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Strange Frontiers: Intersections of disability and race in the early modern period

Project Description

Project Reference number: GSBS-2019-106

Since Pliny-The-Elder in Roman Antiquity barbarians and monsters, 'real' or imaginary were, in the representations that defined them, interchangeable others whose nefarious characteristics were transferable. Both racism and ableism combined in promoting the difference between the familiar and the strange; where the value of the former was inflated and the worth of the later undermined. The classical revivalism of the early modern period re-ignited ‘physiognomic consciousness’ as a moral template for the representation and evaluation of the different people’s ‘introduced’ to the ‘west’ by its imperial post-Columbian adventures. The intersection of ability and whiteness as the symbols of propriety, beauty and reason in early modernity played, it could be argued, a profound role in locking the geographical other – savage and heathen -- into a script of monstrosity and deformity. This PhD project is designed to examine two related claims 1. That indigenous impairment, as it was conceived in early modernity on the Atlantic rim and understood in terms of defectiveness, deformity and monstrosity, formed a template or script for understanding the ‘barbari’ that were ‘discovered’ by imperial expeditions and early modern colonisation and 2. That Racism and ableism performed a mutual service in legitimating the hegemony of the western powers who sought to become ‘the lords of all the world’.

Supervisor Research Profiles

Director of Studies: Professor Bill Hughes
GCU Research Online URL:

2nd Supervisor: Dr. Lani Russell
GCU Research Online URL:

3rd Supervisor: Professor Oonagh Walsh
GCU Research Online URL:

This project is available as a 3 years full-time PhD study programme with expected start date of 1 October 2019

Candidates are encouraged to contact the research supervisors for the project before applying.

How to Apply

To apply for this project, use the following link to access the online application form, as well as further information on how to apply:

Applicants shortlisted for the PhD project will be contacted for an interview within four weeks from the closing date.

Please send any other enquires regarding your application to:

Funding Notes

Exceptional candidates will be put forward for the scholarship competition. The Scholarship packages available include fully funded studentships and fees only scholarships. The fully funded studentships are worth £19,300 per year for 3 years, subject to satisfactory progress. They cover payment of tuition fees at the UK/EU rate and an annual stipend of £14,800.

For further details on funding see View Website

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