Luxury and Gender 2009

Luxury and Gender: Cross-Disciplinary Explorations of a Strange Alliance

International Research Workshop
University of British Columbia Vancouver
Department of Central, Eastern and Northern European Studies
in Cooperation with the Institute for European Studies
October 16-18, 2009 (click to download a printable schedule)


“Luxury” is an omnipresent term in popular as in academic discourse. It basically serves to demarcate the ruling order in a given society from what is perceived as deviant, or extravagant. Especially in times of crisis, opulent lifestyles raise ethical questions of their necessity, of the distribution of possessions, and the reasonable production and consumption of goods. The overarching research focus is therefore to investigate the various forms of distinction and diffusion of “luxury” from different disciplines such as literary and media studies, sociology, anthropology, economy, and history. The workshop planned to be held at UBC Vancouver will connect the research of “luxury” with another aspect of cross-disciplinary research: “gender.” In fact, the linkage between luxury and gender has only rarely been considered, despite the fact that the “strange alliance” between the two has a long tradition. Four research foci and lead questions will be addressed:

(1) Imagery of Luxury: In which way does the interrelation of luxury and gender work as a means of cultural representation and communication? Which are the processes of establishing elitist role models and fashion styles? How are they adapted, imitated, and modified, and infiltrate the collective imagination?

(2) Economics and Luxury: What historical and present gender divisions can be observed in luxury production and consumption? How are they justified or questioned? How do, for example, the division of gender roles within the work force and concepts of labour and leisure relate to the rise and fall of social, political and economic systems?

(3) Topographies of Luxury: What impact do spatial aspects have on the discourse of luxurious lifestyles? Spatial aspects to be considered include orientalism and colonialism; they may concern gendered allegories of cities such as the “whore” Babylon and the “virgin” Jerusalem; or the modern cities Paris and London which have been conceived as “feminine” and “masculine.”

(4) Physicality and Luxury: What impact does luxury have on discourses of the body, sexuality, and health? How do self-fashioning and self-control work within the dialectics of individualization, exclusion, and depersonalization? Further aspects concern gendered visions of health care, hygiene, dietary practices, and surgical body modification.

Workshop Organization
The workshop is organized in joint cooperation by
Franziska Schößler, University of Trier, Germany (
Gaby Pailer, Dept. of C.E.N.E.S., UBC (
Jutta Eming, Dept. of C.E.N.E.S., UBC (

The Department of Central, Eastern and Northern European Studies (Ziegler Fund), University of British Columbia
The Institute for European Studies, University of British Columbia
The Dean of Arts, University of British Columbia
The Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany
Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst /German Academic Exchange Service
University of Trier
University of Luxembourg
Free University of Berlin
University of Western Ontario

Click here to download a printable version of the project description and a detailed workshop schedule (Word document). Click here to download the schedule in .pdf format.