'Sextiles' - twelve critically-creative essays examining how textiles mobilise, mimic and masquerade sex...

Lead Research Organisation: University for the Creative Arts
Department Name: Epsom College


This project originally proposed 12 essays examining how textiles as thread, fabric, garment or artefact could mobilise, mimic and masquerade sex. Sex was configured in this context as both a series of practices and a range of anatomical expressions. In fact, shortly after the project began, Berg Publishers - who published my first book, 'Intersex', in 2007 - commissioned a book based on this research, and the essays have become 12 chapters for a forthcoming book titled 'Fabrics of Desire' to be published by Berg, Oxford, in 2009.

During the project's development, a number of texts have been published or accepted for publication. Most notable are a chapter for the University of Technology, Sydney's forth coming book titled 'Fashion in Fiction', and a 6000 word essay titled 'I found myself inside her fur' for a special 'Skin' issue of the international, peer-reviewed Textile: the Journal of Cloth and Culture, guest-edited by Caryn Simonson of Chelsea College of Art and Design.

This project has afforded me the possibility of formally aligning my range of research engagements as writer and textile practitioner and of making a significant, informed and original contribution to a field not yet fully explored.
The opportunity to publish this as a singular output, which is in book form, rather than in a disparate form, is especially important, and the book's format (80,000 words in 12 chapters) has allowed me to work with the relationships between individual chapters and the authorial voice used in each.
The project sought to examine distinct areas within which textiles and sex relate (for example, through 'gendered' garments; symbolic costume; meaningful fabrication; fetish restraint; body moderation; bed-linen; textile signification; seductive materiality; or anatomical mimicry). Each of the personally selected fields of enquiry have been examined using a Delusion methodology based on 'lateral proliferation' of text, and through scrutiny and interpretation of exhibited and archived visual / textile art and design practice; textile artefacts; textiles in literature and film; etc. Each text has been constructed idiosyncratically in relation to its own 'voice' based on content and structure. This is in keeping with my interest in creative / critical / performative / academic / reflective writing.

Dissemination has been via publication through national and international refereed journals within textile and visual culture, and through conference presentations and public lectures in Ireland, UK, Australia and the USA. Notably, the book commission (Berg) that has been secured based on this research, and consequently some of the research activity undertaken through AHRC support, will be publicly disseminated in that form in 2009.

This proposal was carefully defined in relation to both personal and external contexts and personal research aspirations. It has enabled me to maximise the potential of previous research outputs in textile practice and text in an innovative and substantial project, and has permitted on going contribution to my subject discipline of textile culture and practice.

Significantly, it has sharpened the specific focus of my research, and the project management experience gained has matured my approach to personal research management, articulation of research aims, and my understanding of what is achievable within particular time frames. During the project I made a very significant career change from Reader in Textiles in one institution to Head of the School of Architecture and Design at University of Brighton. This inevitably impacted on my rate of production within the project, and I have most importantly discovered a new mode of operation through the use of Research Assistants supported through this funding. This has provided a new method for my research and ensures that I can remain research active even within this new and demanding role, albeit with a somewhat shifted pace of production.


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Harper C (2015) Pecha Cucha: Lace in TEXTILE

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Harper C (2015) I Found Myself inside Her Fur in TEXTILE

Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
AH/E50891X/1 30/09/2006 31/03/2007 £16,192
AH/E50891X/2 Transfer AH/E50891X/1 31/03/2007 30/03/2008 £10,088