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Clothing and Difference: Embodied Identities in Colonial and Post-Colonial Africa

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Overview


This volume examines the dynamic relationship between the body, clothing, and identity in sub-Saharan Africa and raises questions that have previously been directed almost exclusively to a Western and urban context. Unusual in its treatment of the body surface as a critical frontier in the production and authentification of identity, Clothing and Difference shows how the body and its adornment have been used to construct and contest social and individual identities in Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Kenya, and other African societies during both colonial and post-colonial times.
Grounded in the insights of anthropology and history and influenced by developments in cultural studies, these essays investigate the relations between the personal and the public, and between ideas about the self and those about the family, gender, and national groups. They explore the bodily and material creation of the changing identities of women, spirits, youths, ancestors, and entrepreneurs through a consideration of topics such as fashion, spirit possession, commodity exchange, hygiene, and mourning.
By taking African societies as its focus, Clothing and Difference demonstrates that factors considered integral to Western social development—heterogeneity, migration, urbanization, transnational exchange, and media representation—have existed elsewhere in different configurations and with different outcomes. With significance for a wide range of fields, including gender studies, cultural studies, art history, performance studies, political science, semiotics, economics, folklore, and fashion and textile analysis/design, this work provides alternative views of the structures underpinning Western systems of commodification, postmodernism, and cultural differentiation.

Contributors. Misty Bastian, Timothy Burke, Hildi Hendrickson, Deborah James, Adeline Masquelier, Elisha Renne, Johanna Schoss, Brad Weiss

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“An excellent book. Clothing and Difference will contribute to knowledge about Africa as well as to the general topic of the communication process involved in dressing the body.”—Joanne B. Eicher, University of Minnesota

“Innovative, rich, and engaging. This collection’s concern with how the body surface mediates constructions of identity in colonial and post-colonial Africa makes an important contribution to ongoing scholarship on the body, clothing, and consumption in anthropology, history, and cultural studies.”—Karen Tranberg Hansen, Northwestern University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822317913
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books
  • Publication date: 6/28/1996
  • Series: Body, Commodity, Text
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.02 (w) x 9.26 (h) x 0.84 (d)

Table of Contents

Figures
Acknowledgments
Introduction 1
1 Virginity Cloths and Vaginal Coverings in Ekiti, Nigeria 19
2 "I Dress in This Fashion": Transformations in Sotho Dress and Women's Lives in a Sekhukhuneland Village, South Africa 34
3 Mediating Threads: Clothing and the Texture of Spirit/Medium Relations in Bori (Southern Niger) 66
4 Female "Alhajis" and Entrepreneurial Fashions: Flexible Identities in Southeastern Nigerian Clothing Practice 97
5 Dressing at Death: Clothing, Time, and Memory in Buhaya, Tanzania 133
6 Dressed to "Shine": Work, Leisure, and Style in Malindi, Kenya 157
7 "Sunlight Soap Has Changed My Life": Hygiene, Commodification, and the Body in Colonial Zimbabwe 189
8 Bodies and Flags: The Representation of Herero Identity in Colonial Namibia 213
References 245
Notes on Contributors 260
Index 263
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