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Art African

Creating African Fashion Histories

Politics, Museums, and Sartorial Practices

edited by JoAnn McGregor, Heather M. Akou & Nicola Stylianou

contributions by Jody Benjamin, Sarah Fee, Malika Kraamer, Harriet Hughes, Beth A. Buggenhagen, M. Angela Jansen, Peri M. Klemm, Erica de Greef, Edith Ojo & Helen Mears

Indiana University Press
Initial publish date
Apr 2022
African, Textile & Costume, Museum Studies
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    Publish Date
    Apr 2022
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    Publish Date
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Creating African Fashion Histories examines the stark disjuncture between African self-fashioning and museum practices. Conventionally, African clothing, textiles, and body adornments were classified by museums as examples of trade goods, art, and ethnographic materials—never as "fashion." Counterposing the dynamism of African fashion with museums' historic holdings thus provides a unique way of confronting ways in which coloniality persists in knowledge and institutions today. This volume brings together an interdisciplinary group of scholars and curators to debate sources and approaches for constructing African fashion histories and to examine their potential for decolonizing museums, fashion studies, and global cultural history.

The editors of this volume seek to answer questions such as: How can researchers use museum collections to reveal traces of past self-fashioning that are obscured by racialized forms of knowledge and institutional practice? How can archival, visual, oral, ethnographic, and online sources be deployed to capture the diversity of African sartorial pasts? How can scholars and curators decolonize the Eurocentric frames of thinking encapsulated in historic collections and current curricula? Can new collections of African fashion decolonize museum practice?

From Moroccan fashion bloggers to upmarket Lagos designers, the voices in this ground-breaking collection reveal fascinating histories and geographies of circulation within and beyond the continent and its diasporic communities.

About the authors

Contributor Notes


JoAnn McGregor is Professor of Human Geography, School of Global Studies, University of Sussex. She is author of Crossing the Zambezi: The Politics of Landscape on a Central African Frontier and (with Jocelyn Alexander and Terence Ranger) of Violence and Memory: One Hundred Years in the 'Dark Forests' of Matabeleland, Zimbabwe. She was part of the Fashioning Africa Collection Panel at the Brighton Museum.

Heather Akou is Associate Professor of Fashion Design and former Director of the Elizabeth Sage Historic Costume Collection in the Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture & Design at Indiana University. She is author of The Politics of Dress in Somali Culture. Her work is published in numerous journals such as Fashion Theory, Dress, and Clothing Cultures.

Nicola Stylianou is Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the School of Global Studies at the University of Sussex working on the AHRC-funded project "Making African Connections: Decolonial Futures for Colonial Collections." She received an AHRC Cultural Engagement Award for her work at the Victoria & Albert Museum, and she was part of the Fashioning Africa Collection Panel at the Brighton Museum.