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6 Colonial Bodies: Collecting the Exotic Other

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Chapter Summary

One of the most iconic preparations from the eighteenth-century Leiden anatomical collections is a male foetus of about five months old, wearing strings of black-blue and white beads around its neck, waist, wrists, and ankles. This chapter addresses some of the following questions: where are they from, and how did they end up in these collections? Did aesthesis play a part in their creation, and why are preparations like these not found in other, similar collections from the same period? The preparations are described in a theoretical and historical context: the role of aesthesis and commodification in the creation and acquisition of these kinds of objects. The babies and their beads are described, and the leads from that close description trace external evidence as to their origins and histories. Based on this, possible makers and circulations are suggested. Finally, a reinterpretation of the meaning of these curious preparations is provided.

Keywords: acquisition of indigenous knowledge; aesthesis; beaded babies; commodification; creation; eighteenth-century Leiden anatomical collections; male foetus



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