CCGL9073 Global Issues

Fashion, Politics, and the Global City

This course is under the thematic cluster(s) of:

  • Sustaining Cities, Cultures, and the Earth (SCCE)

Timetable for Lectures

Course Description

Is fashion political? Can political power be performed in a range of sartorial guises?

From Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Met Gala white gown with the message “tax the rich” emblazoned in red, to the black T-shirts and yellow ribbons of Hong Kong protesters, to the rise of MAGA as a kind of anti-fashion, it is clear fashion is an important aspect of political performance.

Fashion is politically meaningful and consequential, but it continues to be generally ignored in intellectual life, perhaps because it is usually associated with the frivolous and insignificant. Yet the line between high politics and frivolous fashion is drawn less clearly than expected.

Engaging in different disciplines – including visual and digital culture, economics, philosophy, history, anthropology, and media studies – the course will work with students to explore the relationships between fashion and global politics. What are you wearing today? How do your clothes express your identity? How, in your everyday life, do fashion and politics intersect?

This course, which draws on the cities of “high” and “low” fashion, aims to show the close connections of fashion and politics in a globalised world. Our discussion will move across boundaries to show how fashion circulates as a robust geopolitical, commercial, and personal element of global, national, and local cultures.

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

  1. Describe the interplay between fashion, gender and politics, and how media portray these dynamics.
  2. Analyse the political, economic, religious, social and cultural variables in the enactment of style.
  3. Appraise the notion of fashion as a commodity, understanding the implications of consumerism. 
  4. Analyse how a fashion object can enhance or obscure its political potency.
  5. Interrogate the absence of sufficient scholarship on fashion as a political phenomenon.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

First semester (Wed)

Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures 24
Tutorials 10
Seminars / Guest Lectures 4
Fieldwork / Visits 6
Reading / Self-study 24
Review of films, videos and websites 8
Assessment: Essay / Report writing 25
Assessment: Presentation (incl preparation) 30
Assessment: In-class quizzes 2
Total: 133

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
Quizzes 20
Short essays 30
Group project and presentation 50

Required Reading / Films

  • Behnke, A. (2016). The International Politics of Fashion: Being Fab in a Dangerous World. London: Routledge. [Chap. 3 “Orientalism refashioned: ‘Eastern moon’ in ‘Western waters’ reflecting back on the East China Sea”; Chap. 5 “(Un)dressing the sovereign: fashion as symbolic form”; Chap. 7 “Margret Thatcher, dress and the politics of fashion”]
  • Bolton, A. (2015). China: Through the Looking Glass. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art. [“Towards an Aesthetic of Surfaces” (pp. 17-21)] 
  • Breward, C. (2003). Fashion. Oxford University Press. [“Fashion Capitals” (pp. 169-217)]
  • Turaga, J. (2018). Being fashionable in the globalisation era in India. In M. Jansen (ed.), Modern Fashion Traditions (pp. 73-97). Bloomsbury.

Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Ms Ting SHI
Journalism and Media Studies Centre, Faculty of Social Sciences
Tel: 3917 1641
Teacher(s) Contact
Ms Ting SHI
Journalism and Media Studies Centre, Faculty of Social Sciences
Tel: 3917 1641