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The Georgian masquerade has long been characterised as a space for anonymity, social mixing, and debauchery—supposedly open to all individuals, irrespective of rank, gender, or ethnicity. Though accessible through the purchase of a ticket, this ‘commercial’ entertainment was highly exclusive and reinforced social divisions. As a watering hole of the fashionable elite the masquerade enabled the beau monde to shape and spread hegemonic perceptions of Black and Brown cultures by putting Enlightenment ideas of classification and ethnicity into practice through the embodiment of characters of empire and the ‘other’. This paper examines the question of ‘Whose Costume, Whose Body?’ through a series of short case studies of various masquerade participants to examine how leisure costume could reinforce or subvert existing racial and social ordering. It engages with print culture and manuscripts and draws on an interdisciplinary methodology to consider how the Georgian masquerade operated as a performative commons where embodiment, performance, and dress combined to lay the groundwork for contemporary and future practices of cultural appropriation.

All welcome. This event is free to attend, but advance registration is required.

This will be a ‘hybrid’ seminar with a limited number of places available in person and a larger number of bookings for online attendance via Zoom. Those attending in person are asked to bring a Wi-Fi enabled laptop, tablet or phone.

The session will start at the slightly later time of 17:30.