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  • Already Dead? Of Tombstones, Empire, and Photography

    Jeremy F. Walton

    Chapter from the book: Carabelli, G et al. 2020. Sharpening the Haze: Visual Essays on Imperial History and Memory.


    Across the segmented political space of central and southeast Europe, cemeteries speak eloquently of the foreclosed social, religious, and political pasts of empire to those attuned to their vocabulary and cadences. In this intervention, I offer a collage of photographs of tombstones from three imperial World War I cemeteries: the Soldatenfriedhof in Styria, Austria; the Habsburg Naval Cemetery in Pula, Croatia; and, the Zeitenlik Allied War Cemetery in Thessaloniki, Greece. I do so with two aims. First, I hope to explore how these tombstones together form a serendipitous archive of empire’s social worlds in sepulchral form. Secondly, and based on this consideration, I offer a set of theoretical remarks on photography of tombstones more generally. With Roland Barthes’ famous aphorism on the deathly quality of photography in mind--”by attesting that the object has been real, the photograph surreptitiously induces belief that it is alive...but by shifting this reality to the past ('this-has-been'), the photograph suggests that it is already dead”--I reflect on what effect photography might have on that which is “already dead” (the grave). This, in turn, opens up a set of new metaphors for thinking about the representation of another object that is ostensibly “already dead”: empire as a sociopolitical form.

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    How to cite this chapter
    Walton, J. 2020. Already Dead? Of Tombstones, Empire, and Photography. In: Carabelli, G et al (eds.), Sharpening the Haze. London: Ubiquity Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5334/bcd.b

    This is an Open Access chapter distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (unless stated otherwise), which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Copyright is retained by the author(s).

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    Published on Jan. 7, 2020


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