Event: Bodies: Flesh, Performance, Media, Disgust and Desire (June)

Date: June 21 2012
Venue: Birkbeck College, London

The body and the way it is represented is the focus of continuing debates about beauty, desire and disgust, respectability and reality. The mediation of bodies and the ways in which it is increasingly possible to refashion bodies through a range of technologies is a source of concern to many.

The body in a state of transformation or as a site of self-control is the focus of many popular texts. Some kinds of bodies have come under particular scrutiny; those of fashion and glamour models; porn performers, showgirls and burlesque dancers. Ideal and freakish bodies excite intense fascination. This seminar investigates presentations and representations of a range of bodies and examines how we might read them.

The seminar is free but places are limited and you do need to register in advance.

To do so please email Feona Attwood at f.attwood@shu.ac.uk by June 11 2012.


Meredith Jones: Sleeping Bodies: Enchantment, Failure and Passivity

Debra Ferreday: Queering the Burlesque Body

Alison J Carr: Tits, Teeth & Talent: The Showgirl’s Body and What She Can Do With It

Pamela Church-Gibson: The Porn Star as Fashion Icon

Niall Richardson: New Strategies of Enfreakment: C4’s ‘The Undateables’

Clarissa Smith: More than just meat: The body of the Porn Star

Lisa Downing: Safewording!: Cultural Disavowal of the Female ‘Pervert’ and the Reassuring Function of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’


Alison J Carr is currently writing up her practice-led Fine Art PhD at Sheffield Hallam University. She completed her MFA at the California Institute of the Arts in May 2009 and BA (Hons) Fine Art at Sheffield Hallam University in 2001. She is a strayed photographer at heart but now her practice takes a number of forms: photography, video, performance and writing. Her research; How do I look? investigates showgirls and her own modes of viewing showgirls, putting this into a wider critical context. Her approach involves watching lots of showgirl shows, from large-scale Parisian and Vegas spectacles, burlesque cabarets, and gentlemen’s clubs and interviewing showgirls of all kinds. She also thinks about glamour, agency, and what it means to be a theorist, an artist, a feminist, and a dilettante showgirl.

Pamela Church Gibson is Reader in Cultural and Historical Studies at London College of Fashion. Her research interests are film and fashion, history and heritage, gender and spectacle, and cities and consumption. She is the author of Fashion and Celebrity Culture (2011), the editor of the journal Film, Fashion and Consumption, and the President of the European Popular Culture Association. She is well known for her work in establishing sexually explicit media as an area of academic study and is the editor of Dirty Looks: Women, Pornography, Power (1993) and More Dirty Looks: Gender, Pornography and Power (2004).

Lisa Downing is Professor of French Discourses of Sexuality at the University of Exeter/University of Birmingham, UK, and a co-organizer of the interdisciplinary seminar series Critical Sexology. Her research interests include the history and theories of sexuality; the history and politics of sexual ‘perversion’; and gender, feminism and sexual subculture community-building in weblogs and other new media based interfaces produced by women. Her publications include Desiring the Dead: Necrophilia and Nineteenth Century French Literature (2003), (with Dany Nobus) Perversion: Psychoanalytic Perspectives/Perspectives on Psychoanalysis (2006), The Cambridge Introduction to Michel Foucault (2008), (with Libby Saxton) Film and Ethics: Foreclosed Encounters (2009), and (with Robert Gillett) Queer in Europe (2011).

Debra Ferreday is Lecturer in Media and Cultural Studies at Lancaster University. Her research interests lie in the following areas: digital culture and new media; feminist cultural theory; weight and eating disorders; sex work; affect; queer theory; fashion; celebrity; popular culture; somatechnics and theories of embodiment. Her publications include Online Belongings: Fantasy, Virtuality, Community (2009) and (with Adi Kuntsman) ‘Haunted Futurities’, a special issue of Borderlands journal (2011). Her forthcoming book is a cultural history of femininity at the turn of the millennium, focussing on fashion, celebrity and consumer culture.

Meredith Jones teaches media and cultural studies, with a focus on digital media, at the University of Technology Sydney. She has published extensively about bodies, gender, media and popular culture. She is best known for her work on cosmetic surgery and she is currently working on a large international project about cosmetic surgery tourism. Her publications include Skintight: An Anatomy of Cosmetic Surgery (2008) and (with Cressida Hayes) Cosmetic Surgery: A Feminist Primer (2009). In 2009 she co-founded the innovative Trunk Book collections, the first of which was HAIR. The next volume in the Trunk Book series will be BLOOD.

Niall Richardson is Lecturer in Film at the University of Sussex. His research interests are Queer Cinema; the body (especially the non normative and media ‘enfreakment’ strategies); and the representation of gender and sexuality in film and popular culture. His publications include The Queer Cinema of Derek Jarman (2008), Transgressive Bodies: Representations in Film and Popular Culture (2010) and (with Adam Locks) Critical Readings in Bodybuilding (2011).

Clarissa Smith is Reader in Sexual Cultures at the University of Sunderland. Her research focuses on the expanding sexual sphere for heterosexual women: its institutional practices, representational strategies, uses and meanings. She is leading a large-scale study of porn consumption with Martin Barker and Feona Attwood. Her publications include One for the Girls! The Pleasures and Practices of Pornography for Women (2007), and (with Michael Higgins and John Storey) Cambridge Companion to Contemporary British Culture (2010).


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