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Staging the Other in Nineteenth-Century British Drama

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Edited By Tiziana Morosetti

The body of the «Other» – exotic, unfamiliar, fascinating – is the topic of this collection of essays on nineteenth-century British theatre. Arranged chronologically, the volume traces visual representations of the Other across the nineteenth century as well as their legacy in contemporary theatrical culture. Essays explore the concept, politics and aesthetic features of the «exotic» body on stage, be it the actual body of the actor or actress, or the fictional, «picturesque» bodies brought on stage.
Far from focusing exclusively on the subaltern, colonial subject, this volume addresses the Other in its wider meaning, focusing on case studies as famous as Edwin Forrest and Ira Aldridge or as neglected as that of the Māori who appeared on the London stage in the 1860s. Written by an international group of scholars, this collection offers an informed, updated insight into the extensive and multifaceted presence of the non-British in both Georgian and Victorian drama, investigated through new lenses and materials to shed light on the complex engagement of nineteenth-century British culture with alterity.
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Tiziana Morosetti - Constructing the Zulus: The ‘African’ Body and Its Narratives

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TIZIANA MOROSETTI

Constructing the Zulus: The ‘African’ Body and Its Narratives

ABSTRACT

As the ultimate theoretical goal of ‘human zoos’ or ethnological exhibitions was ‘to demonstrate the superiority of the white race and/or of Western civilization’ (Blanchard et al., Human Zoos: Science and Spectacle in the Age of Colonial Empires, 2008, 22), exhibits were presented to the public in their ‘typical’ environment, dressed in their ‘distinctive’ manner, and shown enjoying their ‘routine’. The ‘Zulu Kaffirs’ exhibited by Charles Caldecott in 1853, as well as the ‘Friendly Zulus’ exhibited by Farini in 1880 are cases in point, but theatre is no exception, with titles such as Edward Fitzball’s Amakosa; or, Kaffir Warfare (1853) C.S. James’s The Kaffir War (1857), or the anonymous The Grand Equestrian Spectacle of the War in Zululand (1879) confirming, enhancing, and, sometimes, inspiring a politically oriented view of the Zulus. In this essay I will explore the narratives underlying both the exhibition of these ‘exotic’ bodies and their presence in the theatre, with particular attention paid to the visual features employed, as well as to their impact on (and relation to) the wider representation of ‘Africans’. I will ultimately argue that portraits of the Zulus, both on the popular and theatrical stage, while responding to an increasingly historicized perception of specific African contexts, were nonetheless still used in Victorian entertainment as representative of the whole of Africa, thus reinforcing stereotypes of the continent dating back to before the...

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