Entangling the Fashion Subject Through the African Diaspora: From Not to (K)not in Fashion Theory

by Susan B. Kaiser & Sarah Rebolloso McCullough


African diasporic theory offers a way to break out of oppositional thinking and evolutionary notions of progress. African American epistemologies—in conversation with other African diasporic thought—can be characterized as moving beyond either/or frameworks to “both/and” ways of knowing. Identity nots become identity (k)nots when entanglement replaces opposition and evolution as an organizing logic to account for diverse subject positions. Drawing on African diasporic theory, we propose a new (k)notty model to describe the entanglements within fashion subjectivity. The productive nodes of our examination include the wardrobe of Michelle Obama, the “sagging” (low-slung pants) phenomenon, National Basketball Association dress codes, and the business strategy of Sean John. The knot metaphor highlights how stories and explanations can only be viewed as tentative and partial, as power relations both reveal and conceal multiple truths and meanings.

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