Dr Tania Dickinson
Power and Possession: The Importance of Dress and Personal Adornment to the Construction of Complex Societies in Early Medieval Northern Britain and Ireland
I am a final year PhD student in the Department of Archaeology where my research interests include the application of modern sociological and anthropological approaches to past societies.
In particular, my research aims to assess the capacity for items of personal adornment in early medieval northern Britain and Ireland, functioning within the sphere of dress as a whole, to have contributed to the development of social hierarchical relations, and thus to the construction and maintenance of complex societies in these areas between 400 and 1000 AD. This is demonstrated by the adoption of multidisciplinary and biographical approaches to the subject of dress and appearance, incorporating aspects of history and history of art, as well as combining post-processual theoretical approaches with aspects of dress theory derived from social anthropology.
The approach employed in my thesis has been designed to overcome the literal fragmentation of the archaeological record of this area of study, where most extant examples derive from uncontextualised stray finds, so as to contextualise and 'reassemble' otherwise disparate dress assemblages. It also allows the roles played by human and material agents in the construction, maintenance and manipulation of identity through dress to be identified and investigated.
In a previous life I completed an MA (Hons) in History of Art at the University of Aberdeen (1st class, 2004), where I specialised in the sculptured monuments of early medieval Britain and Ireland, and was involved in the Hilton of Cadboll project with the National Museum of Scotland and GUARD. This was followed by an MA in Medieval Archaeology at York (2005), looking at the social role of early medieval weaponry.
At present, I work for the York Museums Trust at the Yorkshire Museum, where my role is that of a guide and educator, working with children and adults in artefact handling sessions. I have also been involved with the York Archaeological Trust's community archaeology programme in a similar capacity. I have been teaching undergraduate and Masters students at the University of York for the past three years, and am currently involved in the Preparing Future Academics programme run by the Graduate Training Unit and Higher Education Academy. My research to date has required me to specialise in the study of portable artefacts, principally metalwork items, and this is an area of interest that I have sought to further develop and disseminate by way of my teaching and extra-curricular activities.