Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date




Publication Title

The Oxford Handbook of American Folklore and Folklife Studies




Bodylore includes the ways in which the body is used as a canvas for inherited and chosen identity. Bodylore considers the symbolic inventory of dress and hair, addressing a range of identities from conservative religious groups like the Amish and the Hasidim to edgy goth and punk devotees. The body is scripted in portrayals of race, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, and politics, including such topics as tattoos, piercing, scarification, hair covering and styling, traditional and folk dress, fashion, and body modification. The central bodylore questions are whether individuals choose consciously or subconsciously to engage with their performative body, as well as why the body is often overlooked as a text within academic studies. This essay identifies the body as a malleable folkloric space, allowing for its symbols to function in both personal and public ways.


This is a Oxford Handbooks Online draft of Bodylore and Dress, by Amy K. Milligan, reused from The Oxford Handbook of American Folklore and Folklife Studies, edited by Simon J. Bronner, published in 2018, reproduced by permission of the Oxford University Press.

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Original Publication Citation

Milligan, A. K. (2018). Bodylore and dress. In S. J. Bronner (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of American folklore and folklife studies. New York: Oxford University Press.