Tuesday, November 10, 2015

[Friday Seminar Recap] Fashion and Magical Capitalism

Fashion and Magical Capitalism

Speaker: Prof. Brian MOERAN (Visiting Professor, School of Modern Languages and Cultures, University of Hong Kong, and Professor, Department of Intercultural Communication and Management, Copenhagen Business School)
Time: 4:30 – 6:00 pm, 20 Oct 2015 (Tuesday)
Venue: LT9 Yasumoto International Academic Park Chung Chi College, CUHK


Our department was grateful to have Professor Brian Moeran, the Professor of Business Anthropology at the Copenhagen Business School and currently a Visiting Professor at the University of Hong Kong, to deliver a seminar on “Fashion and Magical Capitalism” on 20 October 2015. Professor Moeran is a social anthropologist and has written widely on advertising, art and aesthetics, ceramics, fashion magazines and other media forms.

Prof. Brian Moeran
Professor Moeran started the seminar by elaborating on some of the key terms, such as “fashion” and the set of terms like “magic”, “charm” and “glamour”. He mentioned that fashion is about seeing and being seen, and people nowadays are paying more and more attention to the way of being represented and representing themselves. The language of “magic” is frequently used by magazines and people in the industry, which helps to construct a reality that invites consumption. Other common practices in the industry, like finding famous stars to wear designers’ clothes, also help to enchant the way we dress. Professor Moeran emphasized that fashion focuses more on “becoming” rather than “actual being”, and he assimilated the symbolic process and the “magic” of fashion industry to Shamanism, which attempts to change states of consciousness for communication with another world.

The seminar
Professor Moeran also talked about the technologies of enchantment. For instance, advertisements in magazines use the same structure and the content always consists of “meaning of meaningless words”. With the use of “verbal spells”, the production and distribution of fashion products appear to have the power of transforming people into a new personality. People in the industry make use of skilled revelation of skilled concealment to create a magical arena, and believe that they possess the power to affect even though they are also uncertain about the mechanism. Professor Moeran emphasized that the magicians, magical representations and magical rites interact as a system, and the uncertainty principle of “magic” is real to the natives and can affect their behaviors. Professor Moeran concluded his talk by noting several economic properties of creative industriesuncertain demand, art for art’s sake, motley crew, infinite variety, and preference of one practice over another.

The attendees
More than forty people attended, and the attendees showed great interest in the seminar and asked a lot of questions. For instance, some asked how the fashion world can turn “non-believers” to “believers” of this “magical industry”. Professor Moeran raised the importance of socialization in shaping the aesthetic senses of people and making them see things in particular ways. An attendee also shared some of the similar charactistics such as the uncertainty encountered in the fashion industry in Hong Kong, and suggested that this sense of uncertainty has positive effects like enhancing the solidarity of the team.

Once again, we would like to thank Professor Moeran for delivering this inspiring seminar which gave audience anthropological insights to the fashion industry.

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