206 Slices
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2 Nubia in Paris: African Style in French Fashion

Victoria L. Rovine Indiana University Press ePub

Our natives, adopting the manners and habits of Europeans, are beginning more and more, especially in important urban centers, to dress in the European manner—in short, to follow our fashions.

—“La soie artificielle et nos colonies,” pamphlet promoting the French Syndicate of Artificial Textile Manufacturers, Exposition Coloniale Internationale, Paris, 1931

It seems to us that [these African fabrics] can provide, each and every one, useful sources of inspiration. In every era, designers have turned to the Orient to revitalize their enthusiasm. Didn’t Rabelais write (after Pliny): ‘There is always something new out of Africa’?

—Henri Clouzot, Tissus Nègres, Paris, 1931

Far from Mali’s Inland Niger Delta, European dress innovators have produced garments we might call African-esque fashion, part of a long history of European involvement with both real and imagined Africas. Just as the dress innovators who produced distinctive styles of Malian embroidery incorporated forms rooted in North Africa or South Asia, so too have European designers sought inspiration beyond the familiar. Although Malian migrant laborers and pious embroiderers may seem a world away from Parisian fashion designers, all are driven by the same impulse to create dress styles that reflect changing influences and new ideas. Both during and after the colonial era, Africa has been a key source of imagery, drawn from actual African forms or from Western imaginings of Africa. These designers’ “Africanisms” are an important element of the story of African fashion, for they both reflect and actively shape the perceptions—and misperceptions—that undergird representations of Africa in international contexts. This construction of an imagined Africa through dress continues into the present, maintaining surprising consistency across decades of political and cultural change. Thus, these invented Africas contribute an important subplot to the story of African fashion.

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15. The Wedding

Pravina Shukla Indiana University Press ePub

ON A STEAMY JULY evening in 1996, a small gathering of people sat in plastic chairs on the lawn of a five-star hotel in the Mughal city of Lucknow, waiting for the ceremony to begin. The bride, Shalini Shrivastava, looked beautiful as she emerged, accompanied by her younger sister, Nidhi. Shalini wore a magenta silk lehanga and covered her head modestly with the dupatta, surrounding her pretty face in bright, soft fabric. She wore the customary gold jewelry; the golden hathphul on her hands glittered in the flash of the cameras. Shalini approached the platform where her groom, Rohit, waited, dressed in a turban and an off-white suit with a long Nehru jacket, called a shervani.1 The couple exchanged flower garlands to the applause of their family and friends. A rich meal followed, after which most of the guests went home. Only the immediate family and a few close friends remained for the Hindu ceremony that continued into the night, during which the pundit, with Vedic chants in Sanskrit, united the young couple in eternal matrimony.

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14 LebowskIcons: The Rug, The Iron Lung, The Tiki Bar, and Busby Berkeley

Edward P Comentale Indiana University Press ePub

Dennis Hall & Susan Grove Hall

The Big Lebowski is full of the kinds of images that are popularly called icons. The film not only places these in our view, but also shows them in dimensions and relationships that are new to us. What are these icons? The term is now used so commonly, especially for celebrities, that it might seem without meaning. In several years of studying icons in popular culture, though, we have found the term difficult to define because it has deep and pervasive influences beyond our usual perceptions. In preparing American Icons: An Encyclopedia of the People, Places, and Things That Have Shaped Our Culture, we identified several common features of icons.

An icon often generates strong responses; people identify with it, or against it; and the differences often reflect generational differences. Marilyn Monroe, for instance, carries meanings distinctly different for people who are in their teens and twenties than for people in their sixties and older. An icon stands for a group of related things and values. John Wayne, for example, images the cowboy and traditional masculinity, among many other associations, including conservative politics. An icon commonly has roots in historical sources, as various as folk culture, science, and commerce, often changing over time and reflecting present events or forces. The log cabin, for example, has endured as an influential American icon, with meanings and associations evolving from our colonial past through the present.

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16 Professor Dude: An Inquiry into the Appeal of His Dudeness for Contemporary College Students

Edward P Comentale Indiana University Press ePub

Richard Gaughran

On the first day of classes in the fall of 2006, I walked into a James Madison University class of fifteen students, none of whom I’d met before. I had the usual plan for the first day: a short welcome and introductions, the distribution of a syllabus, followed by explanations and answering of questions. Before any of this, however, I planned to distribute a questionnaire to anyone who has seen the Coen brothers’ film The Big Lebowski. But I had left the surveys in my office, so I placed my other books and papers on a table and mumbled something about having to return to my office to retrieve some forms I wanted the students to complete. When I returned about two minutes later, I asked, “How many of you have seen The Big Lebowski?” For some reason the room erupted in laughter. I didn’t think much of that until some weeks later, when one of these students, in my office for a conference, told me what occurred when I was gone from the classroom. After I had dropped my belongings on the table and left for my office, she asked the rest of the students if they had seen The Big Lebowski, and didn’t I remind them of the Dude? No wonder they thought my question to them, moments later, was funny.

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12 Holding Out Hope for the Creedence: Music and the Search for the Real Thing in The Big Lebowski

Edward P Comentale Indiana University Press ePub

Diane Pecknold

Midway through The Big Lebowski, a hapless Dude—having substituted Walter’s phony “ringer” (a bag full of underwear) for Lebowski’s briefcase full of money in delivering ransom to a group of apparent kidnappers—contacts the police to report that his car, with the briefcase and his Creedence Clearwater Revival tapes inside, has been stolen. When he wanly asks whether the police often recover such stolen cars, one of the cops replies, “Sometimes. Wouldn’t hold out much hope for the tape deck, though.” “Or the Creedence,” adds a second cop derisively, suspiciously twiddling the Dude’s bowling-pin-shaped one-hitter between his fingers.

The scene aptly summarizes the pervasive flux between ersatz and authentic that underpins the narrative of the film. The real briefcase, of course, turns out to have been a fake itself. The lost Bunny turns out not to have been lost to the kidnappers at all, and in fact not even to be named Bunny Lebowski, but Fawn Knutsen. And maybe she has been lost after all, since her parents are looking for her. The accumulation of real objects that turn out to be fake, and fake ones that turn out to be real, though never in the way we are led to expect, is the central device of the film’s noir plot. Appropriately, it is within this dizzying array of inauthentic objects of yearning that “the Creedence” is introduced, not just as the music we have heard playing in the car during the ransom payoff, but as a recurring point of identification for the Dude.

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