Symposium: FACE OFF

The POP team are presenting a paper at the upcoming online symposium FACE OFF hosted by the Manchester Fashion Institute on 13 – 14 January 2021 to explore the agency of face masks and head coverings across different chronologies, cultures and geographies.

FACE OFF brings together an international group of academics, artists, curators and fashion practitioners to reflect on the longstanding physical and psychological importance that face masks and head coverings have for many of the world’s cultures

The full programme is here.

Our abstract:

From the Plague Proboscis to Pandemic PPE: Unmasking the inventive socio-histories of face coverings

Few of us gave much attention to personal protective equipment – PPE – a year ago. Now, in the wake of a pandemic, it’s central to global news, political debates and everyday practice. Yet, face coverings are far from new. From 17thcenturyplague masks to today’s pandemic PPE, there are a plethora of ways people have protected themselves and others from ever-changing threats. Patent archives provide a surprisingly rich record ofinventive individuals takingproblems into their own hands (and faces). Yet despite this long and varied global history,not everyone is, or has ever been, equally protected.

This paper explores 200years of face coverings in the European patent archive in the Politics of Patents project. Clothing patents are fascinating data because, in the process of outliningproblems and proposing solutions, they reveal how different discourses of risk, identity and belonging have been debated, imagined and materialized onto bodies over time. Wemap inventions against each other, across time, space and socio-political happenings to ask: Who gets protected? How and why do some bodies get more protection than others? Do these disparities map onto other forms of invisibility, inequality and injustice? Does this produce (or reinforce) different kinds of political subjectivity? 

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