Article | Culture Unbound: Journal of Current Cultural Research | Looking Like People; Feeling Like People: The Black Body, Dress and Aesthetic Therapy in the Caribbean

Title:
Looking Like People; Feeling Like People: The Black Body, Dress and Aesthetic Therapy in the Caribbean
Author:
Marsha Pearce: Department of Creative and Festival Arts, University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus, Trinidad
DOI:
10.3384/cu.2000.1525.146857
Read article:
Full article (pdf)
Year:
2014
Volume:
6
Theme:
Theme: Therapeutic Cultures Edited by Allan Apperley, Stephen Jacobs & Mark Jones

Pages:
857-872
No. of pages:
16
Publication type:
Article
Published:
2014-10-01


In the Caribbean, the practice of getting dressed matters because it is a practice of attending to the body. Under a colonial regime, black bodies were ill-treated and selves were negated. Clothing played an instrumental role in the abuse of bodies and the stripping of a sense of wellbeing. Attire was one key way of demarcating master and slave and rendering some members of society null and void. Enslaved Africans, who were forcibly brought across the Atlantic to the New World, were considered chattel or commodities rather than people and clothes functioned in a way that reinforced that notion. Yet, dress became a strategy of subversion – of making chattel, property or ‘non-people’ look like people. The enslaved recognised that, through clothes, it was possible to look and feel free. Today that legacy remains. Clothing is seen not only as that which can make a people ‘look like people’ but also feel like people – clothing sets up a specific structure of feeling. This paper pivots on notions of looking and feeling like people while deploying Joanne Entwistle’s conceptual framework of dress as situated bodily practice. The article locates its investigation in the Caribbean, examining the philosophy and practice of Trinidadian clothing designer Robert Young. The article establishes him as a source of aesthetic therapeutic solutions in the Caribbean. It argues that his clothing designs produce a therapeutic discourse on the Black Caribbean body – a discourse, which facilitates a practice of getting dressed that gives a sense of agency, self-empowerment and psychic security even if that sense is embodied temporarily; lasting perhaps only as long as the garment is worn.

Keywords: Dress; clothing; Caribbean; black body; therapy

Volume 6, Theme: Theme: Therapeutic Cultures Edited by Allan Apperley, Stephen Jacobs & Mark Jones

, Article 46, 2014

Author:
Marsha Pearce
Title:
Looking Like People; Feeling Like People: The Black Body, Dress and Aesthetic Therapy in the Caribbean:
DOI:
10.3384/cu.2000.1525.146857
References:
  • Beardsley, Munroe (1982): The Aesthetic Point of View, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
  • Brady, Emily (2003): Aesthetics of the Natural Environment, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  • Brereton, Bridget (2010): ‘The Historical Background to the Culture of Violence in Trinidad and Tobago’, Caribbean Review of Gender Studies, 4, 1-15.
  • Buckridge, Steeve O. (2004): The Language of Dress: Resistance and Accommodation in Jamaica 1760-1890, Kingston: University of the West Indies Press.
  • Dickie, George (1965): ‘Beardsley’s Phantom Aesthetic Experience’, Journal of Philosophy, 62:5, 129-136. DOI: 10.2307/2023490
  • Duncan, Carol (2008): This Spot of Ground: Spiritual Baptists in Toronto, Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press.
  • Entwistle, Joanne (2000): The Fashioned Body: Fashion, Dress and Modern Social Theory, Cambridge: Polity Press.
  • Henry, Frances (2003): Reclaiming African Religions in Trinidad: The Socio-Political Legitimation of the Orisha and Spiritual Baptist Faiths, Kingston: University of the West Indies Press.
  • Higman, Barry William (1995): Slave Populations of the British Caribbean 1807-1834, Kingston: University of the West Indies Press.
  • Lee, Debbie (2002): Slavery and the Romantic Imagination, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
  • Levinson, Jerrold (2003): ‘Philosophical Aesthetics: An Overview’, Jerrold Levinson (ed.): The Oxford Handbook of Aesthetics, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 3-24.
  • Miller, Monica (2009): Slaves to Fashion: Black Dandyism and the Styling of Black Diasporic Identity, Durham: Duke University Press.
  • Mistry, Meenal (2010): ‘The Little Season That Could’, WSJ Magazine: http://magazine.wsj.com/people-ideas/the-little-season-that-could/ (accessed 16 January 2014).
  • Nettleford, Rex (2003): Caribbean Cultural Identity, Kingston: Ian Randle Publishers.
  • Patterson, Orlando (1982): Slavery and Social Death: A Comparative Study, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
  • Prince, Mary (2000): The History of Mary Prince: A West Indian Slave, Related by Herself, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina: http://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/prince/prince.html (accessed 24 April 2013).
  • Shelley, James (2013): ‘The Aesthetic’, Berys Gaut and Dominic McIver Lopes (eds): The Routledge Companion to Aesthetics, Oxon: Routledge, 246-256.
  • Stephens, Patricia (1999): The Spiritual Baptist Faith: African New World Religious Identity, History and Testimony, London: Karnak House.
  • Zangwill, Nick (2001): ‘Aesthetic Functionalism’, Emily Brady & Jerrold Levinson (eds): Aesthetic Concepts: Essays After Sibley, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 123-148.
  • Volume 6, Theme:: Theme: Therapeutic Cultures Edited by Allan Apperley, Stephen Jacobs & Mark Jones

    , Article 46, 2014

    Author:
    Marsha Pearce
    Title:
    Looking Like People; Feeling Like People: The Black Body, Dress and Aesthetic Therapy in the Caribbean:
    DOI:
    10.3384/cu.2000.1525.146857
    Note: the following are taken directly from CrossRef
    Citations:
    No citations available at the moment
     

    Export in BibTex, RIS or text