University of Sheffield

Project PhD Studentship - Performing Bodies: Anatomical Display in the C20 Fairground

We are delighted to announce a new studentship working on ‘Performing Bodies: Anatomical Display in the Twentieth-Century Fairground’ for entry in October 2015. This opportunity arises from University of Sheffield funding dedicated to developing its research resources, in this case the National Fairground Archive.

The award will cover the cost of UK/EU tuition fees and provide an annual maintenance grant (£14,057 in 2015-16) plus an annual Research Training Support Grant of £1,000 for three years.

Application deadline: 12pm, Monday 11 May 2015

Interviews: interviews will take place in the week commencing 1 June 2015

Further information about the award and how to apply is available on our website:


The Project

The project will use the National Fairground Archive’s collection on sideshows and fairground exhibits in a multidisciplinary exploration of the popular presentation of bodily and anatomical display. Both simulacra (waxworks, mannequins and ‘sleeping beauty’ exhibits) and live display (freak shows to strip tease) were deployed within performative frameworks, exploiting ideas of the arcane, the unsettling and the macabre in relation to the body and embodiment. Within the noisy, transient and atemporal world of the fairground, these uncanny encounters provided important insight into popular constructions of human agency and identity.

Central areas of investigation include:

·         What do the historical, aesthetic and performative constructions of anatomical display reveal about contemporary understandings of embodiment and human identity and how did these change over the course of the twentieth century?
·         How are constructions of gendered bodies reflected and constructed within the fairground displays, discourses and practices?
·         How were scientific and medical discourses transposed into popular culture?
·         How might the fairground audience have made sense of these various forms of the human body, living and non-living, sexed and non-sexed?

The Studentship

Supervisory team: Professor Mary Vincent (Department of History), Dr Julia Dobson (School of Languages and Cultures)

The doctoral project will constitute an independent piece of research on a topic related to the overall project. The student will be able to use evidence and electronic resources generated by the project; attend project meetings, workshops and conferences; benefit from working closely with the investigators and Research Associates; and be given the opportunity to co-write publications. Nonetheless, in consultation with the supervisors, s/he will be given the latitude to shape their own direction of research.

The student will have access to the established archival practices and support of the National Fairground Archive and the multidisciplinary network of Medical Humanities Sheffield. Training available through the Doctoral Academy, Doctoral Development Programme provision and Faculty postgraduate networks is further supported by a dynamic postgraduate and research community.


Informal enquiries can be directed to Dr Julia Dobson (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)) and Professor Mary Vincent (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)).

Course Web site at University of Sheffield