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The Ethics of Seeing: Photography and Twentieth-Century German History

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Volume 21

Studies in German History

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The Ethics of Seeing

Photography and Twentieth-Century German History

Edited by Jennifer Evans, Paul Betts, and Stefan-Ludwig Hoffmann

306 pages, 78 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78533-728-4 $149.00/£110.00 / Hb / Published (January 2018)

ISBN  978-1-78920-518-3 $34.95/£27.95 / Pb / Published (July 2019)

eISBN 978-1-78533-729-1 eBook

View CartYour country: - edit Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format)Recommend to your LibraryAvailable in GOBI®


“The contributions of the volume are almost invariably subtle, insightful and illuminating…What [they] demonstrate, with exceptional clarity, is that no German history is complete without photography—and that geographical boundaries and chronological sub-divisions of this history we have come to take for granted are often challenged by the way images and ways of seeing moved across them.” • German History

“Asking what photographs ‘do’ to history is a deceivingly simple question with pressing and increasingly complex answers for historians working in the digital age. As such, this book is both essential reding for scholars delving into visual history as well as a helpful guide for historians considering the ethical implications of photography and its uses in the modern era.” • German Studies Review

“In the work’s epilogue, Julia Adeney Thomas reminds readers that photography is fraught with moral questions, and photographers and viewers alike need to develop an ethics for the medium. This is a welcome conclusion to a volume, the premise of which is in many ways fundamentally moral.” • Studies in 20th & 21st Century Literature

“…traditionally, photographs have been treated as a kind of secondary or tertiary source with which apprentice historians should engage only after they master the ‘real’ or ‘more important’ meat and potatoes of the historical profession: the traditional archival document.…The contributors to The Ethics of Seeing do a tremendous service by challenging this orthodoxy. The issue this volume raises, then, is not only ‘What can the scholarly methods of history tell us about photographs?’ but also ‘What can photographs tell us about historical method?’” • The German Quarterly

The Ethics of Seeing gathers together very useful and highly readable contributions to the history of German photography. These stimulating essays give a broad perspective on the German twentieth century, and in many cases address important gaps in the historical record.” • Simon Ward, Durham University

“This is a profoundly important contribution to the field. It analyzes an impressively wide range of photographic materials—including artistic, scientific, vernacular, queer, colonial, institutional, and journalistic sources—in a way that enriches art history while also addressing the specific concerns of historians working in visual culture.” • Donna West Brett, The University of Sydney


Throughout Germany’s tumultuous twentieth century, photography was an indispensable form of documentation. Whether acting as artists, witnesses, or reformers, both professional and amateur photographers chronicled social worlds through successive periods of radical upheaval. The Ethics of Seeing brings together an international group of scholars to explore the complex relationship between the visual and the historic in German history. Emphasizing the transformation of the visual arena and the ways in which ordinary people made sense of world events, these revealing case studies illustrate photography’s multilayered role as a new form of representation, a means to subjective experience, and a fresh mode of narrating the past.

Jennifer Evans is Professor of Modern European History at Carleton University in Ottawa Canada. She has co-edited several books on same-sex desire in twentieth-century Europe, including Queer Cities, Queer Cultures: Europe since 1945 (2014) and Was ist Homosexualität? (2014), in addition to her monograph Life among the Ruins: Cityscape and Sexuality in Cold War Berlin (2011). She recently edited a special issue of German History entitled “Queering German History.”

Paul Betts is Professor of Modern European History at St Antony’s College, Oxford. He is the author of several books on twentieth-century cultural history, including Within Walls: Private Life in the German Democratic Republic (2010) and most recently (as co-editor), Religion, Science and Communism in Cold War Europe (2016).

Stefan-Ludwig Hoffmann is Associate Professor for Late Modern Europe in the History Department of the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of several books on German and transnational history since the Enlightenment, most recently (as editor) Human Rights in the Twentieth-Century (2011) and (as co-editor), Seeking Peace in the Wake of War: Europe 1943-1947 (2015).

Subject: History: 20th Century to PresentMedia Studies
Area: Germany


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