Clothing, fashion and nation building in the ‘Land of Israel’

How does clothing become fashion? To what extent does a consensual mode of dress emerge within a heterogeneous migrant society? How can clothing become political and to what extent can it express power relations? And which role does visual culture and photography play in communicating and enforcing changing clothing ideals?

These questions lie at the core of Dr Svenja Bethke’s research project Clothing, fashion and nation building in the ‘Land of Israel’, that has been awarded a Marie Curie Individual Fellowship by the European Commission. During the period of the fellowiship Dr Bethke will be hosted at the Hebrew University (Jerusalem), the Yad Ben Zvi Institute (Jerusalem) and also in the PHRC at De Montfort University, where Dr Bethke will work closely with Senior Research Fellow in Photographic History Dr Gil Pasternak.

Taking the ‘Land of Israel’ as a case study, Dr Bethke argues that investigating clothing, fashion and aesthetic perceptions brings to the fore the agency of migrant groups and adds a personal dimension to the history of nation building. Focusing on the period from the 1880s, when large-scale migration began, until the foundation of the Israeli state in 1948, Dr Bethke will investigate how Eastern European and German Jewish immigrants expressed social, cultural and political belonging through clothing and to what extent they were able to enforce their ideologies in the course of nation building. Dr Bethke ask to what extent the immigrants influenced each other in developing a specific mode of dress, and how they referenced the socio-cultural and political practices of their countries of origin, as well as the clothing of Arab people and the Ottoman and British occupying authorities.

With an unprecedented focus on gender and visual materials, Dr Bethke will draw from collections preserved by 15 archives in Israel, Poland and England, and 6 Israeli, German, American and Russian databases. The project will analyse private and public photographs and posters, and contextualise them against an assessment of written material and oral history interviews.

The three months of secondment at the PHRC under the supervision of Dr Gil Pasternak will enhance Dr Bethke’s methodological skills in the analysis of historical photographs. Through this highly interdisciplinary training, Dr Bethke aims to develop a new methodology that will integrate approaches from fashion history and visual culture into the history of nation building to shed light on the processes of negotiation and power struggles on the micro level of a community.

In times of mass migration, economic exploitation and global mobility, the project will contribute to an understanding of aesthetic perceptions, dress and beauty ideals as an expression of power, integration and exclusion.



Clephan Building, room CL2.02b,  5.00-6.30pm

Open to all – just turn up!

This week we present 2 papers by PHRC doctoral students


First paper: Erika Lederman


Women Photographers, Institutional Practices and the South Kensington Museum

PH.113A-1891; 666-1890, Photograph. Carved walnut wood frame with glass mirror; Photograph by Isabel Agnes Cowper (1826-1911). Carved walnut wood frame with glass mirror, Italian, 16th century, albumen print, ca. 1891. South Kensington Museum 1890-1891.

This seminar paper will locate the career of 19th century institutional photographer Isabel Agnes Cowper within the history of the photography and the institutional history of the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum).  It will present the biographical details I have uncovered to date, and will identify other 19th century female professional photographers from whom the SKM acquired photographs.  It will examine the challenges involved in identifying and researching material culture produced by women and will suggest a multidisciplinary research approach that acknowledges the multiple strands of photography’s history.


Second paper: Catherine Troiano


Future of the Past: Commemorating 150 years of photography in Hungary, 1989

In 1989, exhibitions of photography were staged around the world to mark 150 years since the announcement of the medium. In Hungary, the commemorations comprised twelve exhibitions staged in Budapest and collectively titled ‘the month of photography’. These events came at a poignant moment culturally, socially and politically. This paper aims to use the anniversary celebrations as a case study through which to understand photography’s place and purpose in Hungary’s broader socio-cultural landscape. It interprets the 1989 events as a lens into the Communist past and a forebear of the Democratic future, exploring how photography was posited within the framework of this political change.


Visualising Reproduction

Attendance to this event is free, but booking is necessary. To book a place, please email


9.30 Registration & coffee

9.50 Welcome

10.00 Keynote lecture: Nick Hopwood (University of Cambridge)

“Visualising Human Embryos”

11.00 Coffee break


Session 1

11.15 Camilla Røstvik (University of St Andrews)

“‘The Painter’s Are In’ – Menstruation in the Visual Arts since 1970”

11.45 Jesse Olszynko-Gryn (University of Cambridge) and Liv Pennington (artist)

“Visualising Pregnancy Tests in Art and Entertainment”

12.15 Kate Reed (University of Sheffield)

“Visualising ‘Life’ and ‘Loss’ in Medicine and Art: the Case of Fetal and Neonatal Post-mortem”

12.45 Discussion

13.00 Lunch


Session 2

13.45 Isabel Davis (Birkbeck, University of London) and Anna Burel (artist)

“Seeing and the Unseen in the Experimental Conception Hospital”

14.15 Katie Coveney and Nicky Hudson (DMU)

“Visualising Reproductive Donation Online. An Analysis of Fertility Clinic Websites in the UK, Belgium and Spain”

14.45 Manuela Perrotta (Queen Mary University of London)

“Remaking Embryos. Time-lapse Microscopy and the Future of Embryology”

15.15 Discussion

15.30 Coffee break


Session 3

15.45 Kristine Fearon (DMU)

“‘Have You Ever Talked to Any Women with Turner Syndrome?’ A Rationale For The Use of Photo-Elicitation Interviews in Research on Reproductive Decision Making with Women with Mild Cognitive Impairment”

16.15 Tove Dalenius (DMU)

“Beyond 3D Printing: Holographic Visualisation of the Clitoris”


16.45 Concluding remarks & wine reception


Follow @VisReprodDMU for updates. For more information you may also email Dr Beatriz Pichel or Prof Nicky Hudson