Listening as critique: Towards a methodology of absent presences in research on coloniality

  • Marte Van Hassel


Only recently I started a PhD at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) in Theatre and Performance Studies. In this PhD I am investigating the history of the magic lantern, one of the first devices to project images for a broad audience. The magic lantern was frequently used for colonial propaganda by missionaries and social reformers, constituting an image of the Other that still lives on today. This article will not be an introduction into the subject of the magic lantern propaganda. Instead, it is attended to be a first methodological reflection of this research. It serves as an attempt to consider how to engage with the archival material I encounter without reproducing the colonial gaze living on in these photographs. Central to this article will therefore be the question on how to relate to the Other in the image from within a privileged (academic) position. As Theatre and Performance Studies cannot rescind from the discussions on decolonization coming from the African Diaspora in Belgium, I think about a methodology to cope with the recurring gaps in our research field as a precondition to do research on images of the other. I do not seek to map out a fixed methodological plan. I rather try to take some first steps to listen as critique to an alternative history that is always already, absent in its presence.

How to Cite:

Van Hassel, M., (2019) “Listening as critique: Towards a methodology of absent presences in research on coloniality”, Documenta 37(1). doi:

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Published on
14 Jan 2019
Peer Reviewed