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Kate Thomas on bone china and colonial violence

Please join us on Wednesday March 27th at 5.15pm for a discussion of Kate Thomas’s paper “Bone Body: English Potteries and Colonial Violence.”

Please contact Rachel Buurma or Kate Thomas for a copy of the paper.

Kate writes:

Early in the nineteenth century, the fifth nawab of the Indian province of Awadh, Ghazi-ud-Din Haidar Shah, ordered a dessert service from the Staffordshire potter Josiah Spode II. It was fashioned from Spode’s new invention: bone china. That is, porcelain made from crushed, calcined cow bones. When the first war of Indian Independence broke out in 1857, the then-nawab was exiled and his palace looted by English soldiers who ferried pieces of the Spode service back to England. This paper makes a reading of the role that the plates and cups made from “bone body” played in a conflict that was, in many accounts, sparked by stories of defilement and became a watershed in the history of colonialism. Was this delicate English porcelain a piece of war machinery? How did its design and composition trace out British incursion and Indian resistance? Drawing on theories of new materialism, this paper will explore the potential of reading for the “deep matter.”

Kate Thomas is K.Laurence Stapleton Professor and Chair of English at Bryn Mawr College. She is author of Postal Pleasures: Sex, Scandal and Victorian Letters (OUP, 2012).

We meet on Temple’s main campus, exact location tba.