Django’s phrenologist: science, slavery and material culture, 1791-1861

Eustache Belin saw the violence of slavery and revolution first hand. Born a slave on the French colony of Saint-Domingue in 1773, Eustache spent his youth toiling in the sugar mills. But amidst the Haitian Revolution of 1791, he escaped to Paris. Incredibly, in the 1830s, a French phrenologist took a cast of Eustache’s head. Over the next thirty years, Eustache became a focal point for discussion of African character. Phrenologists wanted to understand the relationship between the African mind, slavery and revolution. In this talk, I follow the bust of Eustache as it travelled back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean. In doing so, I show how a single phrenological bust was deployed by both supporters and opponents of abolition. More broadly, this talk suggests that the history of science and race needs to be understood as part of a history of material exchange.
Conveners: Rob Iliffe, Mark Harrison, Sloan Mahone, Erica Charters
Coffee will be available in the Common Room from 15:30.  All welcome to attend
24 Apr
Time:
16:00
Speaker:
  • James Poskett (University of Cambridge)
Series:
Seminars in the History of Science, Medicine and Technology
Location:
History Faculty, George Street, Oxford OX1 2RL