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By Janet Andrewes

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Extra info for Bodywork: Dress As Cultural Tool (African Social Studies Series)

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In The Civilizing Process (1978), Elias describes the pacification of medieval society through the development of individual, moral forms of restraint in codes such as table manners and etiquette. He describes how Western man became the ‘civilized’ being he is today, and in so doing he focuses on the body, as being the locus on and within which the process of civilization takes place. g. Turner 1984, Martin 1989, Giddens, 1991, T. Turner 1994. dress 41 some extent echoing Douglas, he sees the increased ability of individuals to exercise bodily control and self-restraint as being the key to the new political structures that have developed in the West since the end of the Middle Ages.

Garments, footwear and headwear included, are never just neutral in their relationship with the body. To talk about the experience of dress implies an event that touches both the body and the mind. Is it possible to show that the physical attitudes prompted by particular garments are indeed accompanied by shifts in mental attitude and in the way the wearer looks at the world? Evidence from the theatre, for example, suggests that this is so. Actors are aware of how useful it can be to learn to walk or sit or hold a cup of tea, or a mug of coffee, in the way their character would do these things.

According to Yves Delaporte, the chairman of the meeting, dress— which he describes as “a social fact par excellence”—had been badly neglected by anthropologists; publications were few and far between and not a single ethnographer had specialized in that area. The subject had been looked at by various sociologists: Barthes (1967) and Eco (1979) had written about the semiotics of dress for example, and two classic studies, by Simmel (1971) and Veblen (1899), had discussed dress in relation to the formation of social class.

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