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Weaving and flying: Fusion, friction and flow in collaborative textile research

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Anthropological research is qualitative, emergent, even intuitive. As Ingold proposes, in this regard, it has much in common with arts practice. Anthropologists often follow ‘foreshadowed problems’, joining in with the mundane, interconnected tasks of people’s daily lives in the communities where they are based. Textiles, like other crafts, fit well here, often bringing in ‘women’s work’, domesticity, stories of everyday life and extending across the traditional, the popular, the modern. What this brings (we hope) is texture, quality, a rich description and the voices of our field companions. Collaboration brings an extending and questioning of the boundaries. Where does standard participant observation end and collaboration and making textiles begin? When does practical engagement constitute an intervention? And does intervening, and thus changing local practices in the field, matter? How can collaboration affect the field-site, the textiles and their limits? Who writes the results, whose voices are heard? In my case, early fieldwork ranged from making felt textiles to mundane domestic tasks such as cooking and washing up. But as collaboration, it expanded into sending letters, making work together, cultural exchanges, even symposia. In this article, I draw on case studies from research in Kyrgyzstan and Scotland to explore how collaborations through textile work may (with rigour) enhance inter-community knowledge and communication and produce growth and cumulative understanding.

Keywords: accumulation; analogy; attention; flying; fusion; serendipity; weaving

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 0000000107211626University of St Andrews

Publication date: March 1, 2020

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  • The Journal of Arts and Communities seeks to provide a critical examination of the practices known as community or participatory arts, encompassing a field of work defined for this purpose as incorporating active creative ollaboration between artists and people in a range of communities.The journal will take a cross-artform and interdisciplinary approach,including work happening in performance, visual arts and media,writing, multimedia and collaboration involving digital technology and associated forms. In part this will create an archive that will document work which can otherwise be ephemeral
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