Amnesia and Aesthetic Practices in the Global South (Diaphanes/Think Art, Zurich, 2021) and co-edited with Lisa Blackmore Liquid Ecologies in Latin American and Caribbean Art (Routledge, New York, 2020). She is the author of Lo urbano. Teorías culturales y políticas de la ciudad en América Latina (IILI, Pittsburgh, 2014).
Other texts by Liliana Gómez for DIAPHANES