UK Face Equality Day – May 26

A reminder that this Friday, May 26, will mark the first Face Equality Day run by the charity Changing Faces, which advocates for people with facial difference. The aim of the day is to increase awareness of facial difference, and the importance  of treating people equally and fairly regardless of their appearances. There are many ways to get involved, and information on the Face Equality Day website.

As part of the day, Changing Faces will be releasing a major report, Disfigurement in the UK, based on their survey of over 800 people living with facial differences in the UK. We very much look forward to reading what is set to be a fascinating and important insight into current attitudes and experiences around facial difference.

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Do You Wanna Know How I Got These Scars?

Something for Monday Morning: a brilliant little subversion of the narratives of acquired facial disfigurement (and of course the famous line as delivered by Heath Ledger’s Joker, and his many conflicting stories of his scars’ origins) from The Awkward Yeti series by Nick Seluk.

Scars_Awkward Yeti

Copyright Nick Seluk, and spotted on The Awkward Yeti Twitter


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You Can’t Ask That: Facial Difference

In case you missed it, the ABC series You Can’t Ask That recently interviewed a number of people with facial differences about their experiences. The series has become highly acclaimed in Australia for giving a wide range of marginalised groups a voice, and this episode has been widely praised. Alas, I can’t find a legal means of watching it outside Oz, but Australian viewers can watch the whole episode on ABC iView. Those outside can see the preview here or below.

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Artist: Ashkan Honarvar

Because the face is so closely tied to identity, it regularly features in the work of artists looking to engage with this theme, including in relation to corporal fragility and the disruption of identity. One artist who uses collage and digital manipulation to regularly engage with these themes is Ashkan Honarvar, who was born in Iran, raised in the Netherlands, and now lives in Norway. In several series on Faces (1-8) from 2009, he worked in particular with manipulating photographs of WWI soldiers with facial wounds, including recreating wounds digitally using confectionery (Faces 5, below). Some of the images create further interruption to the face by digitally inserting technologies of war (Faces 6), while others carry echoes of the skin flaps used in the surgical procedures in their layering of skin and flesh from other faces (see Faces 1, below). Annabel Osberg sees in Honarvar’s work an overarching fascination with the manner in which, “Tragically vulnerable to injury yet resilient in its ability to heal, the body itself is a living paradox”, which the Faces series certainly engage with. You can read an interview with the artist here, and see the full group of Faces series on his website.


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Seeking Guest Bloggers

Are you or someone you know a postgraduate student or early career researcher working on facial difference, in any period? Are you interested in contributing to the Effaced from History blog? If so we would love to hear from you! Contact Emily Cock for more information.

Rowlandson_Odd Characters-1801_Met Museum image

Join the throng! (Image: ‘Odd Characters’ by Thomas Rowlandson, 1801, creative commons from the Met Museum).

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A Different Take on Staring

Is developmental prosopagnosia (DP) a disorder of face perception? This was the question posed by Dr Katie Fisher in a Psychology seminar at Swansea today. Dr Fisher’s research, conducted at Birkbeck, University of London’s Brain and Behaviour Lab explored both the perception and recognition of faces by people living with prosopagnosia or ‘face blindness’, whose severity can vary up to not recognising their own faces, let alone those of others.

Of particular interest for the Effaced project was the fact that the ‘atypical’ face – represented in Dr Fisher’s study by a scrambled assortment of facial features randomly arranged within the facial frame –  takes more processing time than a ‘prototypical’ face (what a refreshing change from the language of normal/abnormal here!). This was true of both the control group and the DP participants. But what was also fascinating was the possibility that the DP participants started with a different facial ‘template’, which meant they did not start their scrutiny of faces in the same fixed point (the eyes) as the control group, and thus did not process the faces they were looking at in the same way.

This begs the obvious question – if it is possible to look at a face differently, or imagine a different ‘template’, how would these participants have fared if confronted with really different faces, where the initial point of fixation might be precisely the most ‘atypical’? Would this aid recognition or would there be little difference in the processing?

Read more about Katie’s work in her co-authored article:

John Towler, Katie Fisher and Martin Elmer, ‘The cognitive and neural basis of developmental prosopagnosia’, The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology70.2 (2017), 316-344.

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‘neither nose nor eyne’

It’s fair to say that you encounter a lot of truly awful doggerel verse in early modern texts. But even bad poetry can be amusing: so, for some lighthearted weekend reading, please enjoy this 1577 poem from Timothy Kendall that is a fair warning to anyone who would be rude about the size of a prospective lover’s nose. A quick gloss is provided beneath.

A Wight whose name was Tyndar, would have kist a pretie lasse:
Her nose was long: (and Tyndar he a floutyng fellowe was.)
Wherefore unto her thus he saied, I can not kisse you, sweete:
Your nose stands out so farre, that sure our lippes can never meete.
The maiden nipt thus by the nose, straight blusht as red as fire:
And with his girde displeased, thus she spake to hym in ire.
Quoth she, if that my nose doe let your lippes from kissyng myne:
You there maie kisse me where that I, have neither nose nor eyne.

A man whose name was Tyndar, would have kissed a pretty lass:
Her nose was long, and Tyndar he a mocking fellow was.
Wherefore unto her thus he said, I cannot kiss you, sweet:
Your nose stands out so far that sure our lips can never meet.
The maiden thus chided about her nose, straight blushed as red as fire,
And with his sharp remark displeased, thus she spake to him in anger.
Quoth she, if that my nose do stop your lips from kissing mine:
You there may kiss me where that I have neither nose nor eye.

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