Dressing the Part
Power, Dress, Gender, and Representation in the Pre-Columbian Americas

Edited by Sarahh E. M. Scher and Billie J. A. Follensbee

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How costume expressed individual identity and social relationships in the ancient Americas
“This volume brings new insight through its detailed analyses of case studies that span regions throughout the Americas.”—Americas
“Essential reading that not only brings fresh insights and highlights dynamism, fluidity, and contentiousness in the relationships between gender and power in ancient American societies, but also serves as a solid basis for further investigation.”—caa.reviews
"From Olmec costume switching to Peruvian bundle burials we see which types of power were gendered, which symbols or motifs were power filled, and how these symbols were borne by the living and the dead. This collection showcases a mature gendered archaeology."—Cheryl Claassen, author of Beliefs and Rituals in Archaic Eastern North America: An Interpretive Guide

Costume can reveal a wealth of information about an individual’s identity within society. Dressing the Part looks at the ways individuals in the ancient Americas used clothing, hairstyle, and personal ornaments to express status and power, gender identity, and group affiliations, even from the grave.

While most gender studies of pre-Columbian societies focus on women, these essays also foreground men and persons of multiple or ambiguous gender, exploring how these various identities are part of the greater fabric of social relations, political power, and religious authority. The contributors to this volume discuss how costume elements represented empowered identities, how different costumes expressed gender and power, and how elite gendered costume elements may have been appropriated by people of other genders as symbols of power.

Dressing the Part examines how individual identity played a role in larger schemes of social relationship in the ancient Americas. Employing a variety of theories and methodologies from art history, anthropology, ethnography, semiotics, and material science, this volume considers not only how authority is gendered or related to gender but also how the dynamics between power and gender are negotiated through costume.
Sarahh E. M. Scher is a visiting lecturer in art history at Salem State University. Billie J. A. Follensbee is professor of art history and museum studies program coordinator at Missouri State University.
Contributors: Katie McElfresh Buford | Billie J. A. Follensbee | Alice Beck Kehoe | Melissa K. Logan | Matthew G. Looper | Ann H. Peters | Kim N. Richter | Sarahh E. M. Scher | Elsa L. Tomasto-Cagigao | Laura M. Wingfield | Karon Winzenz | Cherra Wyllie 
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Table of Contents

Focuses on how costume across precontact North, Central, and South America conveyed information about gender, power, and the relationship between the two. Unlike older studies in which gender often meant “women,” this volume includes studies of representations of women, men, and third-gendered people, as well representations that suggest gender fluidity.

This volume brings new insight through its detailed analyses of case studies that span regions throughout the Americas.

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