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Southampton Institute for Arts and Humanities

What does it mean to be well?

Self Portrait

Theme lead: Dr Shelley Cobb

SIAH seeks to critically examine the relationship between 'wellbeing' and culture. We are interested in interrogating what it means to use data for measuring and achieving social outcomes in relation to 'wellness' by reimagining data as storytelling, as aesthetics and as representation in culture and cultural production.

Current SIAH projects

‘No disagreeable Figure in Petticoats’: Men, Mollies and Cross-Dressing in England c.1690-1750’

Lead researchers: Professor Maria Hayward and Dr Julie Gammon

This project examines the lived experiences of men who dressed as women in early eighteenth-century England. These Mollies, who frequented the relative ‘safe-space’ of the Molly Houses for entertainment, companionship, sexual relations and love, attracted considerable contemporary comment, both curious and hostile, particularly as a result of the raids initiated by the Society for the Reformation of Manners. The choice of physical appearance of some eighteenth-century Mollies, characterised by female fashions, hairstyles, make up and accessories speaks to key social and cultural questions in British society, then and now, and will advance of our knowledge and understanding in relation to wider debates surrounding gender and sexual identities, and trans-histories, and material cultures.

Our research will identify what items of female clothing Mollies were depicted as wearing and how these related to contemporary fashions for both men and women. We are researching where this clothing was acquired through locating those who produced the clothing suitable for male bodies, to considering how certain garments could be shared, loaned or rented. Finally, we are examining how men wore female clothing, the practicalities of adjusting garments to fit male frames and what adaptations needed to be made.

We are combining archival research, object-based research and recreation and wearing of historic dress (‘experimental history’) to discover what Mollies wore and how they acquired this female clothing to establish how Mollies engaged with female dress to project their identities.

Recent SIAH projects

Pandemics: Covid, Obesity and Poverty in Public Health and Government Communications 

Lead Researchers: Dr Yasmin Sekhon and Dr Valentina Cardo

Focusing on lower socio-demographic communities this project aims to better understand the impact of people’s environment (personal and social) as well as the ways in which public health and government directed media messages impact decision-making within these communities.

Inclusive Smart Textile Design for Healthy Ageing

Lead Researchers: Dr Yuanyuan Yin and Dr Kai Yang

The population of the world is ageing. In the UK, 4.02 million older people live alone which accounts for 6% of the UK population.  

Studies have highlighted these people are more likely to attend accident and emergency, visit their GPs, have multiple long-term conditions, and develop mental health problems. 

Therefore, this project aims to explore the unmet healthcare needs of aged 65+ people who live alone. It will identify challenges that they face and develop inclusive smart textiles design insights to address their needs.

Socialist Herbalism – Practices of Care for Feminist and Queer Futures

Lead Researcher: Dr Miha Brebenel

The project engages with contemporary feminist and queer questions of care, healing and the ‘more-than-human’ dimensions within community practices. 

It extends Dr Brebenel’s previous critical research on post communism and artistic practice from former socialist Eastern Europe and the Baltic region, by focusing on examples of healing and care.

It investigates historical Socialist visions of the environment, science, and the use of alternative medicines and sets these in conversation with recent global queer and feminist practices of care, which revive herbalism as a community practice.  

It further positions itself within a larger conversation in critical posthumanist studies and more specifically, within a section of this discourse, that of plant studies.  

Children and young people’s telephone use and telephone cultures in Britain c. 1984-1999

Lead Researcher: Dr Eve Colpus

This research project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, is a collaboration between Dr Eve Colpus, BT Heritage & Archives and the John Hansard Gallery to tell a new history of young people as telephone users.  

The shift in young people’s use of telephones from one-to-one voice communication to written and visual communication through texting and engagement with social media represents a pivotal cultural development.

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