Today we take political activists’ spectacular public stunts for granted: how else to attract attention and change minds? But many of these techniques were pioneered a little more than a century ago by women campaigning for their rights, especially the vote. Making effective use of the first collective viewing experience – magic lantern slide performances – suffragettes in Perth and across the British empire shared their arguments and the ‘thrilling and humorous’ episodes of their sometimes militant campaign.
Professor Lydon’s research centres upon Australia’s colonial past and its legacies in the present. She is interested in the ways that popular and especially visual culture has shaped ideas and debates about race, identity and culture that persist today. In particular, she is concerned with the history of Australia’s engagement with anti-slavery, humanitarianism, and ultimately human rights.
She explores the social and political impact of emotions aroused by visual imagery, including their application in evoking antislavery discourse, in visualizing violence on the colonial frontier, and through magic lantern performances aiming to prompt social reform.