Posted by: Kirsty | April 1, 2009

Typecasting: On the Arts and Sciences of Human Inequality

As regular readers will know, I’m back in the land of essay-slog. It feels like every other day I’m going to and fro the library, ferrying piles of books hither and thither. However, in the search for a copy of one particular book, which my university’s bibliographic database told me contained a chapter that would be useful for my work, I kept coming up with a blank. My university library didn’t hold it. The main University of London library didn’t hold it. I couldn’t find it on the Bodleian’s online catalogue, though I’m 99.9% sure that would have been down to my inexpert searching rather than that particular library not holding it. The only place I could find it was the British Library, which I recently got a readers’ card for. But working full time and studying for a Masters does limit one’s time somewhat, and I couldn’t immediately find a date when I could afford to spend a day in there.

How much did I really need this book? I decided to have a hunt about the interwebs for more information on it, to judge whether it would be worth my while taking a day off work to go to the BL, or whether I could easily write a good essay without this particular chapter. I eventually tracked it down to the publisher’s website… and it looks amazing. So amazing, in fact, that I bought my own copy because I just know that I’m going to want to read the whole thing when I have the chance. Behold, ladies and gents, Typecasting: On the Arts and Sciences of Human Inequality by Ewen & Ewen. Sayeth the blurb:

Typecasting chronicles the emergence of the “science of first impression” and reveals how the work of its creators—early social scientists—continues to shape how we see the world and to inform our most fundamental and unconscious judgments of beauty, humanity, and degeneracy. In this groundbreaking exploration of the growth of stereotyping amidst the rise of modern society, authors Ewen & Ewen demonstrate “typecasting” as a persistent cultural practice. Drawing on fields as diverse as history, pop culture, racial science, and film, and including over one hundred images, many published here for the first time, the authors present a vivid portrait of stereotyping as it was forged by colonialism, industrialization, mass media, urban life, and the global economy.

I think that sounds absolutely fascinating. And on top of that, the book itself looks absolutely gorgeous (and how often can you say that about a serious, academic book?). See?


Now, we do have the feminist-unfriendly image of a woman swooning bare-chestedly. However, the book itself is about stereotyping and inequality, and I think it will address the uses of these types of images so I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt until I’ve read the thing. But the book is beautifully produced: a nice chunky, sturdy paperback, square-shaped, and the cover’s artistic theme continues onto the side and the back cover. Here’s a home-shot:


Of course, I’ll give you a full run-down of what really matters – what the book actually says – as soon as I’ve read it, but for now it’s a book that I just like holding. It feels nice. Is that weird?

There is also a blog that accompanies the book. Go lookee.



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