Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Design and the Fetish

Skin Two Magazine

Fetish(n.): a. Originally, any of the objects used by the Negroes of the Guinea coast and the neighbouring regions as amulets or means of enchantment, or regarded by them with superstitious dread. b. An inanimate object worshipped by primitive peoples on account of its supposed inherent magical powers, or as being animated by a spirit. c. fig. Something irrationally reverenced. d. Psychology. An object, a non-sexual part of the body, or a particular action, which abnormally serves as the stimulus to, or the end in itself of, sexual desire.


The word fetish or fetishism when attributed to African objects is used to describe a wide range of items, contexts and uses. In brief, fetish refers to an object that contains another form of substance(s), widely referred to as medicines or charms. These objects are made for the purpose of spirit guidance and are used to act upon the world whether it is in a natural or supernatural context. They can be used in a positive way, for example, to protect or to effect prosperity or fertility; or they can be used in a negative way, for example, to punish or provoke illness.

Likewise with the argument that fetish can be seen as a problematic term, this again will be of a general and brief nature compared to its full and complex analysis.

In a modern Western society the word fetish or fetishism has most probably the same connotations and symbolic meaning for most of its members. The meaning being a fetish is something or someone that an individual has an inner need or desire for in either an emotional, physical or sexual way. It encompasses to us a lot of behaviour that is considered to be outside the norm of society. So in this light it is received in quite a negative way and seems to signify something that people within the norm cannot quite understand.

Although the list of objects that fetishists can use for sexual gratification is inexhaustible, among the more common inanimate objects are panties, bras, slips, stockings or panty hose, negligees, shoes, boots and gloves. Common media objects include leather, rubber, silk, or fur. In some cases drawings or photographs of the fetish object may arouse fetishists, but more commonly the fetishist prefers or requires an object that has already been worn. The worn object does not serve as a symbolic reminder of the former owner, however, because it is the object that the fetishist relates to, not the person attached to it. Sometimes it is a body part, such as hair, feet, legs or buttocks that become fetish objects. These are examples of animate fetish objects.

The sexual acts of fetishists are characteristically depersonalized and objectified, even when they involve a partner. The focus of attention is exclusively on the fetish, whereas non-fetishists may at various times make a particular body part or an object part of their general sexual arousal and expression with another person, but not be fixated on it.
Lecture Schedule
Each week we will have a one and a half hour lecture followed buy a discussion.

Week One
Definition and introduction to the concept of fetishism

Week Two
The evolution and concepts behind fetishism and fashion

Week Three
Body modification

Week Four
The future of the fetish and the fetish of technology

Week Five ( See note below )
Proposals for research and discussion of the “Korean specific fetish”

Week Six
Presentation of research of fetishism in Korea

Week Seven
Publication discussion and review

Note – As part of this course you will be expected to research and document a study of a specific part of Korean fetishism ( from love hotels to mobile phone mods)