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The Politics of Dress in Somali Culture

Heather Marie Akou

Publication Year: 2011

The universal act of dressing -- shared by both men and women, young and old, rich and poor, minority and majority -- has shaped human interactions, communicated hopes and fears about the future, and embodied what it means to be Somali. Heather Marie Akou mines politics and history in this rich and compelling study of Somali material culture. Akou explores the evolution of Somali folk dress, the role of the Somali government in imposing styles of dress, competing forms of Islamic dress, and changes in Somali fashion in the U.S. With the collapse of the Somali state, Somalis continue a connection with their homeland and community through what they wear every day.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: African Expressive Cultures

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii

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pp. ix-x

During the decade I spent doing research on Somali dress and then publishing my work (including this book), I was blessed to be supported by many fine people. First and foremost, I would like to thank my friend and colleague, Dr. Theresa Winge, who not only gave me valuable feedback from the very beginning, but shared her time, her home, ...

Timeline of Events

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pp. xi-xiv

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pp. 1-12

In September 2006—five months before he announced his candidacy for President of the United States—Senator Barack Obama went on a diplomatic tour of Africa. One stop included the city of Dire Dawa in southeastern Ethiopia, which had recently been hit by a flash flood that “killed more than 600 people and displaced tens of thousands.”1 ...

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2 · The Origins of Somali Dress—Prehistory to 1800

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pp. 13-26

In the nineteenth century, European writers often compared Somali dress to the clothing of the ancient Mediterranean, the peplos of Greece and toga of Rome. Although there are some aesthetic similarities between these garments and Somali nomadic dress, all being wrapped garments as opposed to pre-shaped,1 this style of dress ...

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3 · A Clash of Civilizations—1800 to 1945

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pp. 27-64

Prior to the nineteenth century, Somalis were not in much direct contact with Europeans. By 1800, political power had shifted to the interior, but it began to shift back with changes in the Arab slave trade1 and the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. Suddenly, nomads had goods from the interior that Europeans were looking for: ...

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4 · Dressing the Nation—1945 to 1991

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pp. 65-92

From the end of World War II to independence to the total collapse of the government in Somalia—a span of just forty-six years—Somali dress changed radically. Although there had always been some differences in dress between men and women, the gap widened significantly. Among men, European-style dress gained widespread acceptance. ...

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5 · Dress in a Time of Extreme Change—1991 to 2010

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pp. 93-128

In 1991, the conflicts that had been brewing in Somalia for more than a decade erupted into a full-blown civil war, causing the total collapse of the central government. At least 50,000 people were killed in the initial violence, but ten times as many died from starvation due to the “scorched-earth” style of fighting and the disruption of supply chains. ...

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pp. 129-134

In November 2008, Somali “pirates” attracted international media attention by capturing a Saudi supertanker filled with two hundred million barrels of crude oil, a feat accomplished with rocket-propelled grenade launchers from the ongoing war in Somalia. A journalist for the Times of London called the supertanker, the Sirius Star, ...

Appendix: Stamps Issued in Somalia, 1960–1980

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pp. 135-138


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pp. 139-140


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pp. 141-158


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pp. 159-168


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pp. 169-177

E-ISBN-13: 9780253001528
E-ISBN-10: 0253001528
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253356291

Page Count: 200
Illustrations: 30 b&w illus., 1 map
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: African Expressive Cultures