Discussing Transatlantic Imperial Ecologies and the Legacy of Empire

4 November 2021

The impact of colonialism and empire on English culture will be examined in a talk hosted at Trinity as part of the Being Human festival of the humanities.

How do you read a feather? How did tobacco, a plant cultivated by Indigenous peoples in the Americas, end up in the playhouses of Shakespeare's London? How were transatlantic objects altered or incorporated into ‘new’ worlds? Co-organised by Trinity Junior Research Fellow Lucy Powell, ‘The Art of Looking: Imperial Ecologies’ will be a discussion between Dr Powell alongside historian Lauren Working and Stephanie Pratt, independent scholar and a cultural ambassador to the Crow Creek Dakota Nation.

Plants and animals from the Americas have reconfigured cultures across the world for over four centuries – from parrots to chili plants, and the event will examine objects that crossed the Atlantic in the early modern period, illuminating their place in everything from still life paintings to botanic gardens to the writings of the seventeenth-century playwright Aphra Behn.

Lucy Powell says of the event: 'We're delighted to be participating in Being Human, the National Festival of the Humanities, with this event exploring the trans-Atlantic trade of feathers and tobacco in the early modern period. The theme of the festival is 'renewal', and early modernist Lauren Working, art historian and first cultural ambassador for the Crow Creek Dakota Nation, Stephanie Pratt and myself have all been struck by the myriad ways in which collaboration is itself an act of renewal. In examining very old trade networks, together, we have renewed our ideas about transculturality, early modern identity and scholarship, forging new, interdisciplinary interpretations of iconic images and texts. This event is supported by TIDE, the AHRC and the Leverhulme Trust, and we are extremely grateful for their support.' 

The event is part of the Being Human festival, which celebrates humanities research through public engagement.