The Politics of Dress in Somali Culture
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The Politics of Dress in Somali Culture

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The universal act of dressing-shared by both men and women, young and old, rich and poor, minority and majority-has shaped human interactions, communicated hopes and fears about the future, and embodied what it means to be Somali. Heather Marie Akou mines politics and history in this rich and compelling study of Somali material culture. Akou explores the evolution of Somali folk dress, the role of the Somali government in imposing styles of dress, competing forms of Islamic dress, and changes in Somali fashion in the U.S. With the collapse of the Somali state, Somalis continue a connection with their homeland and community through what they wear every day.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 200 pages
  • 154.94 x 226.06 x 15.24mm | 340.19g
  • Indiana University Press
  • Bloomington, IN, United States
  • English
  • 30 b&w illus., 1 map
  • 025322313X
  • 9780253223135
  • 1,664,894

Review quote

This work has two major themes: Somalis' long involvement with the outside world, and the subsequent growing tensions over male and female roles in Somali society. Akou (dress studies and fashion design, Indiana Univ.) begins with off-one-shoulder wrapped animal-skin clothing with amulets of early pastoral nomads, and woven robes worn by immigrant Middle Eastern Muslim urban dwellers. By the 13th-14th centuries, Chinese and Indian traders brought cotton and silk fabrics. Portuguese and Ottoman Turks attempted to control ports and trade. By the 19th century, European fashions (British, Italian, French) arrived with dominant colonial officials. After WW II, Somalia's 1960 national independence emphasized revival and update of indigenous clothing. USSR Cold War influences introduced secularized socialistic worker clothes. Then, due to economic problems, many Somalis had to take temporary jobs abroad, requiring adoption of local dress elsewhere. The 1970s-80s brought influences from Iran and Saudi Arabia with Islamic jihadist demands for extremely modest clothing, especially for women. The subsequent 1990s central government collapse resulted in a mass exodus to the US, where Somalis were pressured to maintain their own or accept Western styles. Akou provides English readers rare insights into the complexities of dress traditions continually interwoven with political conflicts. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. -- ChoiceB. B. Chico, Regis University, February 2012 "Akou provides English readers rare insights into the complexities of dress traditions continually interwoven with political conflicts... Highly recommended." -Choice "Close studies of non-Western dress are few and far between. African examples are even more rare. This is a welcome addition." -Linda Welters, University of Rhode Island "[T]his remarkable study of Somali dress and politics does much to clarify both the Somali peoples history and their present predicaments." -H-AfrArts "[A]ny unbiased reader will conclude that this is an excellent book, written in a style that will benefit readers across the board. To a large extent, it should benefit scholars and students with cross-cultural and African research and historical interests. Above all, the author should be highly commended for her wonderful insights and excellent research skills." -Africa Today "[This] book importantly addresses an often-overlooked cultural element and its role in religious and political change." -Journal of Religion in Africa "Politics of Dress in Somali Culture is a monumental and an assiduous undertaking that deserves commendation, as the publication can serve as an important introduction to Somali history in schools and for the general audience. Above all, the 177-page book is so well written that it should be accessible to both scholars and students." -African and Asian Studies "[This is] a study that examines clothing clothing and its relationship to political and cultural changes along a historical continuum primarily from the nineteenth century to the present." -African Arts "The Politics of Dress in Somali Culture is a welcome addition to the growing literature on historical and contemporary dress practices in Africa and the diaspora... Akou's case study broadly demonstrates the globalized nature of Somali dress both historically and today. It is well-written, concise, and touches on many issues that resonate with the history of colonialism, rise (and fall) of a nation state, dispersal into the diaspora, influence of Islam, gender, and creation of national and ethnic identities, making it suitable for course adoption and a general readership." -Museum Anthropology Review "The Politics of Dress in Somali Culture is a monumental and an assiduous undertaking that deserves commendation, as the publication can serve as an important introduction to Somali history in schools and for the general audience. Above all, the 177-page book is so well written that it should be accessible to both scholars and students." -Journal of African and Asian Studiesshow more

About Heather M. Akou

Heather Marie Akou is Assistant Professor in the Department of Apparel Merchandising and Interior Design, Indiana University Bloomington. Her work appears in Contemporary African Fashion (IUP, 2010) and Fashioning Africa (IUP, 2004).show more

Table of contents

AcknowledgmentsTimeline of Events1 The Political Symbolism of Dress2 The Origins of Somali Dress-Prehistory to 18003 A Class of Civilizations-1800 to 19454 Dressing the Nation-1945 to 19915 Dress in a Time of Extreme Change-1991 to 20106 The Relevance of HistoryGlossaryAppendix A - Stamps issued in Somalia, 1960-1980Bibliography Indexshow more

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