The Trousers and Research Methodology for Oppressive Design
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As clothing represents social, political, and performative values pertaining to gender, it is not surprising that they also serve as oppressive designed objects. One of the most significant symbols of gender power relations were the trousers that women were banned from wearing in the West as a daily fashion item until the second half of the 20th century. This article presents the history of trousers via a new research methodology for studying oppressive design. This methodology is built on Michel Foucault’s approach to genealogical research and Bruno Latour’s ideas about the social agency of objects. Just as Foucault revealed the history of norms, ideas, discourses, and values, which are abstract yet powerful entities, this methodology focuses on identifying the moment in which oppressive objects first entered into daily common use, becoming a new natural and oppressive ‘truth’ that shaped the worldview of its users. This approach builds on Latour’s argument that objects serve as mediating devices of values and discourses between individuals, and the idea that genealogical research concerning their use might expose their socio-historical function and powerful involvement in shaping and policing power relations over time.
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