Gendering the Exotic - Exoticising Gender, c. 1700-1900

Tutor: Joanna de Groot

Module type: MA Option

Module code: HIS00007M

Credits: 20

The subject of this course is the interaction between ideas, images, and practices associated with gender, and those associated with imperial, racial, and colonial developments in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century England and France. It examines how the history and patterns of gender identities, differences and relationships were shaped by the imperial, racialising and colonialist features of those societies, and conversely how those features were shaped by gender. Our aim is to understand more about how these areas of human experience and social construction became entwined and mutually reinforcing in spheres of life including artistic and literary creativity as well as politics, advertising and religion. The theme of 'the exotic' which is our focus has connotations of difference, attraction and incomprehensibility which linked and flavoured constructions of ethnicity and gender in England and France during the period, and so provides a useful tool for investigation.

After an initial scoping seminar our enquiries will be pursued in three exemplary contexts. Firstly we shall consider the influence of ‘New World’ slavery and of anti-slavery politics on constructions of race and gender. Secondly, we shall examine the phenomenon of 'orientalism' and its role as a European construction of people and societies in the Middle East and India, and in constructions of gender and ethnicity in Europe. Thirdly, we shall look at the history of colonial and cross-cultural missionary activity as a gendered and racialised enterprise. In each of these cases we shall pay attention to how racial, exotic and gendered categories featured in European involvement with non-Europeans and also to how European global and imperial concerns contributed to constructions of gender and ethnicity in European settings. Our work on cultural histories and sources will also focus on their social and political contexts and significance.

The likely seminar plan is as follows:

    • Introductory - historical backgrounds and conceptual frameworks
    • 'A man and a brother'? - black slavery, gender, and race (I)
    • 'A man and a brother'? - black slavery, gender, and race (II)
    • 'Mysterious Orient' - exoticising ethnicity and sexuality (I)
    • 'Mysterious Orient' - exoticising ethnicity and sexuality (II)
    • The missionary initiative - salvation, control and gender/ethnic hierarchies (I)
    • The missionary initiative - salvation, control and gender/ethnic hierarchies (II)
    • In this session students will contribute presentations of their own choice and devising in order to develop and consolidate the work which they have already done.


Preliminary Reading

  • Bush, Barbara. Slave Women in Caribbean Society, 1650-1838. Kingston, Heinemann Publishers Caribbean; Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990.
  • Ferguson, Moira. Subject to Others: British Women Writers and Colonial Slavery, 1670-1834. New York; London: Routledge, 1992.
  • Graham-Brown, Sarah. Images of Women: The Portrayal of Women in Photography of the Middle East, 1860-1950. London: Quartet, 1988.
  • Hall, Catherine. White, Male, and Middle class: Explorations in Feminism and History. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1992.
  • Lewis, Reina. Gendering Orientalism: Race, Representation, and Femininity. New York, London: Routledge, 1996.
  • Said, Edward. Orientalism. London: Penguin Books, 2003.
  • Stoler, Ann. Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power: Race and the Intimate in Colonial Rule. Berkeley, Calif.; London: University of California Press, 2010.