Dandified globetrotters: La SAPE’s spatialized fashion practices
Habel, Ylva - Senior Lecturer
Swedish Research Council
This project focuses upon a case in point, the Congolese fashion movement La SAPE (La Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Elégantes) whose presence and fashion practices in Paris and other European metropolises are expressed as material assertions of European belonging. In recent years, the SAPE phenomenon has spread to several Western metropolitan spaces and to the social forums of the digital landscape, such as YouTube. My research on the topic takes its theoretical point of departure in the revived interest for material and spatial dimensions of cultural signification, and aims to investigate how SAPE movements inscribe their stylized presence in geographical and digital landscapes
Previous research on La SAPE has not considered the processual and media-oriented character of the movement’s fashion practices. Habel's project is designed to analyze this as an unfolding process, especially their audiovisual media strategies for representing their fashionable selves.
Habel will address the following questions in her research:
· How does the SAPE movement map the digital landscape (YouTube, blogosphere, Internet sites) onto the actual geographies (f.ex Paris-Brazzaville) that they have already interconnect as fashion nodes in their music videos? What narrative and representational logics do they use to assert their right of residence?
· In what ways do concrete media technologies play into how SAPE members depict and imagine their fashion practices audiovisually? What material fictions and statements are foregrounded?
· How does the Congolese embodied, gendered framework of music and dance mobilize the most desired European fashion objects? And how do the SAPE members’ gender and sexuality performances in these contexts play into how the body is styled (arena, gestures, postures, fashion ensembles)?
In order to answer the above questions, Habel will carry out semi-structured interviews with groups of SAPE members as well as interviews with individual sapeurs/sapeuses. Moreover, participatory observation will be used.