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Capping Power? Clothing and the Female Body in African Methodist Episcopal Mission Photographs

In: Mission Studies
Author: Claire Cooke1
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In this article, I argue that the introduction of a uniform for female converts was a crucial factor in maintaining power dynamics in African Methodist Episcopal missionary work conducted in South Africa between 1900 and 1940. This relationship, I suggest, is epitomized in photographs from the mission field. Through studying the ways missionaries photographed women, I am able to critique how clothing expressed inherent, imbalanced power relations between missionaries and converts. I thus build on existing literature concerning the relationship between clothing and the indigenous female body, through an examination of clothing as a marker of status within the patriarchal mission family construct.

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