Spectral Geographies of Plumage Sweatshops

‘What is a place? Perhaps haunting is a pre-requisite to place. That is, a place takes place through a spectral event of displacing. There is place if there is a dislocation, or sudden uncertainty regarding location in space and time, uncertainty regarding even the reliability of these measurants; in other words if there is a disturbing irruption of doubt or memory, a confounding of past, present and presence all witnessed by a troubled, stricken figure, a figure haunted by this very process.’ (John Wylie 2007: 180-1).

The photographic film below (produced by Merle Patchett for the exhibition) depicts photographs of women at work in plumage sweatshops taken from Lewis W. Hine’s photographic series documenting working conditions in New York, 1905-1939 (photographs courtesy NYPL).

Hine was an American sociologist and photographer who used his camera as a tool for social reform. His photographs, highlighting the plight of children and immigrants working in Now York sweatshops, were instrumental in changing the child labor laws in the United States.

Wylie J, 2007, “The spectral geographies of W. G. Sebald” Cultural Geographies 14 171 – 188,

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