Feminist Africa Journals

Future Issues


CALL FOR PAPERS: Feminist Africa Issue 21 - Fashion and Beauty Politics

The African Gender Institute at the University of Cape Town is pleased to announce a call for papers for Feminist Africa Issue 21 (Fashion and Beauty Politics). This issue is being guest edited by Simidele Dosekun. For more information about Feminist Africa, please visit www.feministafrica.org.

Deadline for Submissions: 31 December 2015

All Submissions and Enquiries should be emailed to agi-feministafrica@uct.ac.za

Historically and to this day, in all their diversity, women in Africa ‘dress up.’ They engage in changing and highly reflexive practices of bodily adornment, beautification, clothing and display. They dress up in private, playfully experimenting at home, with friends or to pose for a camera. They dress to appear and distinguish themselves in public, too. Much like elsewhere, in Africa women’s changing looks have often been incited by and incorporated transnationally circulating commodities, technologies and representations of women’s fashion and beauty. Indeed the existing literature on dress in Africa shows that keeping up with new styles and trends from elsewhere often serves women on the continent to imagine, experience and present themselves as ‘fashionable,’ ‘cosmopolitan,’ ‘modern’ and so on.

And yet, of course, how women in Africa dress – the clothes they wear, the makeup they apply, what they do or do not do to their hair – is not merely personal, nor is it always or only pleasurable. It is also deeply political and structured, shaped, among other factors, by colonial histories and by the grossly asymmetric political-economic and cultural forces of globalization. Women in Africa dress up “in the interstices of multiple cultural and socioeconomic grammars—colonial, local, global, and neocolonial” (Dogbe 2003: 382). Their dress ‘choices’ and practices implicate questions and considerations of ‘tradition,’ class, sexuality, religion, ethnicity and race; and these choices and practices are often strongly judged, policed and contested by others, such as evidenced by recent moral panics about ‘indecent dressing’ in Nigeria and violent attacks against women in ‘mini-skirts’ in South Africa.

This issue invites submissions (features, profiles, standpoints) on the politics of women’s diverse fashion and beauty practices in contemporary Africa. Possible themes include but are not limited to:

- Constructions and representations of beauty, and their contestations

- Beauty pageants

- New beauty practices, services, labourers and industries (e.g. cosmetic surgery, hair removal, professional makeup artists)

- Hair: weaves and wigs, natural hair

- Skin bleaching

- Rising religious fundamentalisms and new dress codes

- Un/veiling

- The sexualization of young women’s dress

- Fashion and beauty magazines and blogs

- The policing of women’s dress

- Afrocentric haute couture, African fashion weeks

- Second-hand clothing

- Queer styles

- ‘Celebrity’ stylizations

Submissions are particularly welcome that seek to historicize women’s fashion and beauty practices and politics in contemporary Africa and also put it into transnational perspective, complicating such as binaries tradition/modern, African/Western.


Amina Mama


Jane Bennett, Barbara Boswell, Victoria Collis-Buthelezi, Simidele Dosekun, Divine Fuh, Akosua Koranteng, Christopher Ouma, Amrita Pande, Sylvia Tamale, Sandra Manuel, Selina Mudavanhu