The Violence of Reproduction

Does this strike anyone else as a terrible harbinger for technology

Not sure what to do with this one, found it here on Shorpy’s and it simply arrested me.

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9 Responses to The Violence of Reproduction

  1. Another layer of the photo – the chief is from a band located in the Calgary area – so he had traveled far from home, was in a foreign country, in a strange place (the Smithsonian would have seemed pretty odd to him), and plunked down in front of what looks like a giant musket muzzle… I’d love to hear the recording though, and perhaps have it translated 🙂

  2. Reverend says:

    Yeah, I couldn’t agree with you more D’Arcy. The phonograph as musket is really haunting, and the way in which the ethnography is not looking at him in this image, but the technology is so wild to me. This image blows my mind, as does the other one recently on Shorpy entitled “Waiting:”

  3. Yeah. Shorpy’s been a real eyeopener for me. We think we have things bad when the internet runs too slowly, or it takes a few minutes to get a venti latte in the morning. People have flourished through much more severe hardships than us, without complaining so loudly in 140 character updates…

  4. Scott Leslie says:

    It is fascinating on so many levels – the visual pun going on (not intentional I don’t think) of the lines of the phonograph and his headress flowing outwards, as if you were witnessing an indigenous person being subjected to a blast of sound from modern white culture, yet what is actually transpiring being a *recording*. Violence indeed (great caption Jim, thanks for pointing to this).

  5. Reverend says:


    Wow, I hadn’t thought of the impact of the headdress flowing outwards from the “violence” of the phonograph, it made me look at the whole image again. Remarkable, and then to think of this as not so much as a shooting, as it is a sucking is strange as well.

    It actually make me think a bit about Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia. In one of the chapters, which he calls queries, he talks about digging up an Indian burial ground and thinking about preserving the skulls as a kind of compassionate gesture towards a group of people that were quickly disappearing. He was talking about a kind of archive for what was, and the idea of scientific preservation, and the mummification of a culture that was once so alive made th professor who was talking about the text rest on an idea that has haunted me since: “The Vioelnce of Reason.”

    This was particularly potent in relationship to the early national period in the US, and the faith in reason, science, and a kind of human force of progress. ideas we are returning to with the science of memes and Jared Steel “Guns, Germs, and Steel” —a kind of renaissance of this violence of reason and scientific social thought.

  6. I was struck by the headdress as well – reminded me of the Maxell ad…

  7. Sue says:

    Great image. It brings to mind some of the images in Michael Taussig’s exploration of technology and culture at a similar period in time, esp. in writings on colonial phonography (where he’s getting into tech and, as he puts it, “new theories of the senses circulating with new means of reproduction.” 1993: 201.)

    Lots to be said here…

  8. Reverend says:


    That is so cool that you bring up Taussig here, his The Devil And Commodity Fetishism, and his idea of magic as a site of resistance against colonialism and the ideas of reason and logic (of capital/colonialism) are really powerful. Great tie in here, I am going to have to re-visit Taussig.

  9. Jen says:

    I’ve never come across that blog before. It’s amazing. I sent it along to my mother in law who’s a bit of a historian. I spent some time looking through the images. I also the the one called End of the Road was profound. Thank you for sharing.

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