Edges of Empire

KNW 2399: Edges of Empire

Visualizing White Man’s Burden: Photography of Child Poverty in Mexico and India


Photo #1: Un Centavo, Senor! (Mexico)

The photograph’s sole subject, a child, poses with few possessions: a torn shirt, tattered hat, dirty pants and raggedy rucksack. The very ground which the child stands on is soiled, covered in mud and debris. The photograph’s title, “Un centaro, Senor!” (“One cent, Sir!”) mirrors the child’s pose, the subject reaching out to the viewer for assistance. This title also works to mock the condition of the colonized and the subject’s clear violation of European’s understandings of acceptable standards of living. It is important to note that this photograph is a postcard, designed to be sent back to the metropole and enforce patronization of the colonized.

Photo #2: Part of Malabar Hill, Bombay (India)

In this photograph, two children sit upon a rocky hill. Their apparent lack of resources is striking; the two skinny frames rest near an empty basket. One child sits shirtless on a mound of dirt, the other leaning against a boulder. The children both slouch on the rocky terrain, hopelessly looking towards the viewer. The orderly, whitewashed house in the background juxtaposes the condition of the children. The house is surrounded by a whitewashed fence, separating the rock-strewn hillside from the palm tree comfort of the estate. A man stands in the background; cleanly dressed, he neglects the children and walks along a trail. These striking images of children worked to promote the idea that the colonized needed the support of the colonizers, and helped to extend the reach of colonial control.



Works Cited

Un Centavo, Senor! ca. 1908-1924. DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University, Dallas.

Johnson, William, and William Henderson. Part of Malabar Hill, Bombay. ca. 1855-1862. DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University, Dallas.

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