The Bluest Hands: A Social and Economic History of Women Dyers in Abeokuta (Nigeria), 1890-1940

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Women played a vital role in the Abeokuta indigo dyeing industry during the period 1850 to 1939. This period was particularly critical for the dyeing industry as legitimate trade and colonialism transformed the social, political, and economic context in which female dyers plied their trade. Women dyers engaged in a dynamic and fluid relationship with the colonial political economy that enabled them to navigate the many changes that accompanied colonial rule. Yet, as Byfield shows, there was a paradoxical side to this engagement. Women indigo dyers simultaneously shaped and were shaped by the uneven processes of colonialism and capitalism, with profound consequences both for women dyers and the Abeokuta indigo industry itself.

As one of the few historical treatments of African craft producers, The Bluest Hands illuminates changes in the political consciousness and political activism of women dyers as they mobilized to protect their industry. Scholars interested in African history, art history, African politics, economic history, and women's studies will find much of value in this intriguing study.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780325070087
  • Publisher: Heinemann
  • Publication date: 3/12/2002
  • Series: Social History of Africa Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 224
  • Age range: 18 years
  • Product dimensions: 4.66 (w) x 7.69 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Judith Byfield is associate professor of history at Dartmouth College where she teaches courses in African history.
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Table of Contents



Dress and Textile Production in Nineteenth-Century Abeokuta

"The King of England Was Their Wall": State and Society During the Early Colonial Period

Artisans and Empire: The Structure and Organization of Adire Production

Innovation and Conflict in the Adire Industry

Does Father Know Best? Confronting the Alake

The "Collapse" of the Adire Industry, 1937-1939




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