British culture and topographies of Resistance: Cross-dressing in narrative fiction and photography

Burleigh, Peter and Ochsner, Andrea. (2011) British culture and topographies of Resistance: Cross-dressing in narrative fiction and photography. In: Reading British Spaces. Tübingen, pp. 212-230.

Full text not available from this repository.

Official URL: http://edoc.unibas.ch/dok/A5840081

Downloads: Statistics Overview


In this paper we exemplify how urban, subcultural identities are articulated in photography and narrative fiction. Specifically, we address the question of how structural imperatives of place get transformed by tactics of resistance. Drawing on the work of Michel de Certeau, we focus on how institutionalised spaces are transgressed and re-appropriated by subcultural practices performed by marginalized and/or alternative social forces. Set against the backdrop of the Music Hall tradition of the roaring1890s, Sarah Water’s historical novel Tipping the Velvet (1998) tells the story of Nancy Astley’s sexual development and search for identity. In the course of the novel,  Nancy transforms her gender several times. She falls in love with a male impersonator at the local theatre with whom she embarks on a relationship, moves to London and performs a cross-dressing double act on stage. Forced to earn her living when her female lover leaves her for a man and her career temporarily comes to an end, she first turns into a rentboy, roaming the streets of London in men’s clothes, then entertains a rich lady and her Sapphist friends as a sex slave. In the last part of the novel, she works as a housemaid for a female charity worker, with whom she becomes romantically involved. In Tipping the Velvet, the main, female protagonist transgresses clearly defined gender spaces and thus tactically exploits the opportunities the metropolitan space of London offers. In 1955, a photo-essay of teddy girls appeared in Picture Post. Staged in East End bombsites by the future maverick film director Ken Russell, the photographs picture young women at the forefront of a youth culture (before it became incorporated by more dominant mainstream media representations) in which gender and class emerge as central issues. Interestingly, there is here a two-fold performance: urban space is exploited to create a theatrical  place in which the individual enactments of mode transcend the drab and dowdy backdrop and turn post-war ruins into a playground—working-class women finding their place in fashion and style traditionally reserved for middle-class women; secondly,  the teddy girls themselves adopt mannerism and signs predominantly associated with their male counterparts: short,  slicked-back  hair,  (trouser) suits, masculine poses. It is the specific place of the bombsite where the teddy girls can both rehearse a different form of self-presentation in terms of challenging their class position and develop new scripts which are a foil to or even challenge masculine behaviours of their teddy boy opposites and male culture in general.
Faculties and Departments:04 Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > Departement Sprach- und Literaturwissenschaften > Fachbereich Englische Sprach- und Literaturwissenschaft
UniBasel Contributors:Burleigh, Peter Robert and Ochsner, Andrea
Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item, refereed
Conference or workshop item Subtype:Conference Paper
Publisher:Narr Verlag
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Conference paper
Last Modified:14 Sep 2012 07:08
Deposited On:08 Jun 2012 06:30

Repository Staff Only: item control page