Join us for a Perspectives Series Talk by Sharrona Pearl!
This talk seeks to uncover. To expose. To lay bare. I will take the mask itself – an object designed to conceal, to protect, to create barriers and boundaries – and see what lies within. Using a broad historical lens, I’ll explore the history of masking asking various sites and domains of practice to show its consistent use as a means of protection and division. The mask will show who, in a given context, is worthy of protection, and who is not. I’ll focus in particular on masking as a means of protecting: identities from detection; bodies from injury; emotion from clear expression; the health of the wearers and the health of those around them; and the souls and spirits of those engaged in religious ritual. I’ll discuss on contemporary masking from the anti-mask laws of the nineteenth century through the pandemic, looking in particular at the tensions between exposure and concealment, both of which are perceived as mechanisms of safety. I’ll conclude with a discussion of racism in masking practices, arguing that for Black men in the US, structural racism was behind attempts to criminalize their masking even when it was legally required due to public health ordinances. What does masking mean for bodies that were always already wrong?
Sharrona Pearl is Associate Professor of bioethics and history at Drexel University. A historian and theorist of the face and body, Pearl has published widely on Victorian visual culture and medicine, religion and media, and critical gender, race, and disability studies. Her most recent book is Face/On: Face Transplants and the Ethics of the Other (University of Chicago Press, 2017.) She recently completed a manuscript on the face recognition spectrum, forthcoming from Johns Hopkins University Press, and is currently writing a book on masks for the Object Lessons series at Bloomsbury Academic. Pearl also frequently publishes freelance articles in a wide variety of newspapers and magazines. Say hi on twitter @sharronapearl.
Perspective Series, 2022-2023
The Libraries Perspectives Series offers two to three lectures per year on a topic selected by the Faculty Advisory Committee. The 2022-2023 series will focus on the theme of biopower and biopolitics. Masks, vaccines, le pass sanitaire, der e-Impfpass, confinement, and surveillance are some of the contested responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, the struggles between states and citizens over public health are not unique to our era. We are interested in scholars who explore the ways in which the biological has been and is mobilized by state and non-state actors in the name of population, territory, security, health, and disease. What forms do these interventions take and what are their effects? How are such efforts resisted and rejected by citizens? How have biopolitics and state actions of the past informed contemporary questions we continue to confront? This speaker series will coincide with student-curated exhibitions on the theme of BioPower in Lutnick Library next fall and one on Lenape cultural representation in the spring. The former exhibition comes out of a course taught by Lisa Jane Graham and Darin Hayton, and it draws on materials in Haverford's Special Collections. The spring exhibition focuses on cultural artifacts of the Lenape Nation and will be augmented by our Quaker Collections.