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By David Howes

What does an American fridge suggest within the Solomon Islands?Cross-Cultural intake is an interesting consultant to the cultural implications of the globalization of a client society.

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But the rise of industrial capitalism in the colonies tended initially to favour male migration to new centres. This, it is true, did not always preclude the movement of women (White 1988); but low male wages were frequently subsidized by females farming in the countryside. In South Africa, this process was so marked that the rural areas became, in many respects, female domains. 34 FASHIONING THE COLONIAL SUBJECT Indeed, women became icons of a ‘tribal’ home centred beyond the reaches of modern economy, society and history.

But these were no ordinary transactions, for this is a history centred on the worldwide extension not only of European Christian culture, but of industrial capitalism. Whatever mechanisms it might have utilized, colonization here relied heavily on the magic of commodities to build new consuming subjects and new relations of difference. We have seen that the early exposure to British commodities and consumption encouraged Tswana to deploy alien objects in diverse and creative ways. But these objects were themselves embedded in forms of relations destined to transform African societies.

CIVILITY, CLOTH AND CONSUMPTION Above all, the evangelists would try to force Tswana bodies into the straitjacket of Protestant personhood. The Nonconformists acted on the implicit assumption that, in order to reform the heathens, it was necessary to scramble their entire code of body management; thus ‘decent’ Western dress was demanded from all who would associate with the church. Tswana soon appreciated the role of clothes in this campaign. When Chief Montshiwa of the Tshidi Rolong perceived that the Christian influence in his realm had begun to extend even to his own kin, he ordered his daughter publicly ‘to doff her European clothing,…to return to heathen attire’ (Mackenzie 1871:231).

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