Fabrics of identity: Uniforms, gender and associations in the Cameroon grassfields

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This paper argues that the uniform, conceived as a special type of 'social skin', has been incorporated by individuals and groups into a complex chain of processes and meanings in the Cameroon Grassfields; I describe this practice as the uniformization of socio-cultural life. I demonstrate that uniforms, unlike ordinary clothing, are salient precisely because of their unique role as markers of collective identity but also because they embody and simultaneously express the paradox of similarity and difference. Central to these processes and construction of meaning are community-based associations that have elevated the uniform to a new kind of orthodoxy. These perspectives are borne out by ethnographic interpretations of the ways in which variously positioned subjects in the Grassfields relate to and embody the special object that the uniform represents.

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