Bowie’s Impact on Gender

Gendered Lives has asked a couple of people to respond to what David Bowie meant to them, particularly in relation to his impact upon their thinking about gender. Here, our first respondent, Francesca Lisette, writes a moving personal tribute.

Bowie’s death was to me, even more astonishing than his life…

…because it revealed the extent to which he had always been there: until now, I’ve been fortunate enough to always live in a world which included David Bowie. It feels like I’ve lost a mentor & muse, who somehow seemed as familiar as an eccentric, glamorous uncle. I would not be the person I am today without him.

My dad had a collection of vinyl records which he would play on a Sunday, and one afternoon he played ‘Space Oddity’. It was the first piece of music I felt lyrically connected to as a child who wanted to be an alien, an astronaut or a gender-bending popstar when I grew up. And then I saw the video! It was at Madame Tussaud’s; my parents left me watching it for ten minutes, hypnotized. A boy with long hair & hippie clothes who seemed to comprehend the ethereal endlessness of the galaxy, and shared the desire to get lost in space. (It was not the now-famous red-haired clip, but the original BBC performance from 1969).

Bowie was there in the background through every phase of my life: as I discovered my personal aesthetic through an obsession with queer culture – I watched Velvet Goldmine and Wilde on my birthday – and my fascination with fellow glam icon Marc Bolan. As I kissed androgynous girls, and boys with elaborately strange hair who wore more makeup than me; as I dyed my hair every shade of the rainbow and wore loud clothes to match (my riotgrrl phase); as I became close friends with a boy who bore a striking resemblance to Bowie and had been equally influenced by him… Most pertinently, I had a phase of getting into the music not just the image, around 2009, (by which time I had mostly switched from Ziggy-style excess to New Romantic pseudo-formality, tailored suits and hats). I loved Ziggy Stardust, but it was Low and Heroes – Berlin-era Bowie – that really struck a chord with my post-punk tastes. It felt particularly fitting to leave the house on the day of his death and walk through the snow and past the frozen lake to my friends’ house in Neukölln, a world as icy and sparse as the eponymous track on Low. He wasn’t ‘a thing of the past’, either: my friends and I were talking about Bowie’s new album & watching him parade around in various female personas in the video for DJ just a few days before his death.

Bowie showed me that anything was possible. To say he blazed a trail was an understatement. Moreover, he was probably the first famous bisexual I knew of. If Bowie was fearlessly open about his queerness, why couldn’t I be? For these reasons, I’m wrong: there’s no such thing as a world without David Bowie, because he changed it definitively. Not only did he leave an artistic legacy that will neither fade nor be forgotten; he also left an army of star-gazing, strange-eyed creative warriors in his wake.

Francesca Lisette is a poet and performer, currently based in Berlin. Recent work can be found at Cordite Poetry Review ( and

CFP for Postgrads: Gender in Art

Gender in Art: Production, Collection, Display – AAH Student Summer Symposium

8–9 June 2016 | Loughborough University

Keynote: Professor Marsha Meskimmon

The development of critical feminist discourses since the 1960s has elucidated ways in which social, political and economic structures have impacted on the production and display of artwork. Gradually, the construction of gender in collecting, curating, exhibiting and producing art began to be understood as a reflection of wider social and cultural narratives, extending beyond gendered identities of individual artists or curators.

In collaboration with Loughborough University, this year’s annual two-day AAH Student Summer Symposium will investigate current critical and art-historical approaches that develop theories, methodologies and debates to analyse the making, display and collection of art in light of concepts of gender.

As categorical differentiations between ‘sex’, as a biological distinction, and ‘gender’, as a culturally constructed version of masculinity and femininity, prove difficult, any critical debate about them inevitably requires careful engagement with the power relations that attempt to shape it. The same applies for the discourses around the power distribution at work in the making, collecting and exhibiting of art. Whether in the studio, in museums, private collections or domestic spaces, works of art and their curatorial framing remain important sites for the construction of meaning concerning the interactions of the sexes. On the other hand, can such heteronormative ascriptions be understood as leftovers of binary thought patterns unable to account for fluid contemporary understandings of gender? In an attempt to understand and explain gendered identities in art, issues of equality, the domestic life, the ‘body’, the ‘self’ and the ‘other’ may be explored as complex intersections of social, cultural and political landscapes.

We welcome contributions from all periods and contexts that critically engage with notions of gender relations in the production, collection and display of art. Topics may include, but are not limited to:

·· Gender roles in the home and domestic art

·· Transgender art, exhibitions and collections

·· Gender-aware approaches to display and collections of art

·· Women artists in the ‘public’ and ‘private’ sphere

·· Gendered sensibilities in public/institutional settings

·· Feminist approaches to collection, curation and exhibition practices

Abstracts of no more than 250 words for 20-minute papers plus a 100-word biography should be submitted as a single Word document to Emma Bourne, Sara Tarter, Sofia Mali and Tilo Reifenstein at by 23 March 2016.

The Summer Symposium is generously supported by the School of the Arts, English and Drama at Loughborough University. It is open to all; however, speakers are required to be AAH members.

Report of our 1st Research Seminar


From Kith and Kin to ‘Strategic Sisterhood’:

Gender and Religion in Writings and Promotions of the Self

On Wednesday 2nd December 2015, the Gendered Lives Research Group at Loughborough University held its debut research seminar. If you missed the seminar, here’s a summary of the two papers by Sophie-Louise Hyde and Teresa O’Rourke, PhD students in the School of the Arts, English and Drama who attended the event.

‘If there was a success story to tell, they did write about this.’

Dr Siobhan Lambert-Hurley (Reader in International History at Sheffield University) presented part of a chapter taken from her forthcoming monograph, The Ultimate Unveiling: Gender, Autobiography and the Self in Muslim South Asia. Her paper was titled ‘Narrating Kith and Kin: Gender, Autobiography and the Self in Bombay’s Tyabji Clan.’

By ‘interrogating theories of difference’, Dr Lambert-Hurley’s talk explored ideas of gender and representations of the self in the autobiographical writings of South Asian Muslim women and men. The paper challenged the gender stereotypes associated with autobiography which are all too often based on the assumption that Muslim women of South Asia write only for ‘personal and domestic purpose’, while the men ‘wrote successfully’ about their working lives.

Through a number of case studies that featured the Tyabji clan – a merchant family from Bombay who made many varied contributions to the genre of autobiography over multiple generations – Dr Lambert-Hurley demonstrated that these gender boundaries are somewhat blurred.

Stating her intention to ‘imagine a new global history’ of autobiography as a genre, Dr Lambert-Hurley foregrounded notions of individuality and interiority as she noted how these representations have changed over time. From the ‘innocent intimacies’ of the Victorian period to twentieth-century tales of ‘adultery, pre-marital sex and menstruation’, she argued that there is no distinctive autobiographical style of writing for the Muslim men and women of South Asia.

Introducing the concept of ‘autobiographical genealogies’ and the idea of the family as a ‘shared cultural milieu’, Dr Lambert-Hurley proposed that it is the context of the collective (the Tyabji clan) that gives these men and women the space to articulate their individual sense of self.

‘A battleground with no room for common ground?’

While Dr Lambert-Hurley took us to Bombay, Dr Line Nyhagen (Reader in Sociology at Loughborough University) brought us back again, in a presentation that explored the apparent division between secular and religious women in Europe. Entitled ‘“Strategic Sisterhood”: Who is afraid of Gender Equality?’, the paper challenged our perspectives of these seemingly disparate groups on issues of gender equality, women’s movements and feminism.

Dr Nyhagen’s presentation considered responses from a range of women’s movements (SIAWI, Southall Black Sisters, EWL) that appear to see religion as oppressive to women as a result of its patriarchal nature; understanding ‘religion as a man’s dominion’ (Sheila Jeffries, 2012). Far from concluding that the secular and religious are incompatible, however, Dr Nyhagen identified a long history of dialogue between these various groups, and stressed the importance of finding common ground as a means of mutual recognition and advancement.

Her study of 60 Christian and Muslim women in Norway, Spain and the UK presented an opportunity to further understand this potentially problematic relationship between gender equality and religion. The study’s findings elicited responses that fell into the following four categories: a) gender equality is impossible as a result of god-given prescriptions; b) differentiations in gender equality were without hierarchy; c) differentiations in gender equality only existed in the family but equal opportunities were available in the public sphere; d) equal opportunities were available in both the public and private spheres.

Arguing for a ‘Strategic Sisterhood’, Dr Nyhagen proposed a triangulation of three key elements: Individual Rights = Religious Freedom = Women’s Rights to Gender Equality. Without the inclusion of religion, she concluded, ‘there would be a democratic deficit’ (Habermas, 2005) as we continue to negotiate the cultural representation of women.





Fully Funded PhD Place

The School of Arts, English and Drama has a fully funded PhD place available from April 2016. There’s a specific call for alignment with the Gendered Lives Research Group.

If you are interested in discussing your proposal with a member of the Research Group based in the School, please use the email under the Contact Us page, outlining your project and specifying your discipline. We will forward this to potential supervisors who will then get in touch with you.

Loughborough University

The School of the Arts, English and Drama at Loughborough University is pleased to announce a fully funded PhD studentship. The studentship will be paid for a period of up to three years, starting in April 2016, and will cover tuition fees at the UK/EU rate, and provide a tax-free stipend of £14,057*.

The School offers an exciting interdisciplinary research environment and we welcome the submission of high-quality proposals that have the potential to make a substantive contribution to research within the School, of particular interest are proposals that address one of the following research themes:

  • Collaborative / Participatory Art Practice via Digital Media and Network Technologies, with a practice-based or theoretical orientation that engage larger (global) communities via the Web into the creation of collaborative art, film and music creation
  • Public Realm Initiatives, Urban Regeneration, and Public Art
  • Critical Citizenship,  Activism and Art, with a historical, theoretical or practice-based orientation focusing on the concept of the ‘citizen artist’
  • Phenomenological Experience through Drawing, with a practice-based emphasis on drawing as a means to explore our lived experience of the world
  • Service Design: Tourism Service Innovation for Empowerment of Craft Community through Social Harmony
  • Understanding the Function of Urban Graphic Objects, adopting a mono or multidiscipline perspective (e.g. graphic design, urban visual culture, archival studies, or critical heritage studies)
  • Renaissance and Early Modern Literature and Culture (1550-1760), with a specific focus on integrating the Digital Humanities into the analysis of literary histories
  • Authorship, Material Text and/or Writers’ and Publishers’ Archives, encompassing such topics as the study of a composition or editorial process, the relationship between writers and their publishers, the role and value of a publisher (whether looked at historically or in the present), and texts and paratexts
  • Gendered Lives, their representation and theorisation

For further information about the School and its research, please see

Deadline for applications: 5th February 2016.

Initial queries should be addressed to Emma Nadin ( (School Postgraduate Research Administrator) who will be happy to answer queries concerning your application and the suitability of the research topic proposed.

As part of your application you will be required to submit a detailed research proposal. This should give the title of your proposed research and a 300-700 word description of your topic. Further details about preparing a proposal can be found at:

To make an application please use the online application form, and quote reference SAED15 in the funding section of the form.

*The value of the tax free stipend in years two and three will increase in line with Research Council recommended values.

A New Year, A New Website

Welcome to the first post of the new Gendered Lives blog!

On these pages you will find news and reports of our events, notices of other events you might find of interest, and details of publications and research activities by our members. Look out for our ‘focus on’ monthly feature here, where we will introduce different members of the research group and provide details about their current projects.