GSL colloquia are informal presentations on current research by faculty, lecturers, and visiting scholars, giving individual presentations or informal group panels.

Speaker: M. Amah Edoh, Assistant Professor of African Studies, MIT

Tailoring is a central component of dress practices and social performance in Lomé, Togo, as in much of West Africa. From the so-called telavi (little tailor) or couturière de quartier (neighborhood seamstress) crafting garments alone from a work table in her home, to stylistes (fashion designers) designing pieces to be brought to life by workers in their ateliers, tailoring labor is essential to the expression of cultural capital and social status for Loméans. For tailors, the work represents not only their livelihood and a means of fashioning their own social standing, but also a form of creative expression, all intricately guided by factors as varied as divine inspiration, the look and feel of fabrics, regional and global fashion trends, and national education policy. In this talk, I show how tailoring, a practice that might appear mundane in its ubiquity, emerges as a privileged site for interrogating the entangled politics of expertise and the negotiation of social status in contemporary urban West Africa.