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Faces that Change

Faces that Change

Physiognomy, Portraiture, and Photography in Colonial Korea

(p.133) 6 Faces that Change
The Affect of Difference
Gyewon Kim
University of Hawai'i Press

In the popular print culture of colonial Korea 'face' emerged as a keyword in relation to the newly emerging pseudoscience of physiognomy, which claimed to be able to read personality traits from specific affects and performances captured in photographic portraits. Physiognomy claimed authority as a way of seeing that stressed the boundaries of different races, genders and classes. During the 1920s the colonial government began to archive the profile photographs of socialists, anti-colonialists, and anarchists in order to mark them as ideological criminals. As a new way of looking at other’s faces, physiognomy required that people learn how to deal with communal watching, witnessing, and public encounters. This essay addresses how photographic portraiture promised the simultaneous constitution of universal humanity and particular community, and how its affective functions reveal the limits and possibilities of shaping subjectivity under a colonial regime.

Keywords:   physiognomy, face, colonial Korea, imperial Japan, photography, portraiture, ideological criminals, profiles, communal watching

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