We are witnessing an increasing scholarly interest in the body as a focus of cultural texts and an intersection of discourses on fashion and beauty inspired by the work of feminist theory, art history, film criticism, cultural theory, and social theory. The body has increasingly featured as a site for grounding discourses of practice (management and care, presentation and adornment) as well as meaning (symbolic, semiotic and ideological) of a personal and collective kind. The body and its presentations constitute a dialectical cultural sign encoding simultaneously the material and the socially constructed, the personal (subjectivity) and the collective (identity), the visual and the conceptual.
Fashion and beauty constitute a central discourse about the body and its presentation. They provide a system that:
1) registers, defines and encodes meanings of practices and processes via concrete as well as symbolic objects.
2) crosses disciplinary boundaries of aesthetics (film, art and design), humanities (literature, history) social science (sociology, anthropology, material culture) and cultural studies (media, popular culture, consumer culture).
3) constitutes both a subject matter and a critical lens through which to read ideological components of cultural texts.
While always capturing the imagination of philosophers and thinkers from Carlyle to Loos, and from Veblen to Flügel, fashion and beauty have never quite occupied a mainstream space. Being branded trivial, superficial and feminine affairs they have only recently gained entry to the pantheon of social and academic respectability with the aid of thinkers such as Barthes, Baudrillard, Bourdieu and Lipovetsky.
The postmodern turn saw the rise of media, popular culture, material culture, women studies and cultural studies as disciplines for academic research; the topic of fashion and appearance found a natural home there. But it has also gained ground in established disciplines such as sociology, anthropology, psychology, history and literature, and of course it is in the specialised disciplines such as textiles and clothing, or art and design that fashion and beauty have carved a respectable niche.
There is a real need for a dedicated and truly interdisciplinary international journal which goes beyond ethnography, description and analysis to critique. What is needed is a venue for critical and creative engagement with fashion and beauty concepts and practices, which explores meanings, interrogates their ideological lining, and places them in a wider theoretical context.
The proposed journal will provide space for critical examination of the fashion system and the beauty system as systems of production, reproduction and representation of artifacts, social practices, visual or textual renditions of cloth, clothing and modes of personal appearance that acquire symbolic values in production, communication and use. It will focus on issues of power, social positioning, ideologies, discourses and practices within the web of relationships between creators and producers, communicators, practitioners and end-users of “fashion and beauty cultural goods”.
The journal seeks to segment the “fashion and beauty scholarship” market in a distinctive way that allows different subject matters (normally not accommodated within the remit of one journal) to feature as long as they adhere to the journal’s two distinctive focal points:
• In terms of approach: a focus on a critical analysis of the assumptions underlying the discourse of fashion and personal appearance in relation to systems of power (to include social relations between established (gender, class, ethnic group), transient (music or youth fashion tribes), or single issue groups). As such it can accommodate and incorporate new developments in the fashion practice and research (such as recent process emerging out of globalisation and economic recession).
• In terms of perspective: a focus on the fashion system and the beauty system as a collective process for the production, dissemination and use of cultural goods with symbolic meanings (to include object, image, and text (as in journalism, literature, history, film and art). “Fashion” here is broadly defined to include cloth and clothing: traditional, iconic, functional or fashionable, everyday or “occasion” dressing).
The journal welcomes the creative combination of theoretical approaches to exploring cultural products, practices and meanings, both conventional and original, and the use of a range of methods to collect evidence (from the literary and the historical to the sociological and anthropological; from the focus on samples to the privileging of paradigmatic cases) and to analyse the evidence (symbolic, semiotic, discursive, interpretive or statistical).
The journal invites 1-page abstract submissions on the following themes:
• technologies of identity
• ethical systems
• cultural discourse
• social control
• means of subjugation/empowerment
• local/global meaning systems
Submissions should be sent to the Editors (contact details are given on the journal's homepage).