Savage bodies, civilized pleasures: M. V. Portman and the Andamanese



In this article, I examine the deployment of ethnographic and photographic techniques in British colonialism in the Andaman Islands. Focusing on the work of Maurice Portman, who was “officer in charge of the Andamanese” between 1879 and 1900, I examine the mechanisms by which savagery was constructed in a marginal and newly pacified colony where the indigenous population was assumed by Britons to be dying but not quite dead. I argue that in this ideological and political setting, the colonizer's assertions of control and delinquent fantasies of losing control came together in the aesthetics and measurements of the eroticized aboriginal body. [Andaman Islands, South Asia, M. V. Portman, photography, anthropometry, colonialism, savagery]