Accepted Paper:

Wardrobes of memories: dress storage among young Bamileke woman in Yaounde, Cameroon  

Author:

Ewa Majczak (University of Oxford)

Paper short abstract:

In this paper I examine suitcases and wardrobes as forms of dress storage among young Bamileke women living in Yaounde, Cameroon. I argue that garments are sensory memory forms through which Bamileke women write their personal biographies.

Paper long abstract:

The fashionable and everyday garments that are accumulated and stored in Bamileke women's suitcases and wardrobes made their ways into these containers in various ways including: as items gifted by kin, as garments purchased with the money offered by suitor, as parts of textiles shared with a friend, as second-hand garments purchased at the flea market and so on. These garments are often stitched, purchased or gifted in view of a specific occasion: life-cycle ceremonies such as funerals, marriages, state-related celebrations such as woman's day and village-related association reunions. As such garments come to index specific events and materialise women's personal relationships. As dresses are accumulated, stored and cared for over time, closed suitcases and wardrobes are filled with memories of specific people, places and time.

When dresses are taken out of the storage and worn at different occasions they not only revive dormant personal stories imbued with affect but create openings for potential symbolic and material reconfigurations. Others' evaluations and judgements including jealousy and appraisal leading to a request for a dress can shift value registers and meanings. When the doors of wardrobes and zips of suitcases fail to contain dresses - in physical and/or affective terms - and the garments circulate, how do registers of value change? I argue that dresses are sensory memory forms through which Bamileke women write their personal biographies.

Panel P109
Hoarding, temporality, and value: regimes of accumulation and dispersal