The Social Practice of Crafting: Gender, Class, and Race in Western Craft
This study provides an analysis of Western amateur crafting as a social practice that is informed by a complex matrix of historical, social, cultural, ideological, and economic influences. A historical overview of amateur craft culture establishes how it became a practice that was axiomatic with middle-class femininity and domesticity beginning in the late-eighteenth century. A case study expands on this assessment, and situates the handicrafted material culture of the O’Keefe women – members of one of the first Anglo-Canadian families that settled in the interior of British Columbia in the 1870s – as an example of how amateur crafting, through imperial and colonial processes, became a racializing directive that marked and imposed social boundaries within Canadian settler-colonial society. The historical overview and the case study outlines amateur craft’s genealogy, which provides an understanding of how its ideological and symbolic associations with femininity, middle-class status, and whiteness frame contemporary amateur craft culture and practices. The thesis interrogates these symbolic associations which remain at the heart of contemporary craft culture and discourse through an examination of the white moralism of craftivism, a form of lifestyle activism popular among white, middle-class women where domestic crafts are utilized in service of a public expression of protest and dissent. The thesis employs a queer feminist methodology to support the investigation of amateur craft as a social practice that is inherited as a direction that keeps or places the maker in line. This methodology draws the various contexts of a person’s existence into direct consideration – how they inhabit their body and negotiate social constructs such as race and gender; the straight or queer orientation of their desire; and the meanings ascribed to the body’s size, and shape, and ability. These aspects play an integral part in determining if craft is in line with that person’s direction. This project presents an analysis of how some people are oriented toward certain forms of amateur domestic crafting based on their positionality as feminine, white, and middle-class, and how amateur domestic crafting as a practice imbued with symbolic and ideological associations with whiteness, femininity, and gentility, receives and returns this direction.
URI for this recordhttp://hdl.handle.net/1974/23803
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