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The secret life of sarongs: Manggarai textiles as super-skins

By Catherine Allerton


Studies of Indonesian textiles have predominantly focused on their symbolic and religious aspects, ignoring their everyday use as clothing. This article reveals the sensual, intimate life of Manggarai sarongs as everyday garments, a life that has remained a 'secret' in the academic literature. Sarongs, with their capacities to wrap, protect and hide, accentuate the properties of skin and can therefore be considered 'super-skins'. As artefactual extensions of their wearer's body they absorb substances and intentions, offer comfort at times of upset or illness, and transmit social and emotional messages. As burial objects, sarongs index the close kinship performed in everyday acts of feeding, comforting and protecting. However, there is no single 'social life' or 'career' of a sarong. Instead, sarongs as super-skins have a range of possibilities of becoming, in connection with the varied fates and projects of human lives

Topics: GN Anthropology
Year: 2007
DOI identifier: 10.1177/1359183507074560
OAI identifier:
Provided by: LSE Research Online
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