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Dimensions:
210 × 148 mm
184 pages
Format:
Hardback
ISBN:
9781780239323
Illustrations:
42 illustrations, 16 in colour
Published:
14 May 2018
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The Waterless Sea A Curious History of Mirages Christopher Pinney

Mirages have long astonished travellers and beguiled thirsty desert voyagers. Chinese and Japanese poetry and images depicted mirages as the exhalations of clam-monsters. Indian sources related them to the ‘thirst of gazelles’, a metaphor for the futility of desire. From the late eighteenth century to the present, mirages became a symbol of ‘Oriental despotism’, a malign, but also enchanted, emblem. But the mirage motif is rarely simply condemnatory. More commonly it conveys a sense of escape, of fascination, of a desire to be deceived.

The Waterless Sea is the first book devoted to the theories and history of mirages. Christopher Pinney navigates a sinuous pathway through a mysterious and evanescent terrain, showing how mirages have impacted politics, culture, science, and religion, and how we can continue to learn from their sublimity.

‘This is both a study of the mirage as a subject of scholarship and a profound meditation on its paradoxical form as a true illusion . . . Itself written as if in the style of a mirage, this is a beautifully conceived work that philosophises the visible.’ – Faisal Devji, University of Oxford

‘Pinney explores the enchanting enigma of fata morgana or mirages, visions of cities in the sky or stately mansions floating on fantastic oceans in deserts and polar wastes . . . Pinney provides an extraordinary tour of the union of refraction and the imagination.’ – Jonathan Lamb, Vanderbilt University, Tennessee

‘Pinney’s erudite and highly readable account of the mirage is a scintillating journey . . .  a substantial history of the sublime as it is refracted on the surface of what remains enchanted, mysterious and strange.’ – Omar W. Nasim, University of Regensburg

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Christopher Pinney is Professor of Anthropology and Visual Culture at University College London. His publications include Camera Indica (1997), Photos of the Gods (2004) and Photography and Anthropology (2011), all published by Reaktion.

Prologue: Chasing Mirage
1 Strange Visions Under a Cliff in Central India, October 1829
2 A World History of Mirages: The Thirst of the Gazelle
3 ‘Fallacious Evidence of the Senses’
4 ‘Mocking our Distress’
5 Cold and Hot: The Geography of Mirage
6 Mirage and Crisis
7 Oriental Mirages and ‘Spectatorial Democracy’
8 From Clam-monsters to Representative Democracy
9 The Halted Viewer and Sfumato
10 Memory and Modernity
11 Theatrical Mirages
12 The ‘Mirage Medium of Fancy’
13 Mirage and Oriental Despotism
14 Keeping Mecca and Medina Invisible
15 Inside Abdul Hamid ii’s Head
16 Mirage Pharmakon: Wild and Domestic
Epilogue: Real, But Not True

Glossary
References
Acknowledgements
Photo Acknowledgements
Index