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The Representation of the 'Exotic' Body in 19th-Century English Drama

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The exotic body in 19th century English drama

The staging of non-European peoples and cultures is examined in an effort to better understand the political impact of the dramatic representation of the 'exotic' body during the British Empire.

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An exotic cultural and physical body of a non-European 'other' in 19thcentury English drama was present in melodramas, farces, burlesques, pantomimes and extravaganzas. The EU-funded project 'The representation of the 'exotic' body in 19th-century English drama' (REBED) examined the practices and devices used for representing the exotic body. It delved into the extent of cultural, political and scientific discourse used during the British Empire and the ways it influenced the dramatic representation of the exotic body. The project mainly aimed at determining if and how 19th century English drama contributed to creating a politically oriented perception of the non-European other. The Lord Chamberlain's Plays collection served as a main source, as did the Harvard Theatre Collection, the Pettingell Collection at Kent, the National Fairground Archive at Sheffield, the John Johnson Collection at Oxford and several others. All are essential for the completion of an initial list of plays that deal with the exotic body from the years 1800-1900. Project phases were discussed with scientists as well as with people from the universities working in the same area of interest. Exchanges took place with scholars and students at seminars. The work shows that the exotic body can be seen in a category all its own and not only as a subgenre of 19th century English drama. The results provide a model for further investigation in other areas, periods and/or genres that can help frame contemporary perceptions of non-European minorities in Europe.


Exotic body, 19thcentury, English drama, non-European, dramatic representation

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