School of History, Classics and Archaeology

Stephanie Moat

Stephanie Moat

Assertive mimesis: a comparative approach to religious sculpture from the Roman provinces

Year started


Project outline

The religious statuary of the provinces is diverse, existing on a spectrum of those which wholly conform to Classical ideals of representation to those which radically diverge from it. Previously any statuary that diverged from the classical norms of representation was denigrated as the work of a poor artist - a failed attempt to emulate a Roman avatar. Following the post colonial turn in Roman archaeology however, it came to be argued that these divergences were deliberate and intentional, that some of these so called ‘low quality’ sculptures looked exactly as they were intended; that is, to do something different other than to be bound to and to conform to the Roman ideals of representation. Whilst a large body of work has subsequently been undertaken on the reception and transformation of classical art and religion in the Roman provinces, little of this work has considered the role of mimesis, and specifically the body of work on colonial mimesis undertaken by anthropologists such as Taussig, Stoller and Howey. Mimesis in this capacity is taken as ‘the faculty to copy, to imitate’ whereby ‘the making and existence of the artefact that portrays something gives one power over that which is portrayed’ (Taussig 1993: 13). Although some work on provincial mimesis is now appearing in the research of scholars such as Alicia Jimenez (2010), there is very little in the way of sustained case studies. Although chronically overlooked, an analysis of how mimesis operated in the production of provincial statuary can provide a unique insight into the ways in which the divine world was drawn into the complex processes of adoption and adaptation that typified colonial interactions. Drawing upon the body of anthropological work on mimesis, this thesis will develop a new framework through which to approach and analyse provincial religious sculpture, using Roman Britain and North Africa as case studies. Applying this model of analysis to provincial religious statuary will facilitate the development of radical new insights into the processes of identity formation and negotiation in the Roman provinces.

Funding awards

AHRC doctoral funding: September 2013- January 2016
AHRC MA funding: September 2010 –September 2011

Other roles

Teaching assistant for:

  • ARA2001: Archaeological Theory
  • ARA 1030: The Archaeology of Britain from the Romans to the 20th century