Dressing Up, Dressing Down! Situating Identities and Negotiating Otherness Through the Bodies of British Chinese Women

Denise Kwan

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Abstract:  This paper will examine the ways in which the practices of dressing and adornment are employed to manage the otherness experienced by second generation British Chinese women. In amongst the lack of social representation in the wider British imagination, the objects of dress and adornment chosen by the women enables them to negotiate their visibility. As such, the negotiation of power is not an abstracted struggle within the mind, rather I propose that the struggle of power manifests as a material strategy through dressing. Drawing on creative ethnographic fieldwork, the women narrate their experiences through materiality to create personal artworks, which offers an insight into the affective dimension of their personal embodiment. As a creative ethnographic methodology with a focus on material practices, this research demonstrates the enriched insights of such qualitative and experimental research methods to emphasise the significance of everyday actions and objects in the negotiation of power in the formation of ethnic women’s identities.

Keywords:  British Chinese; women; dressing; embodiment; arts-based ethnography; materiality; creative methodologies; visibility; identity.