The predicament of dress: Polyvalency and the ironies of cultural identity

  • Durham D
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To appreciate better the uncertain and unstable way that Herero women of Botswana understand their distinctive dress, I extend Bakhtin's notion of "sparkle" to include the disparate modalities through which meaning is constituted. An embodied subjectivity, or experiential sensibility, intrudes upon structured contrasts that also give the dress meaning in such registers as gender, ethnic relations, and the political economy of the liberal democratic state. I use Herero women's sense of the dress to question recent approaches to "culture" among scholars who look only at its differentiating function, since Herero women also see the dress as a means of building mutuality. [dress, identity, embodiment, agency, gender, southern Africa, culture]

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  • Deborah Durham

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