An Entangled Empire: Dress, Reciprocal Construction, and the Experience of Kingship at Persepolis

Recorded: January 24, 2024
Event: Pourdavoud Lecture Series
Citation: McFerrin, Neville. "An Entangled Empire: Dress, Reciprocal Construction, and the Experience of Kingship at Persepolis," Pourdavoud Lecture Series (January 24, 2024).

by Neville McFerrin (University of North Texas)

In reliefs across Persepolis, the Achaemenid administrative center, depictions of mediated bodies offer insight into an imperial ideology that generates inclusion through categorical and material slippages. The crown of the king parallels the crenellations of the architecture that surround him even as such forms double the mountainous vista beyond the site. Rows of delegates carry dress related items to constitute their king even as their iterative forms recall both embroidered fabric borders and the unfurling impression of a cylinder seal. This talk focuses upon such entanglements to argue that dress, with its focus on body modification, supplementation, and communicative potentials, serves as a productive lens through which to re-consider the visual program of Persepolis. Rather than focusing upon associations between dress and regional identities, or upon questions of garment type and construction, it argues that the visual program of the site leverages the constitutive capacity of dress to present iterative, entangled relationships between king and subject, human and animal, animate and inanimate, presenting and complicating boundaries between these categories. It suggests that it is through such complications that the paradox of the Achaemenid endeavor, celebrating both the whole and its constituent parts, is negotiated.

About the Speaker

Neville McFerrin is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Art History at the University of North Texas. Her work centers upon intersections between dress, perception, materiality, and embodiment on the sites of Pompeii and Persepolis. Her published and forthcoming work explores a range of topics from reconsiderations of gender on the reliefs of the Apadana to spatial negotiations and embodied perceptions of court protocol and etiquette at Persepolis, to the fashionability of pearls in late first century BCE Pompeii. It has appeared in multiple journals and edited volumes, most recently The Routledge Handbook of the Senses in the Ancient Near East, Dress in Mediterranean Antiquity: Greeks, Romans, Jews, Christians, and Fashion Studies. She is currently working on a monograph focused upon dress as a lens for reinterpreting visual and material entanglements at Persepolis.