This interdisciplinary conference will examine the significance of pollution and cleanliness in the art, literature, philosophy, and material culture of the city of Rome from antiquity through to the twentieth century. Dirt, disease and pollution and the ways they are represented and policed have long been recognised by historians and anthropologists to occupy a central position in the formulation of cultural identity, and Rome holds a special status in the West as a city intimately associated with issues of purity, decay, ruin and renewal. In recent years, scholarship in a variety of disciplines has begun to scrutinise the less palatable features of the archaeology, history and society of Rome. This research has drawn attention to the city’s distinctive historical interest in the recognition, isolation and treatment of pollution, and the ways in which politicians, architects, writers and artists have exploited this as a vehicle for devising visions of purity and propriety.
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