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Her eyes, my body: Negotiating embodiment through Maya back strap weaving

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Abstract

This article discusses the embodiment of making and wearing clothing through a close analysis of the weaving and production practices of a contemporary Maya weaver, Lidia López. The first author lived in San Antonio Aguas Calientes, Sacatepéquez, Guatemala where she studied the back strap loom under the instruction of master weaver, Lidia López, while the second author served as an advisor on the research project and assisted with interpretation of fieldwork data. Anthropologist Daniel Miller has encouraged a research approach that thoroughly integrates the practice of making, arguing that 'the things people make, make people'. When a person weaves cloth using centuries-old techniques and tools passed down across generations, the cloth embodies identities that transcend time and materializes networks of social relations. This brings new possibilities to ethnographic research about processes of making. If we are what we make, as Miller argued, then what are we when we make cloth? In this article we explore the production of cloth as embodied practice: weaving on the back strap loom, bringing goods to market, the practice of teaching weaving, and all of the social relationships and realities that contribute to the production of clothing. The title of this article, 'Her eyes, my body', refers to the relationship between the primary ethnographic interlocutor, Lidia Amanda López de López, and the first author as ethnographer and weaving apprentice. By teaching weaving on the back strap loom in the tradition of her antepasados (ancestors), Lidia facilitated ways of knowing ‐ from the kitchen table to the loom, from her home to the market. Entangled and woven together through dialectics of time and space, private and public, past and present. Warp and weft are woven into cloth, culture and identities.
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Keywords: Guatemala; Maya; backstrap loom; embodiment; huipil; traje

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: 0000000123480690 University of California, Davis 2: 000000041936877X Cornell University

Publication date: January 1, 2020

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  • Fashion, Style & Popular Culture is a peer-reviewed journal specifically dedicated to the area of fashion scholarship and its interfacings with popular culture. It was established to provide an interdisciplinary environment for fashion academics and practitioners to publish innovative scholarship in all aspects of fashion and popular culture relating to design, textiles, production, promotion, consumption and appearance-related products and services. Articles related to history, manufacturing, aesthetics, sourcing, marketing, branding, merchandising, retailing, technology, psychological/sociological aspects of dress, style, body image, and cultural identities, as well as purchasing, shopping, and the ways and means consumers construct identity as associated to Fashion, Style & Popular Culture are welcomed. The journal offers a broad range of written and visual scholarship and includes works done through various methods of research. We welcome conceptual, theoretical and translational applied research in the areas of fashion, style and popular culture. This journal hopes to stimulate new discussions in the fashion disciplines and to push the envelope of scholarship by welcoming new and established scholars to submit their works.

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