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Sarah Maria Schober joins the Vossius Center for two months in October 2022 as a Research Fellow with the project 'The Civet Cat. Producing Exotica in Early Modern Europe'.

About the project

The scent of the civet cat beguiled people in Africa, Asia, Europe, and America from the end of the Middle Ages until the 20th century. As a perfume of the elites, a bearer of economic hope and an unruly natural product, civet connected these regions in many ways. At the same time, the strong-smelling glandular secretion defied common categorisations: Civet was at once global, exotic, and local, natural as well as artificial, feminine as well as masculine, disgusting as well as attractive, mysterious as well as well-known, sensual as well as rational. Following the civet cat’s scent trail therefore allows for fundamental insights into early modern societies and their developments of interconnections and ruptures, which I am investigating in my current habilitation book project.

About the researcher

Sarah Maria Schober is Researcher and Lecturer for Early Modern History at the University of Zürich, Switzerland.

Currently, I am working on my postdoc project "The Civet Cat. Producing Exotica in Early Modern Europe and Beyond". I am following the civet cat - producer of a highly valued animal perfume - , its scent, discourse and visual representation, on its geographically, economically and culturally wide reaching travels and transformations from the 15th to the 19th century.

Other research interests include early modern societies in Western Africa and the Caribbean, early modern uses of disgust, skulls and gendered bodies as well as early anthropology and ideas of race.

My dissertation (published with Campus in 2019) "Gesellschaft im Exzess. Mediziner in Basel um 1600" deals with the social value of excess:
To understand the Basel physicians' practices of bonding, interaction and authorization, different "social sites" are analyzed. This involves the households of single physicians and patients, the baths in the region, anatomical events but also the protagonists’ letters and prints with their paratexts, dedications and handwritten marginal notes. I am arguing that it is through different kinds of excess that the actions of my protagonists were socially productive.