Lycra

How A Fiber Shaped America

By Kaori O'Connor

© 2011 – Routledge

178 pages

Purchasing Options:
Paperback: 9780415804370
pub: 2011-02-01
US Dollars$34.95
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Hardback: 9780415804363
pub: 2011-01-31
US Dollars$130.00
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e–Inspection Copy Companion Website

About the Book

"The Anthropology of Stuff" is part of a new Series dedicated to innovative, unconventional ways to connect undergraduate students and their lived concerns about our social world to the power of social science ideas and evidence. Our goal with the project is to help spark social science imaginations and in doing so, new avenues for meaningful thought and action. Each "Stuff" title is a short (100 page) "mini text" illuminating for students the network of people and activities that create their material world.

Lycra describes the development of a specific fabric, but in the process provides students with rare insights into U.S. corporate history, the changing image of women in America, and how a seemingly doomed product came to occupy a position never imagined by its inventors and contained in the wardrobe of virtually every American. And it will generate lively discussion of the story of the relationship between technology, science and society over the past half a century.

Reviews

"[O'Connor] offers an intriguing, well-written study about the development of Lycra….This well-researched study draws on insights derived from ethnographic and archival evidence to describe the complex history of this specific fiber, including technology, science, corporate history, and branding and marketing strategies employed to make Lycra a successful product found in many garments. Readers interested in women's studies will appreciate the connection between this popular fiber and the changing view of women in America, including issues of gender, sexuality, aging, identity, and body image. This fascinating work will appeal to a wide range of interests as it touches on the dynamics between mass-produced commodities and the political, economic, and cultural factors that drive the production and consumption of 'stuff.' Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduate through professional readers."CHOICE, C. B. Cannon, Savannah College of Art and Design, USA

Table of Contents

1. Lycra, the Ethnographic Moment and the Anthropology of Stuff 2. Dupont: Culture, Kinship and Myth 3. Dupont’s Family of Fibers and the Birth of Lycra 4. Launching Lycra 5. Lycra, Aerobics and the Rise of the Legging 6. Another Ethnographic Moment

About the Author

Kaori O’Connor is a Research Fellow in the Department of Anthropology, University College London (UCL) in the United Kingdom. She holds four degrees in anthropology, worked on Vogue magazine, was the founding editor of the Fashion Guide to London, has written several books on fashion and shopping, designed hand knitwear and originated and presented fashion and lifestyle features for television, radio and national newspapers. She also works on the anthropology of food, for which she won the 2009 Sophie Coe Prize for her study of the Hawaiian Luau. Her most recent book is The English Breakfast: The Biography of a National Meal published by Kegan Paul.

About the Series

Routledge Series for Creative Teaching and Learning in Anthropology

Editors: Richard H. Robbins, SUNY at Plattsburgh and Luis A. Vivanco, University of Vermont 

This series is dedicated to innovative, unconventional ways to connect undergraduate students and their lived concerns about our social world to the power of social science ideas and evidence. We seek to publish titles that use anthropology to help students understand how they benefit from exposing their own lives and activities to the power of anthropological thought and analysis. Our goal is to help spark social science imaginations and, in doing so, open new avenues for meaningful thought and action.

Books proposed for this series should pose questions and problems that speak to the complexities and dynamism of modern life, connecting cutting edge research in exciting and relevant topical areas with creative pedagogy. We seek writing that is clear and accessible, yet not simplistic. The series has three primary projects:

The Anthropology of Stuff

This project invites proposals for 100 to 120 page books devoted to tracing the biographies and social lives of commodities that illuminate for students the network of people, institutions, and activities that create their material world. The series already has successful titles on milk, coffee, lycra, counterfeit goods, bicycles, Wal-Mart, and alcohol, as well as a forthcoming title on seafood. We seek books that:

  • Focus on specific problems or issues (e.g. social inequality, violence, gender discrimination, consumption, environmental degradation, urban mobility, etc.).
  • Use close description and analysis of everyday objects to stimulate students to think about their own culture and their place in it.
  • Make complex concepts (e.g. capitalism, the nature of hegemony, commodification, etc.) accessible to undergraduate readers.
  • Integrate a set of learning and teaching tools that could include the use of field research projects, group projects, media analysis, films, web-based research, and other relevant activities.

Anthropology and Civic Engagement

This project invites proposals for 100 to 120 page books that examine anthropology’s historical, contemporary, or potential involvement in civic affairs, contributions to key public debates, and/or engagement with diverse notions of citizenship and civic participation. Its goal is to illuminate for students how anthropological concepts, methods, and approaches can create powerful insights about critical social issues, while at the same time providing useful models for civic engagement for the construction of a more equitable society. We seek books that:

  • Focus on specific problems or issues (e.g., the health care debate, school violence, environmental activism, historic preservation, gender inequality, intellectual property, equity and social justice movements, food justice, rights of marginalized groups, etc.).
  • Help students understand how concepts such as citizenship, engagement, public participation, collaboration, activism, etc. are constructed and mobilized in specific political and social contexts.
  • Examine how anthropology’s concepts, methodological tools, and ethical principles relate to strategic and effective engagement with public concerns and dilemmas.
  • Integrate a set of learning and teaching tools that could include the use of field research projects, group projects, media analysis, films, web-based research, and other relevant activities.

High-Impact Anthropology

This project invites proposals for 150-350 page introductory texts that integrate high impact teaching and learning practices with treatment of specific topical areas that are the focus on undergraduate courses in anthropology. These specific topical areas could include Anthropology of Religion, Economic Anthropology, Political Anthropology, Anthropology of Food, Environmental Anthropology, Medical Anthropology, Anthropology of Gender and Sexuality, etc. The texts should examine the development of the field and provide coverage of key concepts and theories. At the same time, they should integrate high-impact educational practices into the structure of the text and its features. These practices could include:

  • Problem-centered learning
  • Question-based learning
  • Collaborative learning
  • Community-based learning
  • Writing-intensive approaches
  • Experiential learning
  • Co-curricular learning
  • Field-based learning

 

If you have a proposal that you believe would fit into the series in one of its three project areas, or if you have any questions about the series, please contact Richard Robbins at richard.robbins@plattsburgh.edu, or Luis Vivanco at lvivanco@uvm.edu.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOC002010
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / Cultural
SOC026000
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General