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Prof. Dr. Pamila Gupta

Pamila_portrait_007 Prof. Dr. Pamila Gupta

Short Bio

Pamila Gupta is currently Professor at WiSER, University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, where she has been based since 2008. Starting in January 2023 she will take up a Research Professorship at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, South Africa, affiliated with the Centre for Gender and Africa Studies (CGAS).  She holds a PhD in Anthropology from Columbia University. Her research and writing interests include Portuguese colonial and Jesuit missionary history in India; islands, heritage and design, and tourism in the Indian Ocean; photography, tailoring and visual cultures in East Africa; and architecture, infrastructure, and affect in South Africa.  She is the co-editor of Eyes Across the Water: Navigating the Indian Ocean (with Isabel Hofmeyr and Michael Pearson, UNISA 2010) and author of three monographs: The Relic State: St. Francis Xavier and the Politics of Ritual in Portuguese India (Manchester UP, 2014) and Portuguese Decolonization in the Indian Ocean World: History and Ethnography (Bloomsbury Academic, 2019); Heritage and Design: Ten Portraits from Goa (India) (Cambridge UP, 2022). She has a forthcoming edited volume with Sarah Nuttall, Esther Peeren and Hanneke Stuit entitled Planetary Hinterlands: Abandonment, Extraction, Care that will be published with Palgrave’s Book Series in ‘Globalization, Culture and Society‘ in early 2023. 


Selected Publications

  • Pamila Gupta. “Ways of Seeing Wetness” (Special issue on ‘Water’ Stephanie Jones and Charne Lavery, eds.) Wasifiri, 36 (2) 2021: 37-47.
  • Pamila Gupta. “Moving Still: Bicycles in Ranchhod Oza’s Photographs of 1950s Stone Town (Zanzibar)”, Journal of African Cinema (Special issue editor and contributor, ‘the filmic and the photographic, 12 (2-3) (2020): 191-211.
  • Pamila Gupta.  “Of Sky, Water and Skin: Photographs from a Zanzibari Darkroom,” Kronos 46  (November 2020), 266-280.
  • Pamila Gupta.  Portuguese Decolonization in the Indian Ocean World: History and Ethnography. Bloomsbury Press Academic, UK, 2019.  https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/portuguese-decolonization-in-the-indian-ocean-world-9781350043657/
  • Pamila Gupta. (with Tamsyn Adams) “Vernacular Photography from India and Africa,” Special Issue editor and contributor, “Introduction” and “Sensuous Ways of Seeing in Stone Town, Zanzibar: patina, pose and punctum,” Critical Arts, 32 (1) 2018: 1-12, 59-74.

Project Description

From Indian Ocean to African Indian: Through the refracted lens of Capital Art Studio, Zanzibar

 What happens when an Indian Ocean past meets an African Indian present in a collection of photographs by Ranchhod and Rohit Oza, family proprietors of Capital Art Studio who together visually captured the worldly place (and centre of the monsoonal dhow trade and culture) of Zanzibar from 1930 until the present day? Conceived as an island of whirling multiple temporalities and spatialities, my intention with this project is to interrogate how processes of cosmopolitanism and creolization link together and unfold aesthetically in Zanzibar through the refracted lens of each, a father and son.  Here I am invested in viewing their lives and works not only as photographers, but also as collectors, archivists and curators of Zanzibar itself. I am also interested in tracing a series of historical ruptures that define Zanzibar and are represented visually in this photo archive, that is, its position under British protectionism (1890-1963) and the Omani sultanate (1698-1964) through to its revolution and the island’s integration with the mainland to become part of Tanzania (post 1964), to its present day status as a popular stopover on the global tourism circuit.

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