Dr Penny Dransart

The anthropological study of textiles, dress and gender makes an important contribution to approaches adopted in various disciplines to studies of the dressed human body, much of it informed by theoretical concerns regarding notions of agency and practice. My research takes into account the production of various elements of dress in the skilled processes of making yarn and cloth as well as the wearing of garments. With a particular focus on protein fibres and materials (e.g. the wool of sheep, the fleece of llamas and alpacas, fur skins and silk), these investigations explore what a study of dress and gender can tell us about human-animal engagements as related to different ontologies, which characterise the formation of the  ‘social skin’ of the wearer in different cultural contexts. This research is based on ethnographic fieldwork in South America and on the study of archaeological fabrics from medieval Scotland.

Another aspect of this research focuses on knowledge production and how it is reproduced by different generations of practitioners. I am exploring how weavers  in Isluga, northern Chile, use colours as a sense impression related to the cultural and environmental contexts in which they use colours in their textiles.

This research has been used to inform the displays in the Pitt Rivers Museum and British Museum (Andean textiles and basketry) and Perth Museum, Scotland (medieval textiles and tools), as well as the British Museum’s Leverhulme-funded research project into colourants used in Andean textiles.

Funders of research include:

  • Historic Scotland
  • Strathmartine Trust (2012)

Through the work in this research area the School has active research links and collaborations with researchers and practitioners in:

Dransart, P. 2013 ‘Dressed in furs: clothing and Yaghan multispecies engagements in Tierra del Fuego’, in Living Beings: Perspectives on Interspecies Engagements, P. Dransart (ed.), pp 183-204. London, New Delhi, New York and Sydney: Bloomsbury.

Dransart, P., Bennett, H., Bogdan, N.Q. and Ryder, M.L. 2012. The Perth High Street Archaeological Excavation 1975-77: The Textiles. Perth: TAFAC [Tayside and Fife Archaeological Committee].

Dransart, P. and Wolfe, H. 2011 Textiles from the Andes. British Museum Press: Fabric Folios.


British Museum, Andean Textiles: Organic Colourants, Biological Sources and Dyeing Technologies