ARCH 566 /AAS 406D

March 1 - Photography and Fashion in Africa
Guest Lecturer: Liam Buckley


I. Overview

"The 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"

This 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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II. Class Outline


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III. Assigned Readings
  • Okwui 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.

  • Tobias Wendl, “Portraits and Scenery in Ghana” from Anthology of African and Indian Ocean Photography (Paris: Revue Noire): 142-156.

  • Judith Perani and Norma H. Wolff, “Cloth and Dress as a Mirror of Culture,” from Cloth, Dress and Art Patronage in Africa (New York: Berg): 28-48.

  • Jean Loup Pivin, “Totem and Icon” from Anthology of African and Indian Ocean Photography (Paris: Revue Noire): 24-32.
  • Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography ( New York: Hill and Wang, 1981): sections 5 and 42.

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IV. Digital Resources