Textiles and Politics
June 9, 2013 1:34 AM   Subscribe

Throughout human history and across the globe, whether as intimate artifacts of interpersonal relations or state-level monumental works, textiles have been imbued with political importance. Textiles can communicate and construct status, ethnicity, gender, power, taste, and wealth, and have functioned at the nexus of artistic, economic, and political achievement in human culture. As trade goods, creative medium, and social artifact, textiles have been instrumental in generating, supporting, and challenging political power.
The Textile Society of America 13th Biennial Symposium (2012) will explore the crossroads of Textiles & Politics.
posted by infini (12 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Oh, that TSA.

Of course, when I hear "textiles and politics", I think of one thing: FLAGS!
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:17 AM on June 9, 2013

Well, there go my plans for a productive day.

(Though I will note that Splitstoser's paper on yarn structure notation seems to be a re-invention of the wheel; he apparently wasn't aware that contemporary spinners have been describing yarns in that manner for at least 20 years that I know of. Would have saved himself some brain sweat if he'd just asked somebody.)
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 4:13 AM on June 9, 2013 [5 favorites]

Thank you so much for that link. I'm currently working on a project that combines textiles, textile-making, psycho-geography and archaeology - so this is just perfect.
posted by kariebookish at 4:53 AM on June 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

I've been watching this with eager eyes. This is pretty much my historical field (well, textiles, but I use it as an excuse to poke at everything I can) and I'm REALLY sad I couldn't get something together for this due to health reasons. Thanks!
posted by strixus at 7:34 AM on June 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Embroidered Politics: A Case Study between al-Andalus and Castilla

I wasn't expecting medieval history but I was pleasantly surprised to see it. Then I realized I could download the PDF to read it myself and was really delighted!
posted by immlass at 7:47 AM on June 9, 2013

he apparently wasn't aware that contemporary spinners have been describing yarns in that manner for at least 20 years that I know of

I've only looked briefly at that paper, but when I go to conferences I'm often mildly amused that something the scholar is just figuring out has been known in practitioner circles for a long time. However, if no one has ever brought that knowledge into the scholarly tradition before, it does do its job to advance scholarly understandings that weren't present before. Since knowledge exists in communities, you sometimes get this weird gap where one community has depth of knowledge that is not at all represented or even known in other communities, and scholarship becomes a process of translation.

Without knowing the subject myself, it appears that his notation system may be able to capture greater variety and specificity than those used by spinners and knitters today. In other words, he didn't reinvent the idea of yarn notation, he's come up with a system that can describe any cordage of any material in the world in a consistent way for documentary purposes. He knows of the systems and provides a review and critique within the paper, and then proposes a way trying to improve on them for greater specificity. As he says in the paper "There are problems with cordage terminology, however, that make it inappropriate for textile studies."
posted by Miko at 7:52 AM on June 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

Kariebookish-- that sounds fascinating! Can you share any more details? (MeMail me if so? And thanks!)
posted by jetlagaddict at 7:55 AM on June 9, 2013

I scanned this and it is good. I come from a long line of knitters, knitting during the revolution, civil war and my grand who knit during WWI. The ergonomics and materials used regionally. Methods, production.
nice post.
posted by clavdivs at 8:47 AM on June 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Maaaaan. I have the biggest knitting tradeshow of the year this month and you drop THIS in my lap, infini? EVIL.

(Runs off to start downloading...)
posted by bitter-girl.com at 10:59 AM on June 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Mary Ellen Carter, you have just described half of the textile academics I've encountered in my research. I get extremely frustrated with such things, but they happen ALL THE TIME.
posted by strixus at 11:35 AM on June 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

The gap between practice and study is a real thing and goes both ways.
posted by Miko at 11:50 AM on June 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Especially in the space I currently find myself working.

Anyhoo... wanted to highlight the paper which lead me to this treasure trove:

The Twenty-first Century Voices of the Ashanti Adinkra and Kente Cloths of Ghana

Craft production and use are continually adapting to meet the needs of consumers and the market in order to survive. The Adinkra and Kente cloths of Ghana are no exception, having maintained their visibility and viability by addressing changing and challenging economic and political realities.

Fabric strips are sewn together to produce rectangular Adinkra and Kente cloths that are wrapped around human bodies in styles determined by gender and rank. These cloths are not only beautiful, but communicate as well. Old and new symbols representing proverbs, beliefs, and politics are woven into Kente and printed onto Adinkra cloths.

Commemorative fabrics are produced to mark special occasions. Adinkra means "good bye," and was only worn during funerals, but today is seen elsewhere and communicates much more.

Adinkra and Kente cloths are also metaphors for the Ashanti, who join together to form their extended family, ethnic group, religious community, and nation. Today many types of Adinkra and Kente cloths are produced to satisfy the demand for less expensive products. Adinkra and Kente patterns and colors are also found on inexpensive industrially produced cloth used to produce men's and women's western styled clothing. Patterns and colors that were at one time restricted to the Asantehene and his family are now available for all in a variety of media.

This research (done in Ghana in 2008 and 2009) will look at Ashanti Kente and Adinkra production adaptation and the political messages communicated by color combinations, symbols, and how the cloths are worn.

posted by infini at 12:48 PM on June 9, 2013

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