I teach therefore I dress

Davenport, Emma (2017) I teach therefore I dress. In: Creative Bodies - Creative Minds, 26th - 27th March 2018, Graz, Austria. (Unpublished)


From a phenomenological perspective, clothes are never merely representational or functional but complex locales for a range of intentions, affiliations, ideals, subversions and practices. The practice of dressing, whether it be considered fashionable or not, is a potentially highly imaginative and creative process whereby what we wear becomes a liberating experience for both ourselves and others. As Entwistle (2000) suggests, dress and identity always operate on a situated body, located in time and space, where social, historical and cultural relations are ascribed to both getting dressed and being dressed. We consider both our persona and our physicality as individuals in relation to clothes in the present and experiences in the future.

With this in mind, my presentation seeks to explore the role of dress in the context of higher education and the creative ways academics embody their occupational practices and philosophies through their clothed bodies. It is often suggested that the role of the educator at university is mainly concerned with activities of the mind and their relationship with their body is always secondary, if not completely ignored. As a result, the clothed academic body is made to be invisible, both to itself and others, whether they are colleagues or students. Yet, they are those who believe dress practices are critical to the success of their pedagogical approaches and scholarly credibility. This paper will highlight these examples in an effort to draw attention to the inherently material and relational aspects of creative dressing practices, and to argue that clothes constitute a critical interface between ourselves and others, making them embody multiple meanings, open-ended explanations and complex social, cultural and political lives.

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