Long Nineteenth Century Seminar

Event Details

  • Event date: 23/07/2021 – 23/07/2021
  • Venue: Online

5.30pm-7pm BST

In order to foster collaboration within the field of long-nineteenth century studies, this event marks the first of a new research seminar series hosted by Manchester Metropolitan University. Our presentations will offer opportunities to discuss cutting-edge approaches and findings to key topics of concern during a period of immense change that continues to inspire reflection.

Lucinda Matthews-Jones will explore how photographs enable historians to understand the visual utterances of homosocial relationships in cross-class organisations. It explores how peer-to-peer and cross-class homosocial relationships were captured by photographers working at Rugby Club, West London. Photographs offer us the rare chance to uncover working-class male experiences of club life, so often missing in written accounts of the social settlement movement. The article considers how photography captured the performances of peer-to-peer and cross-class friendships. It does this through an exploration of the Rugby Club’s summer camp photographs. These photographs gesture to how homosociability within a cross-class space was both vertical (peer-to-peer) and horizonal (hierarchical by class and age). The performances of homosociality enacted push against the argument that heteronormativity imposed bodily restriction on men and that all-male associations were able to be enact closeness and personal connection.

Hollie Geary-Jones will analyse how nineteenth-century sex workers faced constant surveillance in England. The paper explores how legality controlled every aspect of sex workers lives and reveals how the Regulatory System produced the sex worker as a social ‘deviant’. It reviews the legal, medical, and cultural impact of the Contagious Diseases Acts (1864, 1866, 1869). It demonstrates how sex workers were subject to confining regulations regarding their dress, body, behaviour, and movements. It analyses how sex workers were forced into a distinct cultural identity. It reviews the process of arrest and registration which inscribed ‘prostitutes’ onto an official, public register. The paper argues that English legality mirrored Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon Principles (1791). It demonstrates how the Regulatory System was centred upon surveillance from arrest through to inscription. The paper examines the controlled realm of commercial sex both within and outside brothels, prisons, and hospitals. It reveals the extent in which English legality curbed ‘prostitutes’ personal agency. It demonstrates how strict surveillance served as a mechanism of social control. The paper reveals how the fear of being watched forced sex workers into legal and medical compliance. It determines how individuals suffered due to juxtaposing regulations; Sex workers must remain hidden but visible to those who were searching for them. Finally, the paper demonstrates how sex workers were able to avoid constant surveillance and criminalization. Through deliberate adjustments to their clothing, body, and behaviour, sex workers could reclaim personal agency.

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