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Indigenous attire, exoticisation and social change: dressing and undressing among the Emberá of Panama

Theodossopoulos, Dimitrios (2012) Indigenous attire, exoticisation and social change: dressing and undressing among the Emberá of Panama. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 18 (3). pp. 591-612. ISSN 1359-0987. (doi:10.1111/j.1467-9655.2012.01778.x) (Access to this publication is currently restricted. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:31509)

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In the final quarter of the twentieth century, the Emberá in Panama abandoned their traditional attire in favour of Western clothes. Recently, however, the introduction of indigenous tourism in the country has encouraged a positive re-evaluation of Emberá traditional attire and enhanced its visibility nationally and internationally. Such transformations in Emberá dress – both the disregard for and re-evaluation of it – can shed some light on the fluid, non-unidirectional nature of social change in indigenous society. I argue that Western exoticization – inherent in the expectation of the authentic and/or the suspicion that particular traditions are ‘invented’ – misrepresents the complexity and dynamic nature of Emberá clothing practices. Contemporary Emberá choices about how to dress in different contexts should instead be understood as responses to two forms of exoticization: the stereotyping of indigenous practices, but also their idealization. In this rendering, the reintroduction of the old Emberá ways of dressing, when this occurs, should be read not as a static imitation of the past, but instead as a reflexive adjustment to new opportunities for cultural representation in the present.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1111/j.1467-9655.2012.01778.x
Projects: [UNSPECIFIED] Global Awareness and Social Change in an Embera Community in Panama
Uncontrolled keywords: Social change in indigenous Society; exoticisation; body adornment; body painting; Emberá
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation
Depositing User: Dimitrios Theodossopoulos
Date Deposited: 10 Oct 2012 20:27 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2021 10:09 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Theodossopoulos, Dimitrios:
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