Two Bodies, Two Selves, Two Sexes: Conjoined Twins and “the Double-Bodied Hindoo Boy”

Nadja Durbach

in Spectacle of Deformity

Published by University of California Press

Published in print October 2009 | ISBN: 9780520257689
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520944893 | DOI:
Two Bodies, Two Selves, Two Sexes: Conjoined Twins and “the Double-Bodied Hindoo Boy”

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At the same moment that “the Elephant Man” was admitted to the London Hospital in the summer of 1886, “Lalloo the Double-Bodied Hindoo Boy” began to exhibit himself across the United Kingdom. Lalloo was what was frequently referred to in the medical literature as a “double monstrosity,” the scientific term then used for what are now called conjoined twins. But rather than being attached to a fully grown brother, Lalloo had a much smaller sibling growing out of his chest. This chapter argues that as both a spectacular entertainment and a pathological exhibit, Lalloo's double body generated popular and professional debate about the boundary between the self and the other, and the distinction between male and female. However, his act also raised concerns about the sexual potential of a double-sexed body. Although they never explicitly addressed the sexual relationship between Lalloo and Lala, the promotional materials that accompanied the exhibition and the medical case reports that circulated in professional journals suggested that this body was intriguing because of the ways in which it exploited late Victorian anxieties about masturbation, incest, pedophilia, and child marriage.

Keywords: conjoined twins; freak show; double body; self; the other; double-sexed body

Chapter.  12381 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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