This essay explores the relationship between imaging, archival cataloging, and African diasporic belonging through the developed and undeveloped photography of Haitian anthropologist Suzanne Comhaire-Sylvain. Using her family correspondences and research on folklore to contextualize her image-based archive on Haiti, the Belgian Congo, and Nigeria, the author proposes that Comhaire-Sylvain’s visual catalog is rendered legible through her undeveloped images taken in Africa. Tracing Comhaire-Sylvain’s contortions in front of and behind the camera, the author shows that her undeveloped and unpublished imaging practices of play and experimentation exemplify a medium of scholarly and personal reflexivity that troubled the authority of her professional research practice and enlivened the range of her diasporic expression. With particular attention given to photos taken during her time in the Belgian Congo between 1943 and 1945 and her long-stay return to Haiti in 1957, the author argues that Comhaire-Sylvain’s imaging catalog is most provocatively read as an assemblage bound by her use of folklore as a unique technology for crafting meaning between overlapping sites of diasporic belonging and intellectual inquiry.

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