21 Mar

“A Different Light” By Parvati Nair

 A Different Light is the first in-depth study of the work of Sebastião Salgado, widely considered the greatest documentary photographer of our time. For more than three decades, Salgado has produced thematic photo-essays depicting the massive human displacement brought about by industrialization and conflict. These projects usually take years to complete and include pictures from dozens of countries. Parvati Nair offers detailed analyses of Salgado’s best-known photo-essays, including Workers (1993) and Migrations (2000), as well as Genesis, which he began in 2004. With Genesis, Salgado has turned his lens from human turmoil to those parts of the planet not yet ravaged by modernity. Interpreting the photographer’s oeuvre, Nair engages broad questions about aesthetics, history, ethics, and politics in documentary photography. At the same time, she draws on conversations with Salgado and his wife and partner, Lélia Wanick Salgado, to explain the significance of the photographer’s life history, including his roots in Brazil and his training as an economist; his perspectives; and his artistic method. Underpinning all of Salgado’s major projects is a concern with displacement, exploitation, and destruction—of people, communities, and land. Salgado’s images exalt reality, compelling viewers to look and, according to Nair, to envision the world otherwise.

By Parvati Nair

The McGlynn: The author is our “daughter” (daughter-in-law; I hate the word “in-law”.

BA (London), MA (London), PhD (London), FRSA

Professor of Hispanic, Cultural and Migration Studies

Director of the Centre for the Study of Migration


Areas of specialisation

Parvati Nair is Professor of Hispanic, Cultural and Migration Studies. Her research is in Cultural Studies, with a particular interest in theories and representations of migration, mobility, urban spaces, displacement, ethnicity and gender. She writes mainly on photography, film and music in these contexts and relies on an interdisciplinary approach that includes fieldwork. She is the Principal Editor of Crossings: Journal of Migration and Culture and on the editorial board of the Hispanic Research Journal.
As Director of the Centre for the Study of Migration, Parvati Nair invites expressions of interest for interdisciplinary collaboration on migration-related research across faculties and institutions at Queen Mary and beyond. For more details, please see the Centre’s website.
Parvati Nair has published and spoken in the media, in particular in the Guardian and on BBC Radio 4. She also writes a blog on flamenco that is linked to her research interests in this area.

Listen to this item on BBC

The acclaimed dancer, Maríá Pagés, talks about the traditional Andalucian dance with Jenni and Parvati Nair

Flamenco, the hand- clapping and foot -stamping traditional dance form, originates from the Andalucian region of Spain. The dancer Maríá Pagés, who is one of the stars at the 2010 Flamenco Festival at Sadler’s Wells, London, joins Jenni to talk about the flamenco and what makes it so special. To discuss the history of the dance and its social importance, they are joined by Parvati Nair, Professor of Hispanic Cultural Studies at Queen Mary, University of London, and author of a blog on Flamenco.

Publications Books

  • A Different Light: The Photography of Sebastião Salgado (forthcoming in November 2011, Duke University Press)
  • Rumbo al norte: inmigración y movimientos culturales entre el Magreb y España, Barcelona, 2006, Barcelona, Edicions Bellaterra
  • Configuring Community: Theories, Narratives and Practices of Community Identities in Contemporary Spain, 2004, London, Modern Humanities Research Association

Edited books

  • Hispanic and Lusophone Women Filmmakers: Critical Discourses and Cinematic Practices, co-edited with Julian Gutierrez-Albilla, in press, Manchester University Press.
  • Gender and Spanish Cinema, co-edited with Steven Marsh, 2004, Oxford, Berg

Selected publications in edited books and refereed journals

  • ‘Displacing the hero: masculine ambivalence in the cinema of Luis García Berlanga’ in Entertaining Ideologies: 100 Years of European Cinema, ed. D. Holmes,Manchester: Manchester University Press, June 2000
  • ‘Homing the Other: the Immigrant as New European in David Planell’s Bazar in Beyond Boundaries, ed. Andy Hollis, Amsterdam: Rodopi Press, December 2000
  • ‘Elusive song: flamenco as field and negotiation among the gitanos in Córdoba prison’, in Constructing Identity in Twentieth Century Spain: Theoretical debates and Narrative Practices, ed. Jo Labanyi, Oxford University Press, 2002
  • ‘Vocal In-roads: Flamenco, Orality and Postmodernity in Las 3000 Viviendas: Viejo Patio (EMI, 1999)’ in Music, Culture, Identity, edited by Richard Young Amsterdam: Rodopi Press, 2002
  • ‘Border-Line Men: Gender, Place and Power in Representations of Moroccans in Recent Spanish Cinema’ in Gender and Spanish Cinema edited by Parvati Nair and Steven Marsh, Oxford, Berg Publishers, 2004, 103-118
  • ‘Another Beat: Displacement and Relocation in Spanish-Moroccan Raï’ in Between the Local and the Global: Popular Music and National Identity edited by Ian Biddle and Vanessa Knights, London: Ashgate, 2007, 65-80
  • ‘Europe’s “Last” Wall: Contiguity, Exchange and Heterotopia in Ceuta, the Confluence of Europe and North Africa” in Border Interrogations edited by Simon Doubleday and Benita Sampedro, Oxford, Berghahn Publishers, 2008, 15-41
  • ‘Fotografía en torno al Estrecho,’ in Dos siglos de imágenes de Andalucía edited by Alberto Egea, Sevilla, Centro de Estudios Andaluces, 2006
  • ‘Trazar frontera: inmigración y movimientos culturales en España,’ chapter in Irene Blásquez and Ángel Chueca (editors), Migraciones internacionales en el Mediterráneo y UE: un reto, 2009, p.11-21
  • ‘After-Images: Trauma, History and Connection in the Photography of Alfredo Jaar,’ chapter in The Eyes of Gutete Emerita, 2010, edited by Pamela Prado, Santiago de Chile: Dirac Publishers, 63-78
  • ‘Travelling Song: Music, Iteration and Translation in La leyenda del tiempo (The Legend of Time, Isaki Lacuesta, 2006)’, in Rob Stone and Lisa Shaw (eds.), Screening Songs (forthcoming in 2012, Manchester University Press)

Articles in refereed journals

  • ‘Between Being and Becoming: an ethnographic examination of border crossings in Alma gitana (Chus Gutiérrez, 1995)’, Tesserae, Journal of Iberian and Latin American Studies, 5:2, December 1999, 173-188
  • “Albums of No Return: Ethnicity, Displacement and Recognition in Photographs of Moroccan Immigrants in Spain’, Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies, 1, March 2000, 59-73
  • ‘Straddling the personal and the public: elastic boundaries or a case-study of two gitana daughters of reknowned flamencos’ in Journal of the Institute of Romance Studies, Spring 2001, 49-63
  • ‘In Modernity’s Wake: transculturality, deterritorialization and the questio n of community in Las flores de otro mundo’, in Postscript, April 2002, 38-49
  • ‘Memory in Motion: Ethnicity, Hybridity and Globalization in Self-Photographs of Moroccan Immigrants in Spain’, Journal of Romance Studies, Vol.3.1, 2003, 73-86
  • ‘Moor-Veiled Matters: the hijab as troubling interrogative of the relation between the West and Islam’, new formations, no. 51, winter 2003-2004, 39-49
  • ‘The Regard of the Gypsy: Ramón Zabalza’s gitano photographs and the visual challenge to the stereotype’ in Prácticas de poder y estrategias de resistencia en la España democrática, edited by Óscar Cornago Bernal, special issue of Iberoamericana, 24.4, 2006
  • ‘Voicing Risk: migration, transgression and relocation in Spanish/Moroccan raï’ forthcoming in Interventions, Journal of Postcolonial Studies, Summer 2006
  • ‘Autography from the Margins,’ Hispanic Research Journal, Vol. 9, No. 2, 2008, p.181-190
  • ‘Here, Now, Then, There: Cities, Memory and Movement in Photographs by Young Refugees/New Londoners’ in Moving Worlds, special issue edited by David Farrier, forthcoming in 2012.

Current research projects

Parvati Nair is currently writing a book entitled Flamenco Rhythms: People, Place, Performance on the global dissemination and adaptations of flamenco, as a predominantly urban musical form, and its persisting ties with the culture of southern Spain.
At the Centre for the Study of Migration, she is actively fostering a research focus on city spaces, starting with London’s East End. The Centre has strong ties to this part of London and supports research in this area. The Centre’s key aims include the fostering of interdisciplinary work on migration, the development of research on London as a city of immigration, more specifically of the East End as an urban immigrant zone, and the study of London as a city of transit and settlement. The Centre runs a regular programme of seminars, workshops, lectures and conferences. It is currently in the process of preparing to seed-fund six interdisciplinary projects from within Queen Mary on the city and migration as of 2011. This is part of Parvati Nair’s DiversCity project. Local immigrant and arts organizations are also involved. Parvati Nair is also involved in supporting a cross-Faculty research projects on migration.

Courses taught

At undergraduate level, on the Hispanic Studies and Comparative Literature programmes. The following are modules she has taught:

  • Society and Photography in Spain: 1939-1975
  • Re-Viewing the Spanish Civil War
  • Exile and Memory in Modern Spanish Fiction
  • Spanish Realism: Galdós and Alas
  • Feminine Voices in Modern Spanish Fiction
  • The Generation of 1898: Literature, Debates, Ideas
  • Migration Through Photography

Current plans for collaborative cross-Faculty teaching at postgraduate level include a module on Migration for the School of Medicine and Dentistry.

Research Students

Parvati Nair has acted as first or second supervisor to several doctoral students, working in the areas of film, literature and photography. Those who have completed their doctorates have gone on to establish themselves as practising academics. Current doctoral students are working in the areas of film, photography, migration and urban studies.
She welcomes proposals from prospective students interested in pursuing research studies in the following areas:

  • Migration Studies
  • Visual Culture
  • Comparative Cultural Studies
  • Modern Peninsular Studies

Proposals must have a strong interdisciplinary focus and a well-defined theoretical framework. Parvati Nair will be happy to discuss draft research proposals with those interested.

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