About

Arte Continua (Gallery in a Former Chinese Theatre in Havana’s China Town), 2015, photo by Yunfeng Zhang.

Jiangtao (Harry) Gu is an art and cultural historian and his research sits at the intersection of Chinese visual culture and British imperialism.  He is a fourth-year PhD student in the Graduate Program in Visual and Cultural Studies at the University of Rochester where he also holds an Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship in the Digital Humanities. His dissertation, entitled Photography as Omen: Chinese Landscape and the Prospective Vision of Empire, 1856-1915, probes the early history of photography in China, and examines how the medium both reveals and perpetuates the uneven temporalities between late imperial China and the British Empire. As a methodological intervention on how to approach the medium’s historicity, it contends that photography’s relation to time is never settled in the past tense. On the contrary, photographs also circumscribe what is possible and even inevitable for the future. In the context of late nineteenth and early twentieth century China, his claim has broader implications to Chinese modernity when understood as a part of world history. As a Digital Humanities scholar, he co-founded the Global DH Working Group, sponsored by the Central New York Humanities Corridor by an award from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. By interjecting the “global” as a critical tool, the working group aims to disrupt and decolonize the Euro-American centric terrains of DH scholarship. His omeka-based digital project Prospecting a Nation: Illustrations of China and Its People, 1868-1870 maps and reconstructs the route Scottish photographer and geographer John Thomson (1837-1921) took in China in the aftermath of the Second Opium War (1856-1860). He has received multiple awards and grants including a fellowship to attend the Flaherty Seminar, a Dissertation Proposal and Development Fellowship from the Social Science Research Council, a best student paper prize from the Association for Asian Studies, and research fundings from the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender and Women’s Studies, Chinese University of Hong Kong, as well as Fisher Center for the Study of Men and Women. He also frequently publishes on topics of false nationalism and false internationalism in contemporary China, and their constructions through visual culture. His works have appeared in academic journals such as Trans-Asia Photography Review and the Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art

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Email: jiangtao.gu@rochester.edu