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Susan Kaiser: Time, Fashion Theory, and Epistemology

Date and Time: 
Wednesday, February 9, 2022. 06:00 PM
Meeting Location: 
Zoom
Workshop: 
Reframing Fashion Studies: Performance, Gender, and the Body
Meeting Description: 

Dr. Susan Kaiser is Professor Emerita at UC Davis, having served in the Departments of Textiles; Design; and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies. She was a founding member of the Cultural Studies PhD Program and served as the Interim Dean of Humanities, Arts, and Cultural Studies from 2015 to 2018. Her research centers on the interplay between intersectional, feminist cultural studies, and fashion studies, with a current interest in theorizing time through fashion. She is the author of The Social Psychology of Clothing: Symbolic Appearances in Context (Fairchild 1997) and Fashion and Cultural Studies (Bloomsbury 2012; recently revised with Denise Green in 2021), and more than 100 journal articles and book chapters in the fields of textiles, clothing, and fashion studies; cultural studies; consumer cultures; sociology; and related fields. She is editor of the journal Critical Studies in Fashion & Beauty, published by Intellect, and a fellow and past president of the International Textile and Apparel Association.  

In Walter Benjamin’s unfinished work, The Arcades Project, he states "The eternal is in any case far more the ruffle on a dress than some idea." Multiple interpretations of this statement aside, it calls our attention to issues of epistemology in relation to time, fashion, and materiality. Aside from some notable exceptions, epistemological attention to time has largely remained an “elephant in the room” in fashion theory. However, fashion theory and practice have, often implicitly, used and critiqued temporal (together with spatial) epistemologies. Kaiser will draw on feminist and cultural studies perspectives to highlight how the study of fashion has offered a means not only to reinforce, but also to resist hegemonic, binary (e.g., Euromodern fashion versus “traditional” dress) and linear (e.g., clock, industrial) ways of thinking about time – toward diverse, non-binary and nonlinear models or metaphors. In the feminist spirit of “mixing metaphors,” to avoid pushing any single metaphor or model to its limits, Kaiser reviews the benefits and limits of each of the following non-binary and nonlinear epistemologies in relation to fashion studies: conceptions of a more sustainable, circular, or “slow” fiber-textile-fashion complex; adaptations of the “circuit of culture” in cultural studies for style-fashion-dress; and “uchronic” conceptions of time through fashion. Finally, Kaiser returns to Walter Benjamin’s use of the ruffle in relation to his concepts of materialism, “monadism,” and “the tiger’s leap into the past,” and suggest ways in which critical and interdisciplinary studies of fashion can foster epistemologies that bridge temporal and spatial, as well as material and symbolic modes of knowledge production.

Assistant Professor Emanuele Lugli (Stanford, Art & Art History) will offer a response.

This event will be held via Zoom. Please RSVP to receive Zoom link.>>

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