Conference announcement - Modern Bodies: Dress, Nation, Empire, and Gender in the Modern Middle East

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Apologies for cross-posting

Lebanese American University, Beirut: Thursday 15 March 2018

Convened by Reina Lewis, London College of Fashion, UAL, and Yasmine Nachabe Taan, Lebanese American University, this one day conference will be held at LAU, Irwin Auditorium, Beirut campus.

Working from a position of multiple modernities, multiple imperialisms, and in recognition of the diversity of regional experiences of postcoloniality, this conference examines the role of the dressed, and undressed, body in the formation, staging, and interrogation of the modern Middle East. Ranging from the role of the displayed elite body in campaigns for gender and social emancipation in Ottoman imperial cultures through to accounts of dress in the lives of early nationalist women and men, papers also investigate the use of legal frameworks by those who seek to control or resist the movement of women’s bodies. Combining approaches from cultural, social, and economic history with the history of art and photography and visual culture, the conference evaluates the role of material culture, representation, and curation in the telling of women’s and gender history and histories of sexuality. Bringing forward new primary material and re-investigating extant sources from new perspectives, the Modern Bodies provides an opportunity to reflect on the role of the archive, collecting, and display in the imaging of the Middle East.

With a periodisation focused on the late nineteenth to mid twentieth century, the conference provides a valuable lens through which to evaluate the critical role of the dressed gendered body in contemporary struggles over nation, modernity, and postmodernity.


Beth Baron, City University of New York: “Dressed and Undressed Bodies in Colonial and Semi-Colonial Egypt: Modernity, Medicine, and Disease”

Reina Lewis, London College of Fashion: “Visibilising the Modern Body in Harem Literature”

Nancy Micklewright, Freer|Sackler, Smithsonian: “Fashion and the Camera: Istanbul in the Late Ottoman Empire”

Yasmine Nachabe Taan, Lebanese American University: “The Arab Garçonne”

Afsaneh Najmabadi, Harvard University: “The Photograph, the Dress, and the Conjugalisation of the Family”

Mary Roberts, University of Sydney: “Sartorial Space: Metaphors of Modernity in Ottoman and Orientalist Visual Culture”

Kirsten Scheid, American University of Beirut: “The Nudism Movement: Learning to Look at/as Nudes”

Stephen Sheehi, College of William and Mary: “To Dress Like a Dream”

Tina Sherwell, Birzeit University: “Tracing Threads: the Thob and the Kufiyeeh”

Colleagues are warmly invited to attend. There is no fee for the conference, but prior registration is essential. Further details and registration is available here: