Dr Emily Stevenson

Research Summary

I am a visual and historical anthropologist with a focus on south India, and my research interests include the history of photography, material culture, heritage, and urban change. I am currently a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow at the Pitt Rivers Museum. My project, Studio Encounters: Photography & Cosmopolitanism in British South India, examines commercial photography studios as crucial sites of encounter within the colonial south Indian city. Through interdisciplinary research focussed on Chennai (previously Madras) and Bengaluru (Bangalore) from 1900 to 1947, I will investigate the ways in which diverse people and everyday practices of representation interacted within studios in ways which could both reinforce and challenge colonial discourses of geographical, social, and racial division. Ultimately, Studio Encounters asks: how did photographic studios function as cosmopolitan spaces of encounter and microcosms of socio-political change within the context of the colonial South Indian city?


Dr Emily Stevenson holds a PhD in Anthropology from SOAS, University of London. Her thesis, Picture Postcard Bengaluru: Visual and Material Pasts in India’s Silicon Valley, was based on fifteenth months of ethnographic and archival research in Bengaluru and funded by the ESRC and the Christopher Davis Award. Emily is currently working up this research into a manuscript for publication with Routledge as part of the Photography, History: History, Photography series. She also holds a BA (Hons) in Social Anthropology (SOAS) and an MA Anthropological Research Methods (SOAS). In 2018 she co-curated an exhibition entitled From Madras to Bangalore: Picture Postcards as Urban History of Colonial India with Dr Stephen Hughes at the Brunei Gallery, funded by the ESRC and the SOAS South Asia Institute. The exhibition led to the on-going Instagram account @picture_postcard_empire which critically explores postcards of India. Between January 2020 and April 2022, she was Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of St Andrews where she taught on topics such as visual and material culture, anthropology and art, sensory ethnography, and research methods. She is also Multimedia and Resources editor for Teaching Anthropology.  


Stevenson, E. 2020. 'Creativity and Embodied Practice during the ‘Shift Online’ in G. Manley et al. (eds.) Pandemic Diaries. American Ethnologist website, 16 May 2020.

Hughes, S. and Stevenson, E. 2019. 'South India Addresses to the World: Postcard Circulation and Empire', Trans Asian Photography Review Vol. 9, No. 2 (Circulation, Spring).

Stevenson, E. and Hughes, S. 2018. 'From Madras to Bangalore: Picture Postcards as Urban History of Colonial India', Frontline Magazine Vol, 35, No. 16.

Stevenson, E. 2013. 'Home Sweet Home; Women and the “Other Space” of Domesticity in Colonial Indian Postcards ca. 1880 – 1920', Visual Anthropology, 26(4): 298-327.