The predicament of dress: polyvalency and the ironies of cultural identity
Article first published online: 7 JAN 2008
Volume 26, Issue 2, pages 389–411, May 1999
How to Cite
Durham, D. (1999), The predicament of dress: polyvalency and the ironies of cultural identity. American Ethnologist, 26: 389–411. doi: 10.1525/ae.19188.8.131.529
- Issue published online: 7 JAN 2008
- Article first published online: 7 JAN 2008
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.