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Shehnaz Suterwalla

PhD Work

Title of Dissertation: From Punk to the Hijab: British Women's Embodied Dress as Performative Resistance, 1970s to the Present

The thesis investigates how British women since the 1970s have used dress to resist dominant ideals of femininity and womanhood. The research is based on oral interviews with women in four case studies: punks in the 1970s, women who lived at Greenham Common Peace Camp in the 1980s, black women in hip-hop in the 1980s and 1990s, and Muslim women in the hijab since 2001. The case studies are deliberately disparate, but they have been chosen because each one represents an important turn in British gendered identity politics of the last forty years, since punk style was interpreted by subcultural theory as resistance. This is a post-postmodern interdisciplinary investigation that analyses techniques of collage, bricolage, mixing and sampling within women’s lived experience. In particular I theorise the agentive action of each group’s style, which I define as the punk ‘cut’, the Greenham Common ‘layer’, the hip hop ‘break’ and the ‘fold’ of the hijab, as embodied. My emphasis is on the analytics of construction as displays that reveal the structures behind the fashioning of gender and identity, and I explore how these create new temporal and spatial subjective positions. The study throws into crisis any essentialist ideas about the body, gender, a fashion object or the fashion system and its ideals to question the performativity of identity and history. It pushes at the boundaries of conventional design and fashion history scholarship in its exploration of embodied style as intertextual, shifting and mutating.

Info

  • Shehnaz Suterwalla
  • PhD

    School

    School of Humanities

    Programme

    History of Design, 2008–2013

  • Title of Dissertation: From Punk to the Hijab: British Women's Embodied Dress as Performative Resistance, 1970s to the Present

    The thesis investigates how British women since the 1970s have used dress to resist dominant ideals of femininity and womanhood. The research is based on oral interviews with women in four case studies: punks in the 1970s, women who lived at Greenham Common Peace Camp in the 1980s, black women in hip-hop in the 1980s and 1990s, and Muslim women in the hijab since 2001. The case studies are deliberately disparate, but they have been chosen because each one represents an important turn in British gendered identity politics of the last forty years, since punk style was interpreted by subcultural theory as resistance. This is a post-postmodern interdisciplinary investigation that analyses techniques of collage, bricolage, mixing and sampling within women’s lived experience. In particular I theorise the agentive action of each group’s style, which I define as the punk ‘cut’, the Greenham Common ‘layer’, the hip hop ‘break’ and the ‘fold’ of the hijab, as embodied. My emphasis is on the analytics of construction as displays that reveal the structures behind the fashioning of gender and identity, and I explore how these create new temporal and spatial subjective positions. The study throws into crisis any essentialist ideas about the body, gender, a fashion object or the fashion system and its ideals to question the performativity of identity and history. It pushes at the boundaries of conventional design and fashion history scholarship in its exploration of embodied style as intertextual, shifting and mutating.

  • Degrees

  • MA, History of International Relations, London School of Economics and Political Science, 2000
  • Experience

  • Journalist, Newsweek International, London, 1997–2000; Deputy editor, Economist.com, The Economist, London, 2000–3
  • Conferences

  • '1980s British Hip-Hop Street-style and its Postmodern Legacy', Postmodernism Symposium, Victoria & Albert Museum, 2011; 'From Punk to the Hijab: Women’s voices on dress', Oral History Society, Victoria & Albert Museum, 2010
  • Publications

  • Global Design History, Glenn Adamson, Giorgio Riello and Sarah Teasley, Routledge, 2011; Oral History in the Visual Arts, Matthew Partington and Linda Sandino, Bloomsbury, 2013