Mudlarks and the Scale of Victorian Ecology

Spence, R. (2022) Mudlarks and the Scale of Victorian Ecology. Victorian Studies, 64 (2). pp. 187-213. ISSN 0042-5222

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This essay focuses on a range of ethnographic accounts of mudlarks, communities of nineteenth-century scavengers who would scour the Thames foreshore for scraps to sell. I read the metonymic relationality between mudlarks and their littoral dwelling as an agitative mode of ecological economy, to claim that the mudlark’s littoral economy effectively elides the scalar domains of society, capital, and ecology during the period. The essay traces how the mudlark’s multiscalar blending carries over to ethnographers’ rhetorical strategies, which are inflected by the overlapping discourses of natural history, evolutionary theory, and ecology. Finally, I turn to how ethnographers record the mudlark as an amphibious figure, and gesture to how this perceived amphibiousness registers the mudlark as a temporally significant link between the nineteenth century and deep geological and evolutionary timescales.

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Journal Article
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Victorian Studies
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23 Sep 2022 15:10
Last Modified:
01 Dec 2022 04:05