Materializing the Philippines: Piña Textiles, Nationalism and Border Zones of Cultural Production


A public lecture by Professor B. Lynne Milgram, Ph.D.

 
DateWednesday, April 23, 2008 - 10:00pm

Cost

Free

Email

iasuwa@admin.uwa.edu.au

Location

Institute of Advanced Studies; University of Western Australia 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, Australia

The sale of handmade objects -- “ethnic or tourist arts” -- has become an important source of income for artisans in many communities in Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas. A variety of products speaking of their national or cultural identity, change hands in complex, multistranded commodity chains that ordinarily link artisans from these communities to consumers, often from the upper and middle classes, of the United States, Canada, Europe and parts of the Global South. The trade in such objects ranges from inexpensive, functional souvenirs to a new breed of “high ethnic art” objects. Drawing on the contemporary production of
goods and clothing made from piña (pineapple) cloth, a textile distinctive to the central Philippines, this paper explores the alternative strategies that artisans and designers use to enter this global trade more on their own terms. Artisans may craft a “this plus that” sort of construction -- the “this” of global modernity plus the “that” of timeless indigenous tradition. Scholars and the public often decry such
crossing of aesthetic boundaries as indicative of cultural contamination.

This lecture argues that such cultural graftings, or border zones of production, celebrate negotiated meanings and the ongoing oscillations in objects that make and remake material relations between people, things and national and personal identities. In so doing, the lecture reflects critically on the taken-for-granted categories of “tradition,” “authenticity” and “high or low ethnic art”.

B. Lynne Milgram is Professor of Anthropology in the Faculty of Liberal Studies at Ontario College of Art & Design, Toronto, Canada. Her research on material culture and on gender and development in the Philippines analyzes the cultural politics of social change with regard to fair trade, microfinance and women’s work in crafts, street vending and the secondhand clothing trade (the latter between the Philippines and Hong Kong). This research is published in edited volumes and in journals including Human Organization (2001), Anthropologica (2004), Asian Studies Review (2005) and Urban Anthropology (2005, 2008). She has co-edited (with K. Grimes) Artisans and Cooperatives: Developing Alternative Trade for the Global Economy (2000) and (with R. Hamilton) Material Choices: Refashioning Bast and Leaf Fibers in Asia and the Pacific (2007). Her forthcoming (2008) co-edited book (with K. Browne) is titled Economics and Morality: Anthropological Approaches.

DateWednesday, April 23, 2008 - 10:00pm

Cost

Free

Email

iasuwa@admin.uwa.edu.au

Website Location

Institute of Advanced Studies; University of Western Australia 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, Australia

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008 - 10:00pm

The sale of handmade objects -- “ethnic or tourist arts” -- has become an important source of income for artisans in many communities in Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas. A variety of products speaking of their national or cultural identity, change hands in complex, multistranded commodity chains that ordinarily link artisans from these communities to consumers, often from the upper and middle classes, of the United States, Canada, Europe and parts of the Global South. The trade in such objects ranges from inexpensive, functional souvenirs to a new breed of “high ethnic art” objects. Drawing on the contemporary production of
goods and clothing made from piña (pineapple) cloth, a textile distinctive to the central Philippines, this paper explores the alternative strategies that artisans and designers use to enter this global trade more on their own terms. Artisans may craft a “this plus that” sort of construction -- the “this” of global modernity plus the “that” of timeless indigenous tradition. Scholars and the public often decry such
crossing of aesthetic boundaries as indicative of cultural contamination.

This lecture argues that such cultural graftings, or border zones of production, celebrate negotiated meanings and the ongoing oscillations in objects that make and remake material relations between people, things and national and personal identities. In so doing, the lecture reflects critically on the taken-for-granted categories of “tradition,” “authenticity” and “high or low ethnic art”.

B. Lynne Milgram is Professor of Anthropology in the Faculty of Liberal Studies at Ontario College of Art & Design, Toronto, Canada. Her research on material culture and on gender and development in the Philippines analyzes the cultural politics of social change with regard to fair trade, microfinance and women’s work in crafts, street vending and the secondhand clothing trade (the latter between the Philippines and Hong Kong). This research is published in edited volumes and in journals including Human Organization (2001), Anthropologica (2004), Asian Studies Review (2005) and Urban Anthropology (2005, 2008). She has co-edited (with K. Grimes) Artisans and Cooperatives: Developing Alternative Trade for the Global Economy (2000) and (with R. Hamilton) Material Choices: Refashioning Bast and Leaf Fibers in Asia and the Pacific (2007). Her forthcoming (2008) co-edited book (with K. Browne) is titled Economics and Morality: Anthropological Approaches.

Venue & Address: 
Institute of Advanced Studies; University of Western Australia 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, Australia
Email: 
iasuwa@admin.uwa.edu.au
Cost: 
Free
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