Gendered Threads of Globalization: 20th Century Textile Crossings in Asia-Pacific and Canada

Gendered Threads of Globalization: 20th Century Textile Crossings in Asia-Pacific and Canada

Gendered Threads of Globalization: 20th Century Textile Crossings in Asia-Pacific and Canada (GToG) brings junior and senior scholars of various disciplines together with artists and other professionals for a timely, critical dialogue on intersections of gender, labor, and tradition in Asian-Pacific textile industries throughout the long twentieth century. GToG examines women's shifting roles in textile production and how the manufacture, consumption, and sustainability of textiles are gendered within the region today. We examine issues of cultural values, heritage, ethics, and material culture to expose tensions between human capital and the global market (with an aim of improving) gender and economic inequality in worldwide textile industries. This 2 day event will held at the University of Victoria, Canada, in spring 2019.
 
The garment industry is one of the world's largest employers, with an estimated 75 million workers. Two thirds of the workers are women employed in factories throughout Asia that export to Canada and other developed nations. The explosion of the international "fast fashion" industry over the past decade provides much needed economic opportunities, particularly for uneducated lower-class women. It also brings devastating cultural, social, environmental, and life-threatening consequences.  GToG explores the role of global capitalism in workers' exploitation and the devaluation of (particularly women's) textile labor in the shift between artisanal traditions to fast fashion. It also highlights how venerable textile traditions are threatened by the garment industry. 
 
Until the 20th c., Asian textiles served as money, tribute, and conveyers of status and taste throughout Asia, Europe, and the Islamic World. Elite and folk textiles were often the result of thousands of hours of labor, typically by women. Imperialism and industrialization throughout Asia from the 19th c. altered social practices of textile design, production, and consumption. Yet, against this tide of textile devaluation, revivals of traditional materials, motifs, and production arise as expressions of indigenous, regional, and national pride. Women are at the forefront of many of these revivals, serving as both producers and cultural stewards. GToG brings together creative voices for change to emphasize the urgency of not only documenting endangered traditional arts, but also their preservation and revitalization.
 
Reading textile labor through the lens of gender offers a fresh way to interrogate the industry's recent history and current condition. Our discussions cluster around issues of: identity and nation; vernacular authenticity; gender; and ethical clothing initiatives in neo-liberal markets. Participants represent a diverse range of scholarly disciplines: historians of labor, trade, and industrialization; art historians considering artists as creators, activists, and social commentators; anthropologists working with textile workers; and professors of business researching industry and globalization in Asia. GToG also includes activists with years of experience advocating for textile workers' rights; artists who speak and give demonstrations of their work that comments on the textile industry; and fashion designers engaged in ethical production.  Intermixing art and activism with scholarly research, critical thought, and business practices enables us to reach the widest audience. By highlighting the cultural activism of artists, designers, academics, and businesses working to improve the lives of those who make our clothing, we seek to educate and inspire beyond the conference.
 
We welcome project/paper proposals of 150 words from artists and scholars (particularly graduate students). Please send by 02/14 to Melia Belli Bose, Associate Professor of South Asian Art History, University of Victoria bellibose@uvic.ca
 
Contact Info: Melia Belli Bose, Associate Professor, South Asian Art History, University of Victoria
 
Contact Email: bellibose@uvic.ca