Naked or Covered

Naked or Covered

Mineke Schipper


Clothing, History, Non-fiction


Paperback with flaps


$6.64000 $4.97000

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$6.64000 $4.97000

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(Paperback with flaps | ISBN 9789386702708 | 280 pages + 16-pp colour insert | November 2017)


An African tribesman merely needs to wrap a simple string around the hips and tuck his genitalia out of sight to be correctly dressed while, at the other end of the spectrum, a devout woman is considered naked in many cultures if her head remains uncovered.

Throughout history, different cultures and religions have developed codes to control unruly nakedness, giving rise to a variety of ideas of what it means to be dressed. Now, in a time of globalization, we are confronted by a variety of perspectives on dress: not just what to wear, but who wears it, why and how. Advertisers routinely fall back on the female nude to sell anything from cars to perfume; wearing a traditional khadi kurta vs. a Western-style three-piece suit can send a powerful political message; violent protests take place against the idea of nakednesss, yet nakedness is used as a form of protest; and contemporary interpretations of religious or cultural edicts are met with bafflement, bigotry or outright bans.

Using an engaging mixture of anecdote and historical interpretation, Naked or Covered: A History of Dressing and Undressing Around the World brilliantly dissects our contradictory attitudes to bodily exposure and concealment through time and across cultures. Mineke Schipper’s unerringly detailed prose is complemented by aptly chosen photographs and paintings which bring the history of revealment and concealment through clothing to life.


‘Mineke Schipper provides a fascinating and wide-ranging compendium of fact and fiction about the covering of the body through the ages.’
—J.M. Coetzee

A fascinating cultural history… nuanced and without any religion-bashing.’
—History magazine

‘Whoever thinks clothing is about a piece of cloth, knows better after reading this book.’

‘This is the sort of book you will read in a weekend […] It is packed full with stories, anecdotes and mesmerizing cultural facts, animating a meticulously researched account of histories of human skin, looking and being looked at, and excitement and fear.’
—Sarah Nuttall, Professor of Literary and Cultural Studies and Director of WISER (Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research),
Johannesburg, South Africa

‘With the discerning eye of an anthropologist, the literary flair of a novelist, and with sturdy common sense, Mineke Schipper guides us through millennia of remarkably diverse attitudes towards human dress and undress. Colourful, well-researched, and timely. Highly recommended.’
—Steven Shankman, UNESCO Chair in Transcultural Studies, Interreligious Dialogue, and Peace and co-director, UNESCO Crossings Institute,
University of Oregon, USA

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About the author

Mineke Schipper

Mineke Schipper is Emeritus Professor of Intercultural Literary Studies at the University of Leiden. She taught at the Université Libre du Congo and has held visiting professorships in Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Burkina Faso and China. She has a Royal Order of Knighthood for ‘building intercultural bridges nationally and internationally, inside and outside the academy’ from […]

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