Critical Theory Emphasis Presents Guest Lecture

Dr. Swantje Martach

"Not Clothes But Clothing:
A New Materialism/Material Culture Approach"

December 4th, 2023 at 12pm -- via ZOOM
Link will be posted closer to event.

"Not Clothes But Clothing: A New Materialism/Material Culture Approach"

"Identities cannot account for clothes. What is a pullover knotted around one’s shoulder? Does it remain a ‘pull-over’, or does it become a scarf? Is a belt still a belt accentuating one’s waist on a dress? And what does a chic skirt turn into when combined with a simple tee? What clothes afford, so I claim, rather is an a) dynamic, b) relational, and c) realist approach. For so elaborating, I propose the concept ‘clothing’: the gerund intended to capture clothes’ becoming differently in distinct relations (clothes/human, but also clothes/clothes). And in order to elaborate such, which I did during my PhD in philosophy at the Autonomous University of Barcelona/London College of Fashion, I actively resisted the dualism of philosophy versus anthropology (seen as impassable e.g. by Daniel Miller), and constructed a methodological scaffold queering New Materialism and Material Culture Studies, which I regard as neighboring schools, manifesting since 1990s material turn.

In my work on the clothing, I concretely combine these two schools, because Material Culture owns a body of literature on daily dress, which New Materialism still lacks, but which is of highest value for a New Materialism that finally aspires to engage with such everyday topics as the clothing. Vice versa, engaging with material cultural works done on dress in a new materialist manner reveals that the latter remain dealing with clothes as means for human (social) ends, despite the schools’ shared aspiration to overcome both hierarchy and dualism of human/thing.
What is more, it becomes evident that instead of confronting dualisms (human/thing, material/cultural), Material Culture rather confronts a trialism: material/cultural/social. I thus propose to rotate Material Culture’s triangle, viz. to move from investigating the material and cultural as routes to the social; to investigating the material and social as radiating from culture. In so doing, Material Culture (or even ‘Material/Social Culture’?) would not only live up to its grammatical structure, but produce another value it could trade with philosophy: a conception of ‘culture’ as human/thing entanglement, of which the clothing is but one."

S. Martach CTE F23 talk

Swantje Martach received her PhD in philosophy from the Autonomous University of Barcelona/University of the Arts London, where she dedicated herself to a new materialist/material cultural investigation of the daily human/clothes relation, which brought her to ontologically work past the category of “clothes“. 
She initiated her post-doc at the Institute for Aesthetics at the University of Presov in Slovakia with a realist approach to beauty, is an editorial member of the Slovak journal for aesthetics ESPES and the German journal for image theory IMAGE, and recently got involved in the book series Entkunstung and Atlas of Databodies.