Dress as Social Relations

An interpretation of Bushman dress
Author(s):
  • Publication Date: July 2018
  • Dimensions and Pages: 253 x 210mm; 208pp
  • Paperback EAN: 978-1-77614-191-3
  • Rights: World
  • Recommended Price (ZAR): 650.00
  • Recommended Price (USD): 30

To dress is a uniquely human experience, but practices and meanings of dress vary greatly among people. In a Western cultural tradition, the practice of dressing ‘properly’ has for centuries distinguished ‘civilised’ people from ‘savages’. Through travel literature and historical ethnographic descriptions of the Bushmen of southern Africa, such perceptions and prejudices have made their mark also on the modern research tradition. Because Bushmen were widely considered to be ‘nearly naked’ the study of dress has played a limited part in academic writings on Bushman culture.
In Dress as Social Relations Vibeke Maria Viestad challenges this myth of the nearly naked Bushman and provides an interdisciplinary study of Bushman dress, as it is represented in the archives and material culture of historical Bushman communities. Maintaining a critical perspective, Viestad provides an interpretation of the significance of dress for historical Bushman people. Dress, she argues, formed an embodied practice of social relations between humans, animals and other powerful beings of the Bushman world; moreover, this complex and meaningful practice was intimately related to subsistence strategies and social identity.
The historical collections under scrutiny present a wide variety of research material representing different aspects of the bodily practice of dress. Whereas the Bleek & Lloyd archive of oral myths and narratives has become renowned for its great research potential, the artefact collections of Dorothea Bleek and Louis Fourie are much less known and have not earlier been published in a richly illustrated and comprehensive way.
Dress as Social Relations is aimed at scholars and students of archaeology, anthropology, material culture studies, dress studies, ethnographic studies, museology, culture historical studies and African studies, but will also be of interest to people of descendant communities.

PART I TO DRESS: BACKGROUND AND PERSPECTIVES
The problem
Scope of the approach
The questions
The outline

Chapter 1 The Myth of the Naked Bushman
Scientific racism and the exhibition of Bushmen
Early Bushman ethnography
Modern Bushman ethnography

Chapter 2 How to Study Bushman Dress
A definition of dress
The significance of dress
Pieces of dress: Lost and found
Mix and match: A theoretical bricolage
Research material
A museal paradox

PART II DRESSED IN SOCIAL STRUCTURE: THE BUSHMAN DRESS OF DOROTHEA BLEEK
Reconstructing the /auni dress
Reconstructing the Basarwa dress
Reconstructing the Naron dress
Dressing ‘the naked Bushman’

Chapter 3 Field Notes and Diaries, 1911 and 1913
Words and sentences
Kyky, Gordonia, 10 October to 21 November 1911
Kakia, Bechuanaland Protectorate, 23 June to 1 August 1913
Dressing ‘the Bushman’

Chapter 4 The South West Africa Expeditions, 1920–1921 and 1921–1922
OES beads and beadwork
Skin work
Tattoos and cut marks
‘Fragrant’ necklaces and tortoiseshell containers
Dress as social structure

PART III DRESSED IN GROUP RELATIONS: THE BUSHMAN DRESS OF LOUIS FOURIE
The artefact collection
The paper archive
The photographs

Chapter 5 Bushman Groups Materialised
The ?Ao-//ein
The Naron

The Nu-//ein
The Hei-//om
Photographing objects
Photographing people

Chapter 6 Dress Noted
OES beads and beadwork
Skin work
Tattoos and cut marks
Necklaces/medicines
Dress as group relations

PART IV DRESSED AS TOLD: INTERPRETING DRESS PRACTICES FROM /XAM BUSHMAN NARRATIVES
People of the archive
The archive: Context and scholarly tradition
Signifiers of dress
Analytical concepts
The narratives

Chapter 7 Body Modifications: How to Live Life in a Sometimes-Unpredictable World
‘Acting nicely’ towards the Rain
Dressed in Ssho /oa

Chapter 8 The Embedded Properties of Clothing: Human and Animal Relations
Becoming human, becoming animal
Springbok sorcerers

Chapter 9 Identities in the Making: Being Dressed
The narratives
/Xam dress as social relations
Conclusion: A World of Dress
The questions
The results
Some implications

Epilogue
Appendix 1 Note on Nomenclature
Bushmen, San, Basarwa and Khoisan
Different names for the same group of people
Appendix 2 Map of southern Africa
Bibliography
Unpublished sources
Online collections
Online publications and sites
Literature
Index

Vibeke Maria Viestad is senior lecturer in the Department of Archaeology, Conservation and History at the University of Oslo. She is a research associate at the Archive and Public Culture Research Initiative at the University of Cape Town and an honorary research fellow at the Rock Art Research Institute at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

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