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

The Politics of Dress in Somali Culture 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.
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Product details

  • Electronic book text | 196 pages
  • Indiana University Press
  • United States
  • English
  • New.
  • 0253001528
  • 9780253001528

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
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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).
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