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Dr Stephanie Moat

Dr Stephanie Moat

Project title

Assertive Mimesis: A Comparative Approach to Religious Sculpture from the Roman Provinces


The ruins of Carthage, Tunisia.

Project description

The religious statuary of the provinces is diverse. It exists 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. It was seen as a failed attempt to emulate a Roman avatar.

After the post-colonial turn in Roman archaeology, an argument emerged that these divergences were deliberate and intentional. Some of the so-called ‘low quality’ sculptures looked exactly as intended. They were something different and not bound to or conforming to the Roman ideals of representation.

There is a large body of work on the reception and transformation of classical art and religion in the Roman provinces. But little of this work has considered the role of mimesis. Specifically, it ha not considered the work on colonial mimesis by anthropologists such as Taussig, Stoller and Howey. In this capacity, mimesis is ‘the faculty to copy, to imitate’ where ‘the making and existence of the artefact that portrays something gives one power over that which is portrayed’ (Taussig 1993).

Some work on provincial mimesis is now appearing in the research of scholars such as Alicia Jimenez (2010). But there is very little in the way of sustained case studies. An analysis of how mimesis operated in the production of provincial statuary has been chronically overlooked. But it can provide a unique insight into how the divine world was drawn into the complex processes of adoption and adaptation that typified colonial interactions.

In my thesis, I will draw upon the body of anthropological work on mimesis. I will develop a new framework through which to approach and analyse provincial religious sculpture. To do this, I am using Roman Britain and North Africa as case studies. Applying this model of analysis to provincial religious statuary will provide 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