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12. Mukta Tripathi

Pravina Shukla Indiana University Press ePub

THOUGH MARRIED WOMEN in India are expected to be ornamented, some prefer to pay little attention to adornment and wear the minimum of jewelry, like Nina Khanchandani. Others, like Neelam Chaturvedi, indulge their affection for one kind of adornment—in her case, the sari—and downplay the others. Mukta Tripathi, a woman in her mid-forties and a mother of two, is, by contrast, passionate about all kinds of adornment.

I was directed to Mukta precisely because she is known to have a grand sense of personal style. Our conversations were lively and easy, because Mukta has carefully considered the variables that most people intuit but few can articulate.1 Mukta spoke energetically, interrupting herself to illustrate her points. She succinctly verbalized the aesthetic choices women make daily, actively enriching their lives with creativity.

Mukta began her treatment of the levels of visual decision by focusing on the beauty of the actual piece of adornment. The item of jewelry or clothing, she said, must be good-looking. She likes to change her jewelry often, and, like most married women in Banaras, she buys new glass bangles regularly. But unlike others, Mukta also changes her nath (nose ring), bichiya (toe rings), and payal (anklets) with frequency; she finds it fun to vary her “compulsory” jewelry.

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1. Body Art in Banaras

Pravina Shukla Indiana University Press ePub

EVERY ONE OF US gets dressed in the morning, every day of our lives. Clothing is one of the principal ways by which we express at once our personal identities and our culture. Dress, along with architecture and food, fulfills basic human needs for protection and creativity, while responding to environmental and social conditions. Since all people engage in these shared mediums of expression, one way to understand and compare cultures—and to see regional, local, and personal differences within cultures—is to examine specific modes of clothing, housing, and feeding the body. Schools and museums often utilize this basic triad in introducing children to the diversity of the world’s populations.1 But in contrast to the study of vernacular architecture, and, to a lesser extent, the study of foodways, the examination of everyday clothing is not yet fully developed. Surveys of national dress tend to generalize, homogenize, and anonymize individuals, discounting personal interpretations of social norms. Other books focus on extreme cases—the counter-cultural young with their tattoos, the economic elite with their enthusiasm for high fashion. It is my aim to provide a study of the clothing choices made by ordinary people, in keeping with the theoretical premises of my discipline, folklore, which, to begin, I will define as the study of creativity in everyday life.2

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2. Glittering Video: Format, Fashion, and the Materiality of Nollywood Stardom

Noah A. Tsika Indiana University Press ePub


There is a moment on Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde’s reality television series, Omotola: The Real Me, when the Nollywood star addresses the intense public backlash against the dress that she wore to the 2011 Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. Making history as the first Nollywood star to grace the Grammy red carpet, Omotola caused quite a splash in a black-and-white, sequined sheath dress, albeit for all the “wrong” reasons: form-fitting around the chest, waist and hips, Omotola’s sleeveless costume was said to accentuate both her best and worst physical features, making her seem, as one Nigerian publication put it, “too much the mother of four that she is”—too, in a word, womanly.1 While the star on her reality TV series acknowledges the “backlash against the backlash”—the discourse of Afrocentrism and self-empowerment that promotes appreciation for “big black bodies”—she also makes an important point about her Grammy appearance, noting that it was live, “in the flesh,” and subject to countless far-flung flashbulbs.2 It was not, in other words, a well-regulated, formally constructed scene from a movie. In the glare of live coverage, it laid bare Omotola’s “real” identity, allegedly giving the lie to her persistent on-screen portrayals of young adults.

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6 Pushing Luck Too Far: ’68, Northern Ireland, and Nonviolence

Daniel J Sherman Indiana University Press ePub


On October 5, 1968, police officers broke ranks to beat a small civil rights march off the streets of Derry. The young poet Seamus Heaney recognized this moment as a “watershed in the political life of Northern Ireland”: it was no longer possible to believe in “shades of grey.”1 On October 4, 2008, the commemorations marking the fortieth anniversary of the march opened in Derry’s Guildhall with an easy-listening version of Nina Simone’s “Free.” This was appropriate for an event that smoothed out the story of the past to suit the needs of the politics of the present. A Nobel Peace Prize winner, John Hume, and a former high-ranking member of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), Martin McGuinness, each laid claim to the movement’s legacy; the different Irish nationalist traditions—constitutionalism and physical force—each laid exclusive claim to continue the struggle of the Catholic minority.2

But the speech given by the journalist Nell McCafferty was played in a new key. She took out her medicine and encouraged people in the audience to talk about the drugs that they had been prescribed, for she felt that popping pills was the only proper response to the sight of elderly men parading onto the platform in acts of self-promotion. The late 1960s that McCafferty recalled were not about peaceful politics or the politics of the gun; they were about homeless families squatting in empty properties, the occupation of public buildings, and protesters challenging bans on marches. She talked about nonviolence, a democratic idea that is little heard of in the public discourse of Northern Ireland.3 It is an idea that questions the act of peacefully working within the system as much as violently trying to overthrow it. It is an idea that since the 1960s has helped end empires, topple dictators, and pull down barriers to equality. It is an idea that subversively suggests that even democratic states often have to be forced to concede change. The uneasy listening continued for the politicians when McCafferty asked and eventually bullied those who had also broken the law to raise their hands. A spontaneous round of applause sounded around the hall.4 In a reprise of what had happened four decades earlier, nonviolent confrontation had briefly offered the Catholic community something different from constitutional nationalism and militant republicanism.

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10. Nina Khanchandani

Pravina Shukla Indiana University Press ePub

IN INDIA, as in many countries of the world, men are the ones entangled in commerce. They are the merchants, cooks, and waiters, while women work in the domestic sphere. In public, it is easier to meet men, especially the men of commerce who are accustomed to easy exchange, and my quest to meet new women in Banaras began, logically, with a merchant. After several visits to Hemant Khanchandani’s Dayaram Fashion Centre, his hospitality of tea and sometimes samosas did not seem to him enough. He invited us home for a meal. He lives a short walk from his shop, just off of Luxa Road, which is crowded with hotels, restaurants, and clothing stores. As is usual in Banaras, Hemant shares his home with the members of his extended family: his widowed mother, his older and younger brothers, his wife and sister-in-law, and four young adult children—two his own and two his older brother Parmanand’s. Their house is hidden behind a tiny convenience store called Pariwar Provisions, the Family Provisions shop. The name fits, since different members of the family share the duty of running the business. This joint family, in contrast to many others in Banaras, seems to be happy and comfortable, which is one of the reasons I was attracted to Hemant’s household.

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5. Stitched-up Women, Pinned-down Men: Gender Politics in Weya and Mapula Needlework, Zimbabwe and South Africa

Edited by Sidney Littlefield Kasfir and Indiana University Press ePub

Brenda Schmahmann

Husbands would help us if they feel pity, but sometimes they don’t [feel pity]. And what makes you see they don’t is that you are pregnant and have a child on your back and are going out fetching firewood and the man does not help.

I became pregnant again [for the third time] in 1988. My husband was working at that time but then he got arrested and was jailed for two years for some reason. That is when our suffering increased enormously. After his return from custody, I got pregnant with our fourth child, who was born in June 1990. In 1992 my husband was jailed again for some reason. Then I got a job but my salary was not enough for me to pay school fees.

The first of these passages quotes Charity Mugala, who was living in Weya—a communal area (formerly known as a Tribal Trust Land) about 170 kilometers east of Harare in Zimbabwe—in the mid 1990s (Mugala, interview by Brenda Schmahmann, October 27, 2006, Weya). The second—dating to 2001—is by Julia Makwana, a resident of the Winterveld, a peri-urban area about 40 kilometers northwest of Pretoria in South Africa.1 Although the context and cultural frameworks of these commentators may be different, both women construct scenarios in which support is not forthcoming from a husband, whether through reluctance or absence, and a female is thus forced to undertake all domestic labour or single-handedly generate earnings necessary to sustain herself and her children.

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4. An Artist’s Notes on the Triangle Workshops, Zambia and South Africa

Edited by Sidney Littlefield Kasfir and Indiana University Press ePub

Namubiru Rose Kirumira and Sidney Littlefield Kasfir

African contemporary artists are often portrayed as individuals who are caught up in the dynamics of art formation spaces, sociocultural movements, and forces of globalization—as well as new discourses of artistic experience. Workshops in particular have been significant formative spaces in artists’ endeavors to become versatile in a globalizing environment (Deliss 1995; Kirumira 2008; Sanyal 2002). It is worth observing that several types of workshops that include long-term (three-month) residencies, short-term (two-week) workshops, and symposia have existed in Africa for some time; many were begun by colonial patrons. Publications such as catalogs produced by the Triangle Art Trust, and articles by Court (1992) and Richards (1998) have given varied, if limited, accounts of the status of art workshops in Africa.

Murray, Picton, and Loder (2005) argue that the condition of being an artist in Africa is a condition of continuous transition. In the same vein, for over fifty years, African workshops have presented themselves in a continuous transition from artist’s colonies, communities, and craft villages to international workshops. A revealing example of what has changed in the African workshop scenario since 1985 is the introduction and spread of the so-called Triangle Workshops, originated by the British art collector and entrepreneur Robert Loder and sculptor Sir Anthony Caro in 1982. The initial triangle was the familiar one of the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom; but three years later the first African Triangle Workshop, Thupelo, was organized in South Africa by artists David Koloane and Bill Ainslie.

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13. After the Wedding

Pravina Shukla Indiana University Press ePub

WHEN SHE TALKED about adornment, Mukta Tripathi made clear that a woman’s choices are influenced by her personal taste—and by the factors of age and social development. Mukta easily describes the clothes she wore during different phases of her life. As a little girl, until the sixth grade, she wore frocks, skirts and blouses, shorts or pants. From the seventh to the twelve grades, she wore salwar suits and jeans, but never skirts or dresses, since it was improper for a young lady to show her legs. As a young bride, she dressed in bright saris and wore makeup and jewelry in abundance. Now Mukta has switched to saris in “sober colors,” because, as she explained to me, in India a mother-in-law and her daughter-in-law “should not match.” Although Mukta is not yet a mother-in-law, she feels she has reached the age when it is inappropriate for her to show herself as a flashy, young wife.

Mukta, in her forties, prefers saris in tones of beige, cream, and other “light colors,” but they shift with the current fashion. In 2003, the trend was to wear saris with a thin strip of monochrome embroidery along the border that matched the field of the sari exactly in color, and to wear it with a blouse in the same color, with the same monochrome embroidery on the edges of the sleeves. Mukta continues to wear “natural, decent makeup.” The subtle shift in clothing, marked mostly by its palette, reflects her view of herself as a mother of grown-up boys—the oldest one is in high school—who is still attuned to style. She told me that wearing a lot of makeup ruins the skin, making women look old, which is another reason to decrease the amount of makeup as one ages. Mukta is fully aware of the social and developmental categories women pass through, categories that are publicly communicated by clothing and jewelry. Her decision to abandon certain styles or colors is partially influenced by other people’s opinions, for middle-aged and older women are often criticized for being too ornamented.1 Mukta told me that she would like to wear salwar suits occasionally, but her kids made fun of her when she did in the past, calling her “Mukta didi”—big sister Mukta—implying that when she wears a salwar suit she does not look like a mother, but rather, like somebody’s sister (children often hold a rigid and conservative vision of what their parents should look like). On a few recent occasions, Mukta’s two sons pointed to older women on the streets whom they deemed to be dressed inappropriately in a style too youthful, and begged Mukta not to dress that way when she becomes “aged.”

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4 Metonymic Hats and Metaphoric Tumbleweeds: Noir Literary Aesthetics in Miller’s Crossing and The Big Lebowski

Edward P Comentale Indiana University Press ePub

Christopher Raczkowski

In his important study of film noir More Than Night, James Naremore argues for a rethinking of noir in terms of discourse, as “an evolving system of arguments and readings that helps to shape commercial and aesthetic ideologies” and, as Naremore goes on to elaborate, political ideologies (11). In other words, noir is less a set of formalized cinematic gestures—visual styles and narrative procedures—than a cultural strategy that resonates across multiple artistic, commercial, and intellectual forms. Thinking noir as Naremore does, as discourse rather than genre, provides an answer for a question that has vexed me for some time about Joel and Ethan Coen’s The Big Lebowski: can this movie be meaningfully grouped with Miller’s Crossing (1990) as a noir text? Certainly, both draw inspiration from the well of classic Hollywood noir films; indeed, the movies are frequently referred to as the first two installments of the Coens’ “noir trilogy.” And, yet, they are jarringly antithetical in look and feel. It is this gap between the noir aesthetics of Miller’s Crossing and The Big Lebowski that interests me the most and animates the analysis that follows. The virtue of Naremore’s definition is that it treats relations between noirish texts as dynamic rather than categorical and restrictive; only such a protean and yet tactical conception of noir will do for making sense of the complex relation of Miller’s Crossing and The Big Lebowski. While commentators tend to ignore the aesthetic divide between these movies or reject the proposition that The Big Lebowski can be sensibly grouped with other noir films at all, I argue that the tension is fertile and productive of a noir dialectic evolved by the Coens in the two movies.

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Medium 9780253008145

SEVEN Invoking Hijab: The Power Politics of Spaces and Employment in Nigeria • HAUWA MAHDI

Edited by Elisha P Renne Indiana University Press ePub

The fact that changes in dress styles are taking place in Nigeria reflects perhaps the normal processes of change which occur in all societies. Yet these transformations, at both the macro-national and micro levels, differ as each reflects a unique experience. In Nigeria, women’s dress has increasingly become an object of contention at the macro level, more so in the last three decades than it had in previous years. State actors and some civil society organizations (CSOs) alike have become active in the discourse of and attempts to legislate how women should or should not behave as a moral imperative. In 2007, Senator Ufot Eme Ekaette, one of only nine women in the 109-member Senate chamber of the National Assembly, gained some notoriety for her proposed bill, which in the light of Nigerians’ penchant for nicknames soon became known as the Nudity Bill (Adaramola 2008). There are other politicians who share the title of morality police with Ekaette. The senator and former governor of Zamfara State Ahmed Sani introduced the death penalty on sexual offences during his governorship, on 27 January 2000. (He later went on to enhance his moral authority by his marriage to an Egyptian girl in her early teens.) Second, some twenty-six senators (two of whom are women) sponsored the Same-Sex Bill, which prohibits sexual relations and marriage among same-sex partners in Nigeria (Obende et al. 2011). In all these morality bills female and male senators of all backgrounds have come together without a sectarian—religious or ethnic—hitch. In the last thirty years, an era of increasing economic hardship in Nigeria, women have been blamed for anything from droughts to a rise in delinquency among children. Public discourse in the media is filled with debates and arguments that support curtailing women’s rights and freedom, often in the name of religion or tradition. The “Nudity Bill” and other morality legislation must be seen in the context of the general social disorder in Nigeria and attempts by the political elite to grope for answers to unfulfilled yearnings for basic human rights and demands for “progress,” particularly in such things as the provision of electricity and running water.

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Medium 9780253013873

7 Zombie Performance

Edward P Comentale Indiana University Press ePub

Come and get it! It’s a running buffet! All you can eat!

Shaun, Shaun of the Dead

The zombie consumes us. It occupies our minds, books, screens, and streets; devours and squanders our flesh and bodies; infects us with disease; and overwhelms our very social order. And yet we chase after zombies. In recent years we have facilitated their rise as a veritable cultural phenomenon, compelling them into our movie-theater screens in greater and faster-moving hordes than ever before, into our homes with shows like The Walking Dead, and onto our college campuses with Humans vs. Zombies, a live-action game of survival. Even the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have launched a zombie preparedness campaign, encouraging people to equip themselves against a whole range of catastrophes. The zombie apocalypse, it appears, offers itself as a natural disaster par excellence.

But we humans do not simply want to destroy and survive the zombies; we actually want to be them. In walks and runs across the country, people regularly adorn themselves in fake blood, gaping wounds, and tattered clothing to perform zombie “undeath” in our very streets. The zombie survival guides in our bookstores now find themselves in the company of titles such as So Now You’re a Zombie: A Handbook for the Newly Undead (Austin); Zombies for Zombies: Advice and Etiquette for the Living Dead (Murphy); and How to Speak Zombie: A Guide for the Living (Mockus and Millard). For every piece of information on how to combat zombies, there is now parallel advice on how to enact zombie existence.

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Medium 9780253006875

5. Narrating the Artist: Seyni Camara and the Multiple Constructions of the Artistic Persona

Joanna Grabski Indiana University Press ePub



Exhibition narratives have long-lasting power in determining the ways in which artists and their work are perceived and appreciated by the public and scholars. Even when the stance taken by curators of successful exhibitions is criticized by reviewers and academics, the implications of their discourse may persist for years. Sometimes, the intellectual and political narratives informing an exhibition prove to be so powerful that they completely mute the personal input of the artists included in the show. At other times, these narratives may subvert or reinforce what artists say about their own work. In all cases, these narratives have great potential to define artists’ works and professional personas.

In this chapter I address the relationship between curatorial narratives and personal self-presentation by focusing on Seyni Camara, a Senegalese sculptor from Casamance, who made her first appearance on the international art scene in the oft-cited seminal exhibition “Magiciens de la Terre” (1989).1 Apparently indifferent to the concerns of art critics, Camara presents herself in a way that seemingly replicates the framing proposed by “Magiciens de la Terre.” However, a closer look at the narratives developed by Camara and her critics reveals a much more complex picture in which personal visions are entangled with local cultural references and global ambitions in an ever-evolving negotiation.

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Medium 9780253015976

6 Le Freak, C’est Critical and Chic: North African Scholars and the Conditions of Cultural Production in Post-9/11 U.S. Academia

Edited by Frieda Ekotto and Kenneth W H Indiana University Press ePub

Lamia Benyoussef

IN AN INTRODUCTORY English composition class I taught a few years ago, an African American student asked me if she could write her comparative essay on the immigration and integration experiences of Arab and Caucasian Americans. When I pinpointed that the U.S. Census Bureau classified Arab Americans as Caucasians and suggested that she drop the racial categories in favor of a geographic terminology (that is, Middle Eastern and European immigration), in total shock and disbelief she exclaimed: “Arabs do 9/11 and they are still whites?” For a moment I froze there, not knowing what to say. I was not sure if she was angry at me because I was guilty by association or at her own self for still failing to be “white,” even though she was no evildoer like me, her teacher. That life-altering teaching moment repatriated me in W. E. B. Du Bois’s discourse on the Negro veil in The Souls of Black Folk. “It dawned upon me with a certain suddenness” that North African women academics too (alias moukéres or les négresses des sables) “are different from Others; or [like them perhaps] in life and longing, but shut out from their world by a vast veil.” If the point of this essay can be summed up in one sentence, it is the desire to tear down that veil, to creep through the silences and wonders of the academic world “and live above in the blue sky,” free from the pitfalls of colorisms and the haunting shades and “shadows”1 of diversity. This chapter is inspired not only by my own experience as an Arab and Muslim academic in the South but also by the scholarly work and experiences of other North African scholars who find themselves, like me, in the double bind functioning as a native informant (after all, Islam keeps enrollment high) while remaining on the threshold of American academia because their physical presence is as critical as the critical languages they teach.

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21 Enduring and Abiding

Edward P Comentale Indiana University Press ePub

Jonathan Elmer

By the time I delivered the ideas in this chapter, in September 2006, in a dowdy wood-paneled “conference room” in a bowling alley in Louisville, Kentucky, during the annual Lebowski Fest held in the city and at those lanes, everything had been said. Mine was the final paper, and during the previous two days the film had been turned upside down and shaken, and then carefully situated with regard to fluctuations in the L.A. real estate market, the subgenre of bowling noir, the Brunswick color palette, nihilism and fluids, Paul de Man and Rip Van Winkle. Everything had been said, some things multiple times, and everyone was happy. Most people were happy. It became apparent to many of us that the film did not suffer from this critical vulturism, that the conversation could go on, potentially forever, without it being a problem that we were repeating ourselves and offering quite obviously contradictory views on many important aspects of the movie. The chatter did not exhaust the film, did not debase it or use it up, but it did not really exalt it either. The ability of the film to sustain such conversation was not due to its being a “classic,” timeless or otherwise. It seemed, rather, that the film was not so much full of a complexity that needed endless “unpacking”—this despite the fact that The Big Lebowski, like all the Coen brothers’ movies, lavishes loving, even obsessive, attention on all its details—than it was offering itself as genially underdetermined, available for any and all projections, investments, analyses, even mimicries.

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Medium 9781574412895


Olive Jensen Theisen University of North Texas Press PDF

mature years: 1983–1993

Fig. 6.2

Song of the Drinking

Gourds, 1987.

Exterior-quality acrylic on prepared plaster over concrete.

360 x 480 in. Tom

Bass Regional Park

Craft House, Harris

County, Texas

North Carolina and two at his alma mater, Hampton University in Virginia. In all of his work, he continued to develop universal symbols that transcended regional and ethnic boundaries, affirming the common humanity of all people. This may be the enduring legacy of John Biggers’s art.

Song of the Drinking Gourds

Song of the Drinking Gourds (fig. 6.1) is another outdoor mural, painted on the main exterior wall of the Senior Citizen Craft House in Tom Bass Regional Park outside of Houston. The building, designed by James Marshall, is set on a grassy knoll so that the mural can easily be seen from many points in the park. It has the effect of a large quilt hanging in the open air.1

Tom Bass was a Harris County commissioner who brought a sense of humanism to politics in the county. The park was named in his honor, a sign of the high regard people had for him. It was Mr. Bass who had suggested me earlier for the Adair mural.

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