Edges of Empire

KNW 2399: Edges of Empire

Soldiers of the Colonies


British Indian Soldiers Resting


Indian Soldiers

Photographer: Lala Deen Dayal

Lala Deen Dayal captured a timeless picture (Indian Soldiers) of Indian Sepoys (Indians serving in the British army) demonstrating the British colonial construct of “Martial Races”. First of all as we look at the platoon, all of the soldiers are the same. While this is common military discipline, all of the soldiers have the same beards and turbans showing they all come from the same Indian tribe which would have been one of the tribes the British deemed as “Martial Races”. We see no variation because no one from the other castes or “races” were allowed. These Sepoy’s are also well fed and in good-shape based on their physique meaning that they held higher status than most native Indians and could feed themselves well and not toil for food. The question of actual military ability versus British perceived and designated ability to further a race agenda must then be questioned.


Fco. Villa y su Estado Mayor

Photographer: Charles C. Harris

Charles C. Harris’s picture of Pancho Villa (Fco. Villa y su estado mayor) showed the state and apparent lack of discipline within the Revolutionary Mexican Army during the Mexican Revolution. Based on their appearance they look more like bandits than soldiers. They are heavily armed but lack uniformity and vary in size and weight. This is very different from photos of Western militaries at the time which depicted strong, disciplined, warriors. This picture is obviously taken by a non-Mexican photographer and we must beg the question if it is staged to make the Mexican Revolutionaries seem like bandits, and construct them as “The Other”? Also, with this picture being on a post-card, was the photographer trying to show the revolutionaries as a tourist attraction, rather than a fighting force?




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