Accepted Paper:

The politics and aesthetics of textiles on the Silk Road  
Emma Dick (Middlesex University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper investigates the role that textiles play in communicating ‘authenticity’ and look at the processes, metaphors and politics of the ‘Silk Road’ as an ideological concept and ways in which it is actively implemented as a strategy for development by government, non-governmental agencies and businesses.

Paper long abstract:

This paper looks at the complex evolution of 'authentic' national identities in Central Asia through examining examples of dress and textiles products aimed largely at tourists as consumers. Central Asia is one of the economically least-integrated regions of the world and there is considerable international support for further development of the region. Development aid and cultural tourism play significant roles in the economy of the region. Consequently, these sources of income and resulting inter-agency dialogues influence and interact with 'traditional' textile design and production techniques and potentially generate a whole new design vocabulary for communicating national identity, that wavers between 'tradition' and 'modernity'. This supports the design and production of textiles, garments and portable souvenir products, which have a vital role to play in the construction and communication of identities internationally. Complex hybrid national, trans-national, and regional identities through dress and textiles are thus continually being constructed and communicated throughout Central Asia, in continual conversation with global value chains. Although women account for the majority of the workforce in fashion and textiles industries globally, a very small proportion of these women have any decision-making power in business. Thus the agency of women in structuring their own dress practices or creative output is highly complex. This paper examines theories, practices and politics of the business of fashioning 'authentic identity' in Central Asia and how these relationships govern ideas of identity, tradition and modernity for women in the region.

Panel P131
Which craft? Politics and aesthetics of handicraft in post-industrial contexts