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I was an invited speaker at the one-day conference Gender, Sexuality and The Sensory, University of Kent, Canterbury, UK. My paper was called – Sociological Sewing: Sensory Encounters with Women’s Invention in the Archive.

About the event: With the turn to affect, the rise of various new materialisms and growing interest in the non- or more-than representational approaches, scholars across the humanities and social sciences have increasingly explored the significance of affect, atmosphere, mood and the sensory to the contemporary workings of social life and relations. This one-day symposium asks what significance explorations of the sensory have for contemporary analysis of gender, sex, sexuality and intersectionality and, in turn, how contemporary gender, feminist and queer theories can, and are, contributing to intellectual, practice-based, and activist engagements with the sensory. How, in other words, are gendered and sexualised embodiments, encounters and relations felt and sensed across different social, cultural and geo-political contexts and in what ways is the turn to the affective and the sensory gendered and sexualised?

It was hosted by Feminist Theory journal and the Gender, Sexuality and Culture and Visual and Sensory Research clusters in the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research, University of Kent.

This is the programme.

My abstract: The bicycle in late nineteenth century Britain is often celebrated as a vehicle of women’s liberation. Much less is known about another critical invention that enabled women to embrace public mobile life – cycle wear. This paper discusses ideas around gender, sexuality and the sensory through an archival project into the history of Victorian patenting, women inventors and radical new forms of cycle wear. My research focuses on how some inventive women creatively protested against restrictive ideas of how a female cyclist should act and move in public through their clothing, by patenting new designs that enabled their bodies to ‘fit’ both physically and ideologically with this new mobile technology. Struck by the absence of existing artefacts in museums, I collaborated with a pattern cutter, weaver, artist and filmmaker to combine archival research with the sewing of a collection of costumes inspired by the patents, complete with digitally printed silk linings illustrating our findings. Together we created multi-layered storytelling devices that I have been wearing and performing to show and tell stories of these inventive women. Throughout this paper I reflect on what emerges from sociological sewing, performing in research and thinking about garments as three-dimensional arguments.

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