Dr. Jacki Willson


My research is situated between the disciplines of Fine Art, Fashion and Performance. I began her research journey in Fine Art practice and created Arts Council Funded activist performance work in Nottingham after graduating in 2001. My projects -In Exile (2003)and Content in Suburbia (2008) - dealt with questions of motherhood and home by documenting activist intervention pieces that she performed in her local area. My MA in Cinema Studies moved her into Fashion/Costume Studies as a useful and exciting way of thinking through questions of the 'gaze' and objectification. From 2012 to 2016 I taught Cultural Studies to Fashion, Textiles and Jewellery students at Central Saint Martins. Ideas relating to fashion have helped to re-vitalize different ways of approaching feminism and the female body. My two monographs, The Happy Stripper: Pleasures and Politics of New Burlesque (2008) and Being Gorgeous: Feminism, Sexuality and the Pleasures of the Visual (2015) came out of my PhD research. This was triggered by a performance by Ursula Martinez called 'Show Off' whereby Martinez performed a striptease. The PhD thesis explored this performance by looking at the intersections between the historical trajectories of women's performance art, the burlesque artiste and feminist activism.

Research interests

My research interests relate to the fashioned or costumed body, performance and gender/sexual politics. I have recently published an article in Routledge's Porn Studies journal 'Porn, Pantomime and Protest: the politics of bawdiness as feminine style' that explores the 2014 'face-sitting' protests by sex workers that took place in 2014 outside of Westminster. In this protest costume and bawdy humour were used in a particularly intriguing way. Her article explores the use of bawdiness as a strategy for protest and considers this in relation to class, sexuality and Englishness.

My research focuses on women performers of new cabaret  (especially burlesque), looking at the way costume (by both the performers and the audiences) is used to fashion resistance. I also looks at other forms of cultural activism within popular culture, both on the street and on social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook, specifically in relation to the women (including trans) and drag. My research  is grounded within feminist - theoretical, historical and activist - perspectives.

I am currently in the process of writing her third monograph, Fashioning the Reproductive Body: the spectacle, performance and politics of womanhood, and a co-editing a volume, Revisiting the Gaze: the fashioned body and the politics of looking. I am also working on a second edited volume entitled, Dangerous Bodies: fashioned bodies on the boundaries.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD Fine Art theory/history - Loughborough University
  • BA Fine Art (Painting) - 1st Class - Loughborough University
  • BA Cinema Studies - Nottingham Trent
  • PGCE - University of York

Student education

I will be involved in the teaching of Researching Theatre and Performance next year - specifically, Feminism and Performance. I will also be involved in tutoring 3rd year dissertation students.

Research groups and institutes

  • Bodies & Performance
<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/research-opportunities">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>