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CFP: Gendered Threads of Globalization Conference

Monday, January 8, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Rosalind V. Rini Larson
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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 considers women's shifting roles in textile production and how the manufacture, consumption, and sustainability of textiles are gendered within the region today. The conference examines 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 two-day event will be 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. GToG 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 the conference 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 clothing, the organizers seek to educate and inspire beyond the conference.

Proposals are encouraged from artists, activists, and scholars (particularly graduate students). Interested parties should send a project/paper title and a 150-word abstract by February 14, 2018 to:

Melia Belli Bose
Associate Professor of South Asian Art History, University of Victoria


Miriam Wattles
Associate Professor of Japanese Art History, University of California, Santa Barbara

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