+44 (0)20 7919 7804
Department of Anthropology
Goldsmiths, University of London
On leave 2013-16
Emma Tarlo has conducted long term anthropological fieldwork in India and Britain. She has a specialist interest in the anthropology of dress, material culture and urban anthropology and has published widely in these fields. Her work engages with issues of colonialism, nationalism, diasporic identities, aesthetics, religious revivalism, identity politics, stigma and representation. She is particularly interested in the relationship between visual, material and narrative forms.
Emma Tarlo is currently Chair of Learning and Teaching in the Anthropology Department. She aims to encourage students to develop and expand their research and writing skills to assist them within and beyond the academy.
Emma Tarlo has recently been interviewed by Stefanie Sinclair (Open University) about attitudes among British Muslims towards veiling, fashion and the commercialisation of the hijab. The audio interviews are available for listening or download from the Open University or iTunes, and will feature in an Open University course entitled 'Why is religion contoversial?'
Professor Emma Tarlo teaches the following courses:
Emma Tarlo is keen to supervise students working on dress, fashion, material culture, museums, craft, urban space, memory and embodied religious practice. She would particularly welcome students working on contemporary Muslim communities in Europe and on South Asian communities in South Asia and the South Asian diaspora.
Current MPhil / PhD students supervised:
Emma Tarlo has carried out research in India and Britain on a variety of issues including clothing, textiles, identity politics, urban anthropology, contested histories and critical events.
Dress, Identity, the Body, Materiality
Much of Emma Tarlo’s work focuses on the body as a cultural artifact and on the role played by dress in social, political, cultural, religious and aesthetic life in India and Britain. Her book, Clothing Matters (1996) explores the decisive role played by dress in the assertion and maintenance of colonial authority in late 19th century India and in the development and spread of Gandhian inspired nationalism in the 1920’s and 30’s. It also examines how tensions concerning gender, caste, class and religion continued to be played out through dress in rural and urban India in the late 1980's and early 1990's when she was conducting fieldwork in rural Gujarat and Delhi.
More recently Emma Tarlo has conducted research about the growth of visibly Muslim dress in Britain and Europe and on the relationship between Islam and fashion. Her book, Visibly Muslim: Fashion, Politics, Faith (Berg 2010) examines how issues of religious conviction, emotion, materiality, life history, politics and sociality come together in the clothing biographies of young Muslims in London and are articulated through the emergence of new forms of Islamic fashion. These themes are further explored in the forthcoming book, Islamic Fashion and Anti-fashion: New Perspectives from Europe and America (co-edited with Annelies Moors, Bloomsbury 2013) which examines how the relationship between Islam and fashion takes on different inflections in different spaces in relation to migration histories, regimes of secularism and both global and national politics. The research also traces some of the new networks emerging over the internet and the role played by modest fashion in bringing women from different religious backgrounds into online dialogue.
The Politics of Urban Space
Another significant strand of Emma Tarlo’s work concerns the politics of urban space. In the mid to late 1990s she lived in Delhi for 3 years and was involved in collective and individual research about the city, focusing in particular on the lives and narratives of people who had been displaced through the massive "slum clearance" and "family planning" drives of the mid 1970s. The research which was archival, visual and ethnographic explored the relationship between official histories, archival records, local narratives and lived experiences and is published in her book, Unsettling Memories: narratives of the Emergency (2003) which can also be read as an anthropological investigation and critique of state practices and their consequences.
Emma Tarlo’s long term interests in the body, identity politics, aethetics and globalization come together in her latest research project, ‘Head to Head: Untangling the global Trade in Human Hair’ for which she has obtained a Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship (September 2013-2016). The project will trace the architecture of the expanding global market for human hair and will explore the significance of hair as it passes from head to head and becomes incorporated into different personal and cultural projects of self enhancement. To read more about the project, click here:
Emma Tarlo has collaborated with researchers at Art Map (Paris), IRD (Paris), ISIM (Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World, Leiden) and SOAS/UEL (London), University of Amsterdam, the London School of Fashion, the Horniman Museum and the V&A Victoria and Albert Museum.
Recent Collective Research Projects
2007-09 - Islamic Fashion in Europe: The Politics of Presence
This NORFACE-funded research project, directed by Annelies Moors, formed part of the NORFACE Programme The Re-emergence of Religion as a social force in Europe?
2010-11 - Modest Fashion and Internet Retail
This AHRC–funded project, directed by Reina Lewis, formed part of the AHRC Religion and Society programme.
Clothing Matters: Dress and Identity in India, 1996, Hurst (London), Viking (Delhi) & University of Chicago Press, (reprinted Chicago 2005). Winner of Coomaraswamy Prize 1998.
Unsettling Memories: Narratives of the Emergency in Delhi, 2003 Hurst (London), Permanent Black (Delhi), University of California Press (Berkeley)
Delhi: Urban Space and Human Destinies, co-edited with V. Dupont and D. Vidal, 2000, Manohar (Delhi).
Islamic Fashion and Anti-fashion: New perspectives from Europe and North America, co-edited with Annelies Moors, forthcoming 2013, Bloomsbury (London).
Muslim Fashions, (co-edited with Annelies Moors). 2007, Special double issue of the Journal, Fashion Theory, vol. 11, issue2/3, June/September 2007.
Selection of articles
Tarlo, (in press 2013), “Meeting through Modesty: Jewish-Muslim Encounters on the Internet”, in Lewis Reina (ed), Modest Fashion: Styling Bodies, Mediating Faith, IB Taurus.
Tarlo (in press 2013), “Dress and the South Asian Diaspora”, ed. D. Washbrook and J. Chatterjee, in South Asia Diaspora Handbook London: RoutledgeTarlo E 2011, ‘Reflections on Ghetto Anthropology’, Anthropology of thisCentury, issue 1, no 1.
Tarlo E., 2010 “Hijab online: the fashioning of cyber Islamic commerce.” Interventions, International Journal of Postcolonial Studies, special issue entitled Muslims in the Frame, edited by P. Morey and A. Yacin.
Tarlo E., (2010), “Multicultural Muslim Fashions”, in Breward C. , Crill R. and Crang P., ed., British Asian Style, London: V&A Publications.
Tarlo E. , 2009, “From Finsbury Park to Damascus, Islamic men’s fashions in Britain’, The Middle East in London Magazine, SOAS London.
Tarlo E. , 2009, “Fashion” in Barnard and Spencer eds, Encyclopedia of Social and Cultural Anthropology (revised edition) London:,Routledge
'Hijab in London: Metamorphosis, Resonance and Effects', in Journal of Material Culture, 12(2), July 2007
"Weaving Air: The textile journey of Rezia Wahid", 2004, Moving Worlds, Volume 4, No. 2, pp. 90-99.
"Reconsidering Stereotypes: Anthropological Reflections on the Jilbab controversy." 2005, Anthropology Today, vol. 21, no. 6, pp. 13-17 and front and back covers.
Islamic Cosmopolitanism: The sartorial biographies of 3 Muslim women in London", 2007, Fashion Theory, vol. 11, no. 2/3, pp. 143-172.
"From Victim to Agent: Memories of the Emergency from a Resettlement Colony in Delhi", 1995, Economic and Political Weekly, vol. xxx, no. 46, pp. 2921-2928.
"Welcome To History: A Resettlement Colony in the Making" 2000, in Dupont, Tarlo, Vidal (eds.) Delhi: Urban Space and Human Destinies, Manohar (Delhi).
"Paper Truths: The Emergency and Slum Clearance through Forgotten Files", 2001, in Benei V. and Fuller C. (eds.), The Everyday State in Modern India, Hurst (London).
"Body and Space in a Time of Crisis" in Das Veena, Kleinman Arthur, Rampele Mamphel and Reynolds Pamela (eds.), 2000, Violence and Subjectivity, University of California Press.
"Married to the Mahatma: The Life and Predicament of Kasturba Gandhi", 1997, Women: A cultural Review, Special Issue, Independent India, vol. 8, no. 3, pp. 264-177.
Content last modified: 14 Nov 2013
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