Domesticating technological myth: gender, exhibition spaces and the clean air movement in the UK

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This paper explores the relation between technologies and the reconfiguration of gender relations in the British home. Drawing on Haraway's concept of technological myth, and Barthes' reflections on the modern myth-making process, analysis considers how the promotion and animation of new smokeless technologies in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Britain was under-girded by a reconstituted vision of the British home and the woman's place within it. In part, smokeless technologies promised the liberation of housewives from the ‘drudgery’ of domestic labour. The myths associated with smokeless technologies were, however, also suggestive of a more open sense of the home, within which female citizens could combine a concern with the domestic needs of the family with the broader moral reform of the city as a whole. Through an analysis of various smoke abatement exhibitions, which were convened throughout the UK during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, this paper explores how smokeless technologies were braided into a new mythical geography of the British home. While at one level, this new home promised a scientifically liberated domestic sphere and a more publicly engaged female citizenry, it ultimately served to restructure and reassert the British woman's role within the modern household. Analysis focuses specifically upon the exhibit materials and popular press accounts associated with key smoke abatement exhibitions in the UK.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)635-651
Number of pages17
JournalSocial and Cultural Geography
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 01 Sept 2008


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