Black Style and Blackness in Fashion / Thoughts / Weekly Reading Reflections / Words

READING REFLECTION AND QUICK THOUGHTS | Stuart Hall’s “New Ethnicities” (1989)

Melodie Monrose in ” Private Collection” for Rodeo Fall 2012. A good street style inspiration picture too ... in terms of the composition.

Melodie Monrose in ” Private Collection” for Rodeo Fall 2012. A good street style inspiration picture too … in terms of the composition.

From Stuart Hall’s “New Ethnicities” (1989) …

 “These formed the conditions of existence of a cultural politics designed to challenge, resist and, where possible, to transform the dominant regimes of representation—first in music and style, later in literary, visual and cinematic forms. In these spaces blacks have typically been the objects, but rarely the subjects, of the practices of representation.

The struggle to come into representation was predicated on a critique of the degree of fetishization, objectification and negative figuration which are so much a feature of the representation of the black subject. There was a concern not simply with the absence or marginality of the black experience but with its simplification and its stereotypical character.”

I’m unsure if by “style”, Hall means fashion but what he describes here, specifically this “struggle of representation”, is precisely what certain elements of my MRP are predicated on. As I have reiterated several times on this blog, the exoticization, tokenism, marginalization and even complete exclusion of the black experience or the black subject in fashion related imagery has been challenged in the fashion blogosphere. I find it interesting that 23 years after Hall’s essay was first published, much of what he discusses is still relevant and the issues with representation are still applicable to today’s society and cultural spaces of production.

“Here again, the end of the essential black subject is something which people are increasingly debating, but they may not have fully reckoned with its political consequences. What is at issue here is the recognition of the extraordinary diversity of subjective positions, social experiences and cultural identities which compose the category ‘black’; that is, the recognition that ‘black’ is essentially a politically and culturally constructed  category, which cannot be grounded in a set of fixed transcultural or transcendental racial categories and which therefore has no guarantees in nature. What this brings into play is the recognition of the immense diversity and differentiation of the historical and cultural experience of black subjects.

If ‘black’ is a constructed category then what of black style?  Could it be assumed that if ‘black’ is a construction, black style should be as well? Black style, as I have begun to uncover, mirrors the “diversity and differentiation of the historical and cultural experience of black subjects”. My street style photographs and interviews will also act as evidence of this.

This leads me to wonder if black style as it is today be both meaningful and meaningless, if people place more importance on personal style and less on the influence of ethnicity/race as it relates to style.

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