and soo... i cannot begin taking oral histories from real people yet because that requires the approval of our institutional review board, which i'll be working on soon. but i hope anyone who is interested will save up their stories to share with me. even if you aren't in the u.s. south, but you have a family history here (i can think of a few of you!), your stories would be relevant. and if in the meantime, anyone has any thoughts, resources, citations, i'd be grateful. this is going to be a collaborative project in that it will depend on the people and their histories and the fabrics that are shared with me.
I have just returned from a leave of absence and am beginning my 7th year in advanced standing. I have decided to write my dissertation on memory and mourning in contemporary textile work in the US South. The notion of craft as a form of therapy is a common refrain among textile artists, and in recent years there has been a marked trend toward making and embellishing of "memory quilts," shrouds, and wrapping-cloths, often by hand. The working-through of memory in and through needlecraft has a long history, but has also taken a collective turn among textile artists who are using their using craft in activist contexts. [actually that's not new at all, not sure what i was thinking.]
Part of the memorial nature of this textile work seems to be the use of materials which have specific histories and meanings, and thus I will focus not only on the artist's experience of making, but also on the materials themselves, including the means of production. New generations of crafters and fiber farmers are in transition, and in many cases are seeking to use humane and sustainable methods and materials. I am interested in how methods of fiber production (and animal fibers in particular) intersect with a textile mourning practice. Gender, race and generation are likely to figure into my analysis as well.
Although the subject matter of this project is new, the theoretical and methodological bases remain the same. I will still be doing visual anthropology (or, "anthropology of the senses") within a skill and memory-based culture. Although I will not undertake an entire ethnography, I will observe and collect oral histories from research participants. Moreover, the historical and cultural context is similar in that I will remain in the US South, and my research participants may be primarily located in rural areas. This project will also deal with animals and animal products, although not as its central concern.
I plan to proceed with obtaining IRB approval right away. I will complete a more detailed proposal for my committee by the end of February, and a new review of relevant literature by the end of March. I will then begin to take oral histories throughout Spring semester and during the summer. I will prepare a detailed outline by September 2011, and produce chapter drafts during the 2011-2012 academic year. I will work steadily toward completion by no later than the end of my 8th year in advanced standing (Spring 2013). [actually it would be Fall 2014, whew!]
so that's it. i think i need to begin with the history of mourning embroidery and memory quilts...