Darwin, the Ugly Brother, the Short-faced Tumbler, and the Crinoline:

A public lecture hosted by the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities in association with the International Society for Intellectual History 2019 Conference and Darwin Workshop

Darwin’s theory of sexual selection has a long and conflicted history. From its beginnings, it was intertwined with cultural and social beliefs and shaped by professional and institutional power plays and the larger issues of the day. It was drawn from a great complexity of sources, themselves culturally inflected. And Darwin justified it with a mix of culturally laden constructions of sexuality, gender and race. I want here to emphasize the necessity of bringing the visual aspects of Darwin’s theorizing on sexual selection to bear on its history.

Sexual selection constituted a fusion of analogy, ideology, theory, practice and observation, contingent upon the available visual resources of Darwin’s culture. This is illustrated through an array of images critical to his theory construction: first, the figure of the “ugly brother”, the “naked, painted shivering hideous savage” encountered by Darwin in Tierra del Fuego, emblematic of a “visual ideology” based on the body, aesthetic categories and culture that accompanied imperial expansion and was displacing the romantic convention of the noble savage; next, the short-faced English tumbler, bred to the standard of perfection of the pigeon fancier’s art; lastly, that icon of Victorian feminine fashion, frivolity and disabling excess, the crinoline.

EVELLEEN RICHARDS (ISIH 2019 Keynote Speaker) is Honorary Professor in the School of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Sydney.  She completed a BSc (in biomedical science) at the University of Queensland, and a PhD in History and Philosophy of Science at the University of New South Wales in 1976. She has served on numerous journal editorial boards and as Collaborating Editor of Social Studies of Science. From 2005 to 2017 she was an Affiliated Research Scholar in History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge. She has twice served as president of the Australasian Association for History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Science, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of New South Wales. Her main fields of interest and publications encompass the sociology of clinical trials, and the history of evolutionary biology, with particular reference to issues of gender and race. Her most recent book, Darwin and the Making of Sexual Selection (University of Chicago Press, 2017), won the 2018 Suzanne J. Levinson Prize for best book in the history of the life sciences and natural history.

5pm Friday 7th June 2019
UQ Anthropology Museum

Level 1, Michie Building (#9), St Lucia Campus

Register for free>>

For more information, contact iash@uq.edu.au or 07 334 61465



UQ Anthropology Museum, Level 1 Michie Building (#9), UQ St Lucia