Patterns In Circulation: Cloth, Gender, And Materiality In West Africa

Hardcover | December 7, 2016

byNina Sylvanus

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In this book, Nina Sylvanus tells a captivating story of global trade and cross-cultural aesthetics in West Africa, showing how a group of Togolese women—through the making and circulation of wax cloth—became influential agents of taste and history. Traveling deep into the shifting terrain of textile manufacture, design, and trade, she follows wax cloth around the world and through time to unveil its critical role in colonial and postcolonial patterns of exchange and value production.
           
Sylvanus brings wax cloth’s unique and complex history to light: born as a nineteenth-century Dutch colonial effort to copy Javanese batik cloth for Southeast Asian markets, it was reborn as a status marker that has dominated the visual economy of West African markets. Although most wax cloth is produced in China today, it continues to be central to the expression of West African women’s identity and power. As Sylvanus shows, wax cloth expresses more than this global motion of goods, capital, aesthetics, and labor—it is a form of archive where intimate and national memories are stored, always ready to be reanimated by human touch. By uncovering this crucial aspect of West African material culture, she enriches our understanding of global trade, the mutual negotiations that drive it, and the how these create different forms of agency and subjectivity.
 

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From the Publisher

In this book, Nina Sylvanus tells a captivating story of global trade and cross-cultural aesthetics in West Africa, showing how a group of Togolese women—through the making and circulation of wax cloth—became influential agents of taste and history. Traveling deep into the shifting terrain of textile manufacture, design, and trade, she...

Nina Sylvanus is assistant professor of anthropology at Northeastern University.  
Format:HardcoverDimensions:224 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.8 inPublished:December 7, 2016Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022639719X

ISBN - 13:9780226397191

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments

Introduction: Patterns in Circulation
1  Fashioning the Body: Dressing the Public Self
2  Archival Prints: Alternate Histories of Taste and Circulation
3  Branding Cloth, Branding Nation: The Nana Benz and the Materiality of Power
4  Flexible Patterns: The Nanettes Remake the Market and Cloth in China
5  Dangerous Copies: Old Value Systems in a New Economy
Conclusion: Assigamé Burning

Notes
Bibliography
Index

Editorial Reviews

“The pagne is an anthropological puzzle crying out for exploration, and Sylvanus guides us deep into the cultural, historical, economic, and aesthetic tangle, along the way providing a norm-shattering portrait of African women as producers and consumers in the global economy. She demonstrates how the ‘dense materiality’ of fabric binds local human actors, material agency, the state, and capitalist forces together in mutually determining ways. This is one of the richest ethnographies yet written on cultural mixture and commodity chains, revealing that nothing about taste, design, or authenticity is as it first appears. It disrupts any conception of West African societies that is not already fundamentally global.”