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Discovering Fashion in China

Date and Time: 
Wednesday, October 21, 2020. 05:00 PM
Meeting Location: 
Zoom
Workshop: 
Reframing Fashion Studies: Performance, Gender, and the Body
Meeting Description: 

This talk explores the longstanding discourse, produced by European writers since the late eighteenth century, that insisted on China’s lack of fashion. Until well into the twentieth century, these earlier eyewitness accounts continued to serve as indispensable proof for arguments made by Euro-American scholars and writers about the inertia of Chinese society and culture. Focusing on how the perception of change and its representation—like the phenomenon of fashion itself—was also a historically and culturally embedded practice, this talk reflects on the limitations of positivist approaches that have been foundational to fashion studies.

BuYun Chen is associate professor of history at Swarthmore College. She is the author of Empire of Style: Silk and Fashion in Tang China (University of Washington Press, 2019). Her current research explores the relationship between craft technology, trade, and ecology in the Ryukyu Islands, between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries.

Rachel Silberstein is a historian of visual/material culture and gender in early modern China, with a particular interest in fashion and textile handicrafts. She earned a PhD in Oriental studies from the University of Oxford (2014). Previously ACLS / Henry Luce Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow, she is currently a visiting assistant professor at the University of Puget Sound. Her book, A Fashionable Century: Textile Artistry and Commerce in the Late Qing, was published in June 2020, with the University of Washington Press, and investigates how textile handicraft commercialization transformed women’s engagement with fashion during the mid-late Qing period. She has also published research on Qing fashion in the journals Fashion Theory, Costume, and Late Imperial China.

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