Philippa Levine – The Empire has no Clothes: Nudity and the Imperial Imagination

Event Date: 5 March 2018

Windsor Auditorium
Royal Holloway
University of London
Egham, Surrey
TW20 0E

The Department of History at Royal Holloway presents:

The 2018 Hayes Robinson Lecture

Professor Philippa Levine (Walter Prescott Webb Chair in History and Ideas), Department of History, University of Texas at Austin) – The Empire has no Clothes: Nudity and the Imperial imagination

The politics and aesthetics of nakedness was, for Victorians, both complex and slippery, the result of ambivalent 19th century attitudes toward the unclothed body. The 2018 Hayes-Robinson lecture explores why such vexed attitudes about nudity and nakedness in Victorian Britain cannot fully be comprehended without reference to the experience of empire. Indeed, colonialism’s seemingly timeless fascination with indigenous undress provoked important questions about human difference, evolution, and the nature of civilization. Analysing different readings of nakedness in the worlds of science (especially anthropology), high art, and popular culture, Professor Levine’s lecture will examine the enduring association between savagery and the lack of clothing. After all, if clothing is important historically then so, too, is its absence!

Introduction by Professor Kate Cooper (RHUL):

Vote of Thanks by Professor James Knowles (Dean, Arts and Social Sciences, RHUL):

accompanying images:

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