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Asia at Noon: Alexandra Dalferro

November 15 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

All are welcome to join us for our November 15, 2019 Asia at Noon lecture.

Alexandra Dalferro, Department of Anthropology Cornell University, will present recent research related to Thai textiles: “Khru Aromdee’s Naga: Copying and Creativity among Matmee Pattern Designers in Surin Province, Thailand.”

Abstract. Silk textiles woven in Surin Province are recognized across Thailand for the complex matmee, or ikat, patterns they bear. Matmee patterns are achieved by tying hundreds of knots around bunches of threads to prevent color from seeping in and dyeing them in stages before they are woven. Master weavers like Khru Aromdee design patterns that are quickly circulated and “copied” by other weavers, much to the dismay of the business owners who hold exclusive rights to sell his sought-after silks. This talk takes the case of Khru Aromdee as its starting point to examine discourses and debates about matmee copying among competing actors in the silk weaving industry in Surin Province.

While tacit agreement exists among most designers that certain motifs and established patterns are part of a shared heritage and can’t be claimed by any one individual, this category’s boundaries often dissolve in practice, as distinct understandings of what constitutes “copying” are mobilized to accomplish various ends. Drawing from over one year of fieldwork in Surin, I foreground the specifics of everyday articulations of matmee imitation and the strategies developed both to facilitate and prevent copying. These moments reflect how actors grapple with tensions as they play with what Donna Haraway calls “string figures,” or things like matmee bundles whose threads can be followed to discern tangles and patterns that are both visual and graphic, and cosmological and ideological.

Bio. Alexandra Dalferro is a PhD student in Socio-Cultural Anthropology. Her research focuses on the politics and practices of silk production in Thailand, particularly among Khmer ethnic minority communities in Surin Province. She is interested in how knowledge and identity claims are fashioned and contested through material processes, and she foregrounds silk’s “shimmering surfaces” to think about the affective and sensory dimensions of weaving and sericulture.

This event is sponsored by the Asian Studies Program and the Nila T. Gnamm Junior Faculty Research Fund.


November 15
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
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