We are delighted to announce a new studentship working on ‘Performing Bodies: Anatomical Display in the Twentieth-Century Fairground’

Applications are invited for one doctoral studentship commencing on 1 October 2015. This opportunity arises from University of Sheffield funding dedicated to developing its research resources, in this case the National Fairground Archive.

Application deadline: 12pm, Monday 11 May 2015
Interviews: interviews will take place in the week commencing 1 June 2015

Project description

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?

Studentship description

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.

Award Details

The award will cover the cost of UK/EU tuition fees and provides an annual maintenance grant at the standard RCUK rate (full-time rate £14,057 in 2015-16) for three years plus an annual Research Training Support Grant of £1,000 for expenses related to their research, such as travel, conferences, books, consumables and equipment. The studentship will commence on 1 October 2015.

To apply for the studentship, applicants need to apply directly to the University of Sheffield for entrance into the doctoral programme in History.

The general eligibility requirements are:

  • Applicants should normally have studied in a relevant field to a very good standard at MA level or equivalent experience.
  • Applicants should also have a 2.1 in a BA degree, or equivalent qualification, in a related discipline.
  • Awards are open to UK, EU and international applicants who are applying to study either full or part-time. Please note that only the UK/EU tuition fee rate is covered by the award.


How to apply

  • Complete an application for admission to the standard history PhD programme here.
  • Applications should include a research proposal; CV; academic writing sample; transcripts and two references.
  • The successful candidate will produce a thesis that responds to these issues in relation to the archive in a manner they devise. Your plan for this should be outlined in a research proposal of up to 1000 words, along with details of your interest, expertise and experience in a related field.
  • Supporting documents can either be uploaded to your application or sent by email or post to Miss Abby Brown, Department of History, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, S3 7RA. abby.brown@sheffield.ac.uk.


Informal enquiries can be directed to Dr Julia Dobson (j.dobson@sheffield.ac.uk) and Professor Mary Vincent (m.t.vincent@sheffield.ac.uk).