PhD Project Mona Wischhoff

Projected Photographs – Colonial Projections. Lantern slide lectures of the German Colonial Society around 1900

The dissertation examines lantern slide lectures based on photographs and travel reports from colonial contexts. In a microhistorical study, the work focuses on the lantern slide collection of the German Colonial Society (Deutsche Kolonialgesellschaft) and its lecture program from 1887 to 1914.

By 1900, the lantern slide lecture was a widespread medium of education and entertainment that was also used as an instrument of colonial lobbying: The German Colonial Society built up an extensive photographic collection focusing on the German colonies, established the distribution of its own lantern slide sets, and acted as an agency for the mediation and organization of lectures.

The study contributes to the media history of the lantern slide lecture and elaborates on the close connections between the history of photography and the history of film, which are evident in the production and performance of lantern slide lectures. It also illuminates the connections between the lantern slide lecture and colonial culture in the German Empire. The practices of collecting, arranging, and presenting visual material, the personal networks, and the lecture situations are all based on colonial structures, in which a violent, racializing marginalization of the colonized is inherent.

The analysis follows the lantern slide lecture along its production, distribution, and performance and examines its practical, institutional, and medial preconditions. Questions of production, for example, concern the historical practice of collecting in the global-colonial network as well as the production processes of the lantern slide sets. In terms of distribution, the focus is on the infrastructures used to circulate slides, manuscripts, projection equipment, and lecturers between the metropolises, small towns, and villages of the empire. Questions of performance concern, for example, the techniques of arranging image and text in the media dispositif of the lantern slide lecture.