“Visual reflections”, the PIMo series edited by Paola von Wyss-Giacosa (University of Zurich), focuses on the cultural dimension of pictorial and material sources, highlighting their importance for the project and more generally for research in the field of connected histories.
Some of PIMo’s core themes – people, things, ideas, and paper in motion; cultural and emotional entanglements; histories of migration, displacement, and dispossession – and a cross-section of the stimulating approaches taken by participants in this multi-disciplinary project about histories of displacement within and from the Mediterranean (15th–20th centuries) are presented here.
Each short essay takes an image as a point of departure for reflecting on the multiple functions, meanings and expressions of the visual. The common aim is to share with a wider readership the relevance and fascination of exploring the historicity of representation, and the enduring implications of media presence and circulation.
A man stands in front of a door and looks the observer directly and intensely in the eyes. Under a tight-fitting cap, long dark hair and a beard can be seen framing his serious-looking face. He wears several layers of clothing under a dark coat, jewellery around his neck and several implements typical of his profession or, in other words, of the image he is supposed to give: a large leather bag, a vessel made of half a sea coconut from the Seychelles or coco-de-mer with a carrying chain, a curved signalling horn whose tip with its eye represents the face of a fish with its mouth wide open. A postcard from Istanbul from the early 20th century shows this motif (Fig. 1). Its content is explained and categorised as briefly as possible by a legend in French in the bottom right-hand corner: “Derviche”. At the bottom left, the number 8 indicates that this image is part of a series of pictures. The reverse of this card does not reveal much more: apart from lines to mark the demarcation [...]