The Trousers and Research Methodology for Oppressive Design

Main Article Content

Ory Bartal


As clothing represents social, political, and performative values pertaining to gender, it is not surprising that they also serve as oppressive designed objects. One of the most significant symbols of gender power relations were the trousers that women were banned from wearing in the West as a daily fashion item until the second half of the 20th century. This article presents the history of trousers via a new research methodology for studying oppressive design. This methodology is built on Michel Foucault’s approach to genealogical research and Bruno Latour’s ideas about the social agency of objects. Just as Foucault revealed the history of norms, ideas, discourses, and values, which are abstract yet powerful entities, this methodology focuses on identifying the moment in which oppressive objects first entered into daily common use, becoming a new natural and oppressive ‘truth’ that shaped the worldview of its users. This approach builds on Latour’s argument that objects serve as mediating devices of values and discourses between individuals, and the idea that genealogical research concerning their use might expose their socio-historical function and powerful involvement in shaping and policing power relations over time.


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How to Cite
Bartal, O. (2023). The Trousers and Research Methodology for Oppressive Design. Diseña, (22), Article.5.
Original articles
Author Biography

Ory Bartal, Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design

Ph.D., University of Tel Aviv. After obtaining a BA in Japanese studies and International relations from the Hebrew University, he earned a M.B.A. from Aoyama Gakuin University and a M.Des. in Industrial Design from Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design. He is a Professor and head of the Visual and Material Culture Department at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design. As a researcher of visual and material culture, his focus is on contemporary Japanese visual culture and design, including industrial and fashion design, as well as manga and visual communication. He is the author of Postmodern Advertising in Japan: Seduction, Persuasion and the Tokyo Art Directors Club (Dartmouth College Press, 2015), Critical Design in Japan: Material Culture, Luxury and the Avant-Garde (Manchester U. Press, 2020). Some of his recently published articles include ‘What does Design Want? On the Social Role of Design and the Social Position of Critical Designʼ (Bezalel – Journal of Visual and Material Culture, Vol. 6) and ‘The 1968 Social Uprising and Ad­vertising Design in Japan: The Work of Ishioka Eiko and Suzuki Hachirōʼ (Review of Japanese Culture and Society, Vol. XXVIII).


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