University of Limerick
OFarrell_2021_Race.pdf (3.57 MB)

Race, gender and morality: British representation and response to the Middle East in the exhibition space, 1850–1932

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posted on 2022-10-19, 15:11 authored by Holly O'Farrell
The exhibition space is an instrument through which we understand the world and consequently it is important to be aware of its use historically as a tool for creating systems of power and representation. This research analyses British exhibitions of Middle Eastern (and particularly ancient Egyptian and Persian) artefacts during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries questioning how these exhibitions defined British self-image in response to the Middle Eastern ‘other’. The thesis is a work of interpretation along intersectional constructionist lines, revealing how forces such as gender, race, morality and space come together to provide an argument for British supremacy within the exhibition space. The position of museums as instruments of representation of display made them important points of contact between the British national imperialist scheme and the public. Social constructs are seen to have important roles in creating meaning and understanding in exhibition spaces, and that these systems of power intersect with one another to create more compelling perceptions and discourses about racial and cultural hierarchies. This thesis reconceptualises the nineteenth and early twentieth century British exhibition space in line with theories of social constructionism and intersectionality and illustrates that stratification and distinction occurred through the framing of Middle Eastern cultures. Through the employment of a constructionist lens, the research outlines a complex relationship between British society and the Middle Eastern artefacts presented in museums during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. A dialogue emerges which has consequences for both societies and this is achieved through intersections of gender, race and morality in space.



  • Doctoral

First supervisor

Mazza, Roberto





Department or School

  • History

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