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The geographies of man: mapping tribal ‘landscapes’ in nineteenth century India

During the nineteenth century, the landscape of India
was one of the most visualised and mapped spaces in the world. Through surveys, paintings, photographs and prints, the environment of India was imagined and realised for viewers across the globe, especially in Britain. Yet modern research has primarily focused on artistic analysis of paintings and visual culture or the charting of Indian geological and geographical surveys during the nineteenth century. These investigations often reduce such works to simply being the outcome of an ‘imperial’ and ‘distancing’ gaze.

This paper will step away from these binary frameworks and explore how landscapes associated with tribal populations were cartographically visualised between 1840 and 1909 and how these works drew on the ethnographic research of the period.  By addressing these questions, this paper will interrogate whether these works conveyed a realistic geography of the tribes of India, or whether in fact, they offer us a more complex and transitory picture of engagement, dialogue and the imaginary than might be seen at first glance.



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