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.

Related titles

Leave a Reply