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To document the undocumentable: Photography in the scientific practice of physical anthropology and race biology

Ulrika Kjellman (ALM, Uppsala, Sweden)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 12 September 2016

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to see how the disciplines of physical anthropology and race biology used photographs as documenting tools when trying to prove the existence of variations among the human species dependent on race. On a more general level the study aims to contribute to the discussions on how images work as documents in scientific practice.

Design/methodology/approach

The primary methodology of this study is a functional and rhetorical analysis of the photographic material taken by the Swedish State Institute of Racial Biology between 1922 and 1958.

Findings

How images work as documents in scientific practice depends on what kind of documents they are, and what practices they take part in.

Originality/value

By showing how images played an important and substantial role in the research practices of physical anthropology and race biology, this paper stresses the importance of taking images as serious influences in scientific practice. The authors stress the need for further investigations into how images work as documents in scientific contexts.

Keywords

Citation

Kjellman, U. (2016), "To document the undocumentable: Photography in the scientific practice of physical anthropology and race biology", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 72 No. 5, pp. 813-831. https://doi.org/10.1108/JD-09-2015-0116

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited