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Accepted Paper:

Stitching histories of the future: patents, power and the politics of invention  
Kat Jungnickel (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Short abstract:

I explore historic clothing patents as sites of past, present and future imaginaries. Using ‘speculative sewing’ I show and tell multi-dimensional stories about inventors who defied and resisted socio-political norms and restrictions in their attempts to change the world stitch by stitch.

Long abstract:

To be awarded a patent, inventors reflect on the past to make claims in the present and, in the process, imagine alternate futures. Historic patents are valuable time-traveling devices because they hold insights into inventor’s motivations, materials and methods, problems and solutions, intended wearers, and imagined sites of use. Read in the context of related socio-political happenings, they provide unique glimpses into lives long past, enabling researchers to trace how different ideas map across time, place and bodies. In this paper, I explore what kinds of STS ‘futuring’ emerge in the analysis of past inventive practices. In other words, how do patents make visible histories of the future? My case study is the Politics of Patents research project which examines 200 years of clothing inventions in global archives from 1820-2020. I focus on lesser-known inventors who used new forms of clothing to work around barriers to their freedom of movement. I reflect on steganography – the act of hiding in plain sight – as many inventions by and for women feature convertible, multiple, reversible and hidden elements. I discuss using ‘speculative sewing’, where my team of sewing social scientists and I stitch theory, data and fabric into inventions described in patents and analyse them as three-dimensional arguments. In the spirit of ‘making and doing’, I will show & tell material examples of our research, reconstructions and re-imaginings.

Traditional Open Panel P056
Futures work
  Session 3