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multicultural fashion… stirrings of another sense of aesthetics and memory

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This paper looks at the place of items long associated with the bodies of South Asian women in mainstream fashion. First, there will be a profiling of some of the scenes where bindhies, mendhies and related scents and sounds are donned and adored by white bodies. By participating in conversations with South Asian women in Britain in the second part of the article, the author is able to discuss some of the stirrings raised by the recent legitimization of these items by multicultural capitalism, leading towards an exploration of a different sense of aesthetics, memory and desire. The ambivalent attraction of limited recognition offered by the anthropological urge to ‘know’ the ethnic ‘other’ is noted. A consideration of the rage induced by the power of whiteness to play with ‘ethnic’ items which had not so long ago been reviled when they were worn by South Asian women points to the historical amnesia that underlies much multicultural celebration. The allure of images packaged as oriental for South Asian women themselves, although often from a different set of sensibilities and memories, stresses the importance of historical reconstruction.

feminist review (2002) 71, 63–87. doi:10.1057/
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Document Type: Original Article

Publication date: 01 January 2002

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