Research Lunch | Anna Jamieson on Topographical Asylum Prints

Posted in lectures (to attend) by Editor on February 10, 2023

From the Mellon Centre:

Anna Jamieson | Viewing Virtually and Learning to Look: The Topographical Asylum Print
Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London, 17 March 2023, 1pm

Print from 1815 showing the exterior of St Luke's Hospital

T. H. Shepherd, St Luke’s Hospital, Cripplegate, London, 1815, engraving (London: Wellcome Collection).

By the final decades of the eighteenth century, asylums and hospitals had become mainstays of England’s philanthropic tourist circuit. Providing visitors with the opportunity to interact with human suffering, asylums were uniquely placed to encourage and facilitate the display of humanity deemed socially appropriate during this period.

For the educated elite engaged in philanthropic tourism, the asylum was often first encountered via the topographical print. Analysing a range of prints that depict asylum exteriors and their environs, this talk argues that these prints played an important role in shaping first impressions before a tour, guiding tourists in ways to look and behave in these unique and unsettling spaces. It demonstrates that viewing topographical prints prior to a visit evoked one’s social status, in that they characterised asylums as polite and esteemed destinations only accessible to the elite classes. At the same time, the talk suggests that topographical prints were designed to intrigue and titillate guests, with painters and printmakers employing unusual perspectives or fragmentary scenes to pique the interest of the visitor and provide a tantalising glimpse of life behind the asylum façade.

Book tickets here»

Anna Jamieson is an interdisciplinary art historian, a postdoctoral fellow at the Paul Mellon Centre, and an associate lecturer at Birkbeck, University of London. Anna specialises in visual and material cultures of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, with a particular interest in women’s mental illness; the cultural history of psychiatry; and dark tourism. She is currently writing her first monograph, The Gaze of the Sane: Asylum Tourism in England, 1770–1845. She is co-director of Birkbeck’s Centre for Museum Cultures and a member of the steering committee for Birkbeck’s Centre for Interdisciplinary Research on Mental Health. Anna’s research has been published in Eighteenth-Century Studies and Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, and her co-edited volume, Pockets, Pouches and Secret Drawers is forthcoming with Brill (2023). She is an associate editor for the medical humanities website The Polyphony and tweets at @annafranjam.

Research Lunch | Deepthi Bathala on Crop Trials and Tropicality in India

Posted in lectures (to attend) by Editor on February 10, 2023

From the Mellon Centre:

Deepthi Bathala | Plantation Failures, Famine Crops, and Contesting Tropicality: Trials of the Calcutta Botanic Garden in the Early Nineteenth Century
Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London, 10 March 2023, 1pm

1855 map of India

“The Physical Geography of India and the Botanical Provinces 1855,” published in Joseph Dalton Hooker and Thomas Thomson, Flora Indica: Or Description of Indian Plants (1855; image from the Biodiversity Heritage Library).

In the late eighteenth century during a famine in British India, the Botanical Garden in Calcutta emerged as a response to the crisis. Envisioned as an institution of agricultural improvement, the garden sought to mobilise and introduce climatically suitable crops from various parts of the world for what was understood to be the tropical climate in India. In a quest to introduce famine crops such as wheat and potatoes from the Cape along with plantation crops like coffee, teak, and mulberry, horticulture, along with plantation trials, were administered at the same time both within and outside the garden compound. This paper discusses the plantation and horticultural trials of the Botanic Garden and their subsequent failures in the early nineteenth century to argue that these experiments were integral to contesting the preconceived tropicality of India. These failures determined not only the agricultural landscape of the country but also dictated the siting of other botanical gardens through the production of new climate knowledge in relation to the plants that grew, thrived, or failed. By using maps of the garden, rough sketches of early plantation grounds, and correspondence letters between officials of the garden and the company, the paper illustrates how the officials and affiliates of the garden produced an imaginary climate for British India contesting the tropicality of India while at the same time transforming its landscape in the early nineteenth century.

Book tickets here»

Deepthi Bathala is a PhD candidate in Architecture (History/Theory) at the University of Michigan. Her research interests include environmental histories of the built environment at the intersection of colonialism, climate knowledge, and horticulture. Her research is being supported by the Paul Mellon Center for Studies in British Art, London; Oak Spring Garden Foundation, Virginia; Society of Architectural Historians; and the Rackham Graduate School at the University of Michigan. She has a MSArch in Architecture History and Theory from the University of Washington in Seattle, and a BArch from the College of Engineering Trivandrum, Kerala University in India.

%d bloggers like this: