Camouflage is not the exclusive domain of animals. Humans also practice it, in hunting, war and fashion, social behaviour, and the arts. It is not restricted to artefacts; it also occurs in social behaviour, when people disguise their social status, desires, or motives behind appearances they judge to be more acceptable or effective. The shared domain of animal and human camouflage and mimicry raises many psychological, cultural, behavioural, and evolutionary questions about the relations between such animal and human behaviour, but it also offers new ways of thinking about the relations between human and other animals, the evolutionary origins of cognition, image-making, and empathy, and new departures for a dialogue between the humanities and life sciences. In this network we will bring together zoologists, cognitive scientists, as well as specialists of art, costume, gardens, the hunt, and the theatre, to discuss how camouflage and mimicry shape animal and human behaviour and artefacts, and how an understanding of this shared domain can help rethinking the relations between human and other animals. We hope that this network will also provide a major impulse to the rethinking of a radical gap between animals and humans that takes place in philosophy as well as in ethology for instance.

This network will consist of regular fortnightly lectures, on Mondays from 17:00 – 19:00, offered over Zoom and in person, from speakers based in and out of Cambridge offering different perspectives on camouflage.

Supported by CRASSH



  • Caroline van Eck (Professor of Art History, Department of Art History)
  • Ulinka Rublack (Professor of Early Modern European History, Faculty of History)

About de convenors

Professor Caroline van Eck studied art history at the Ecole du Louvre in Paris, and classics and philosophy at Leiden University. She obtained her PhD in aesthetics (cum laude) at the University of Amsterdam. She has taught at the Universities of Amsterdam, Groningen and Leiden, where she was appointed Professor of Art and Architectural History in 2006. She has been a Visiting Fellow at the Warburg Institute and the Paul Mellon Centre for British Art at Yale University, and a Visiting Professor in Ghent, Yale and York. In September 2016 she took up her appointment as Professor of Art History at Cambridge, and in 2017 she gave the Slade Lectures in Oxford on Piranesi’s late candelabra: ‘The Material Presence of Absent Antiquities: Collecting Excessive Objects and the Revival of the Past’.
Her main research interests are art and architectural history and theory of the eighteenth century and early nineteenth century; classical reception; the anthropology of art; Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Gottfried Semper and Aby Warburg.

Professor Ulinka Rublack  completed her PhD in Cambridge under the supervision of the late R.W. Scribner, was offered a lectureship at Cambridge University in 1996 and has taught at the History Faculty and St John´s College ever since. Her books are translated into six languages, including Arabic and Chinese, and have been awarded prestigious international prizes. A particular focus of her work is the history of art and of dress. Her book Dressing UP: Cultural Identity in Renaissance Europe was published by OUP in 2010, and she has recently published Dürer´s Lost Masterpiece: Art and Society at the Dawn of a Global World, also with OUP.  Rublack is currently writing a global history of dress practices.

Faculty advisors

  • Alyce Mahon (Head of the Department of Art History, University of Cambridge)
  • Mary Laven (Professor in Early Moden History, Chair of the Faculty of History, University of Cambridge)

Programme 2023 - 2024

Michaelmas term 2023

Camouflage in nature and the arts
16 Oct 2023 17:00 - 19:00, Seminar room SG2, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, CB3 9DT

Peter Forbes (London), Caroline van Eck (Cambridge)

Camouflage and theatricality
30 Oct 2023 17:00 - 19:00, Seminar room SG2, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, CB3 9DT

Bridget Orr (Vanderbilt), Bram van Oostveldt (Ghent)

Camouflage and fashion
13 Nov 2023 17:00 - 19:00, Seminar room SG2, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, CB3 9DT

Barbara Vinken (München), Camilla Annerfeldt (Swedish Institute)

Cross-cultural camouflage
27 Nov 2023 17:00 - 19:00, Seminar room SG2, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, CB3 9DT

Jonathan Lamb (Vanderbilt), Nicholas Thomas (Cambridge)

Lent term 2024

Easter term 2024


Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk