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Korean modernity in the history and memory of Gyeongseong: hairstyle transition between daenggi-meori to bobbed hair

Korea started on its path to modernisation and development by assimilating Western material culture under Japanese rule in the colonial period (1910-1945), during which time Korean women gradually changed their traditional daenggi-meori hairstyle for a Western bobbed one. The Korean daenggi-meori hairstyle was recreated and thus remained part of modern fashion, even though the increasing availability of hairstyling techniques from Japan and Western cultures led to a wider range of hairstyles. This study employs hairstyling and fashion as an analytical lens to explore women’s subjectivity and agency in the colonial Korean society using sources from visual culture, material culture analysis and research into hairdressing spaces and practices. This thesis will suggest ways in which women’s everyday practices, including hairstyling, can be effectively used historically and theoretically, suggesting a better way of understanding Korean women’s subjectivity and history by exploring hairstyling, material culture, embodiment and lived experience.

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More about Dana

Dana Lee has over 10 years of expertise studying hair. Her research focuses on the body, hairdressing, the material culture of hair and female agency and subjectivities. The theoretical approaches she uses include post-colonial analysis, and thinking on discourse, agency, subjectivity, materiality, embodiment, and lived experience by, for example, Butler, Ponty, Bhabha, and Bourdieu. Her current work began as an attempt to understand how women innovatively kept their daenggi-meori hairstyles alive through the agency of hairdressing practices in a strictly controlled society within the materiality of modernity at the Royal College of Art by a thesis-based research degree.

Dana Lee is a PhD researcher in the History of Design programme at the Royal College of Art (RCA). She holds a BA (with Honours) from the London College of Fashion, the University of the Arts London (UAL) and an MA from the University of Southampton.