You are here:

Speaker: Meg Kobza (Newcastle University)

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.

IHR Seminar SeriesBritish History in the Long 18th Century

Whose Costume, Whose Body? Cultural Appropriation and the Georgian Masquerade