surface of the body, as the common frontier of society, the
social self becomes the symbolic stage upon which the drama
of socialization is enacted, and bodily adornment becomes
the language through which it is expressed."
Terry Turner, "The Social Skin"
presentation will introduce students to the visual cultures
of photography and fashion in Africa. In their colonial and
postcolonial contexts, the activities of photography (the
taking of, posing for, display, collection, and exchange of
photographs) and "dressing up" have provided persons with
a time to establish identities for themselves and social relations
with others, while exercising power and testing authority
(both local and imposed from abroad). Looking at how persons
in Africa compose and present themselves to meet society,
challenges us to "check the baggage"-the ways of knowing we
take for granted--that we carry during any encounter with
African material. Specifically, we need to address what happens
to our models of individuality and identity when we encounter
African forms of self-presentation. Indeed, we might question
the use of these models of social being for understanding
the experience of being "African."
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Enwezor and Octavio Zaya, “Colonial Imagery, Tropes of Disruption:
History, Culture, and Representation in the Works of African
Photographers” from In/sight: African Photographers, 1940
to the Present.
Wendl, “Portraits and Scenery in Ghana” from Anthology of
African and Indian Ocean Photography (Paris: Revue Noire):
Perani and Norma H. Wolff, “Cloth and Dress as a Mirror of Culture,”
from Cloth, Dress and Art Patronage in Africa (New York:
Loup Pivin, “Totem and Icon” from Anthology of African and
Indian Ocean Photography (Paris: Revue Noire): 24-32.
Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography (
New York: Hill and Wang, 1981): sections 5 and 42.