Dress & disability : identifications and interpretations

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NO FULL TEXT AVAILABLE. This thesis contains 3rd party copyright material. ----- A body of disability-determined dress scholarship has not emerged to date. This thesis establishes the benefit of introducing critical disability insight to dress research and explores the effect of this introduction on three particular aspects of dress-based knowledge. 'Disability' is examined as a historically-mediated, externally-determined concept that has framed our relationships with dress, past and present. These relationships have, in turn, modulated cultural understandings regarding human difference. Disability operates as a concept that defies attempts at straightforward inclusion into dress research as a so-far overlooked critical category of identity analysis. Rather, as complex and common sets of shifting human experience, 'disability' contributes directly and indirectly to socio-cultural understandings of dress. New theoretical insights are provided around dress concepts already generated in response to human difference, such as size and fit. Normatively disassociated from concepts of beauty, disability is also revisited for its deeper aesthetic implications. Beauty might normatively be considered synonymous with ability, yet many of the multiple, experiential and material perspectives generated by disability disrupt this uncritical presumption, with important social implications. Case study analyses are made of a wide range of visual, textual and material sources drawn from both historical and contemporary archives, literature and legal studies, contemporary media and art practices. Insight and analogy are gleaned from queer scholarship. Queer theory resonates with the aims of this thesis to reinstate respect for difference and to destabilize discriminatory ideals which underestimate the extent of this fertile cross-disciplinary arena. The strongly staged visual aspect of this thesis is deliberate, in order to counter the largely absent state of conceptually sound understandings of disability in the visual economies of 'Minority World' cultures. Critical disability thinking is used to reframe research parameters established in relation to dress, bringing a new theoretical accountability to this area of scholarship and the applied practices this scholarship informs.
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