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Carol Tulloch launches The Birth of Cool: Style Narratives of the African Diaspora

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carol-tulloch-market-women-web

Written by
Sarah McLean
Published date
15 March 2016
Professor Carol Tulloch is a writer and curator with a specialism in dress and black identities. She is a researcher who is part of the Camberwell, Chelsea and Wimbledon Graduate School. This month sees the launch of her book, The Birth of Cool: Style Narratives of the African Diaspora which has been published to great acclaim alongside an insightful interview in The Observer. This week at Chelsea, she will give her Professorial Platform lecture This Time it’s Personal, which will reflect on her research practice and look at the ways in which The Birth of Cool acts as work that connects a range of personal experiences through style.
Studio Portrait of Billie Holiday, 1948

Studio Portrait of Billie Holiday, 1948

Described in the Observer as “the product of a lifetime’s research”, The Birth of Cool is the culmination of Carol Tulloch’s work looking at dress and textiles associated with the African diaspora as well as material and visual culture an the ways these comprise, contribute to or denote identities.

As she explains on her research profile: “My current research focus is on the telling of self through the styled black body. This includes cross-cultural and transnational relations, cultural heritage, auto/biography, personal archives and what I call ‘style narratives’. I combine these approaches to consider how black people negotiate their sense of self within various cultural and social contexts locally, nationally and internationally. ”

She is a member of the Transnational Art, Identity and Nation Research Centre (TrAIN) and is the TrAIN/V&A Fellow in the Research Department of the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Below are some more images from her book, described by D. Soyini Madison, Northwestern University, USA as follows: “The Birth of Cool makes a unique contribution to studies of dress and culture, as well as to black studies and diaspora studies. Tulloch deconstructs and reconstructs black aesthetics to open new pathways for understanding the lives and social histories of figures like Billie Holiday and Malcolm X. It is one of the most impressive works I have read in years.” –

Emmeline Cetira Thomas, 1955, Birmingham, England. Image courtesy: author’s collection.

Emmeline Cetira Thomas, 1955, Birmingham, England. Image courtesy: author’s collection.

Malcolm X, 1964, photographed by Robert Parent. Photo: Robert Parent/Getty Images.

Malcolm X, 1964, photographed by Robert Parent. Photo: Robert Parent/Getty Images.

Billie Holiday, 1954, Charles Hewitt. Photo: Charles Hewitt/Getty Images.

Billie Holiday, 1954, Charles Hewitt. Photo: Charles Hewitt/Getty Images.

Find out more about The Birth of Cool on publisher Bloomsbury’s website.

Read an interview with Carol about the book in The Observer.

Read Carol Tulloch’s research profile.
Attend Carol’s Professorial Platform lecture This Time It’s Personal by visiting the event page.
Find out more about studying for a research degree on our Research & Graduate School web pages.