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Textiles of Healing: Native American AIDS Quilts

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Around the world responses to AIDS and HIV are expressed in material form through idioms mediated by particular social and historical contingencies. In this article I examine at the case of AIDS memorial quilts produced by contemporary Native Americans. The invisible connections between people, their histories, and cultures that are materialized in this particular form of textiles make them culturally significant vehicles for healing practices for many Native Americans, who maintain that the acknowledgment of customary meanings ensures ritual efficacy and curing success. As a particular response to AIDS, grief, death, and healing these objects reveal the social relevance of expressing materially culturally encoded messages that are simultaneously rooted in universally shared idioms and the uniqueness of local experiences.

Keywords: AIDS; North American Indians; beadwork; blankets; healing; material culture; memory; mourning customs; quilts; textiles

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: March 1, 2010

More about this publication?
  • Textile brings together research in textile studies in an innovative and distinctive academic forum for all those who share a multifaceted view of textiles within an expanded field. Peer-reviewed and in full-color throughout, it represents a dynamic and wide-ranging set of critical practices. It provides a platform for points of departure between art and craft; gender and identity; cloth, body and architecture; labor and technology; techno-design and practice— all situated within the broader contexts of material and visual culture.

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