Organized Panel Session
This panel engages visual representations of labour to explore the ways in which they potentially construct social, cultural, or political understanding across a variety of regions and historical frames. Work, often cast as a pathway to presumed economic and personal independence, not only serves to formulate constructs of individual and community identity, but also the circulation of imagery of labour through printed books, popular ephemera, and art objects plays an instrumental role in fostering cultural perceptions of labour and its value. Collectively the panellists investigate case studies spanning the 19th century to the present and draw on the rich labour imagery of both China and India. The cross regional scope of the papers interrogates the assumption that images can be poised as insightful reflections of specialized, localized, or nationally defined types of occupations. We ask: how are images deployed to catalyze understandings about the cultural identity of the worker, and their historically bound, geographical conditions? In considering representations of labour we endeavour to encourage broader historical insight into the conditions of economic mobility, gendered occupations, the impact of social and industrial change and the legacies of cross cultural influences or social transformation.