Anthea and I have been busy working on a new body of research into the use of craft and crafted aesthetics as a form of political expression and identity construction. We recently presented a paper entitled, “Performing Austerity: Political Identities and the Co-option of the Crafted Aesthetic” at the Textile Society of America Symposium in Washington, DC. The theme of the Symposium was “Textiles and Politics” and we got to present as part of the fantastic Material Matters panel organized by Lisa Vinebaum, Ruth Scheuing, and Ingrid Bachmann.
The abstract of the paper is posted below, and there are more links, examples, and excerpts on the Performed Austerity website.
Craft has been positioned as both a fix and foil for the ills of capitalism and alienating conditions of industrialization, and the current moment, dubbed by some as a “craft revolution,” often romanticizes craft as simple, fulfilling, authentic, and politically significant work. This paper explores the use of crafted aesthetics in both consumption and anti-consumption models of social/political engagement to conspicuously perform values of personal agency, and social responsibility, as expressions of (life)style in an economic climate obsessed with austerity. We introduce the term “craftwashing” to refer to instances where craft is used to market fashionable goods whose desirability often obscures the sticky ethical, environmental, and economic questions around their production.