Beverly Gordon: Textiles: The Whole Story: Uses, Meanings, and Significance;
Gina Luria Walker: Women’s History: Galvanizing Marginality
Barbara Christian: “The Race for Theory”
Reading the first few chapters of Beverly Gordon’s comprehensive text Textiles: The Whole Story: Uses, Meanings, and Significance paired well with reading Gina Luria Walker’s essay Women's History- Galvanizing Marginality. Gordon essentially carries out what Walker proposes academics must do: reach back through history and parse out the contributions and firsthand accounts of women that have often been overlooked. With her text, Gordon has the opportunity to centralize female narratives, while also pointing out systemic relationships between women, their work, and their societies. Walker discusses prioritizing knowledge that comes from an expressly feminine experience, which can be found in the realm of traditional craft practices. Due to the often collective, multi-generational nature of textile production, some of the most productive, thriving women-dominated spaces in many cultures developed around the craft. Within the contexts of quilting bees, sewing circles, and washing groups, women throughout time were able to communicate knowledge and build community within themselves. I believe a commitment to understanding the role of female-centered oral tradition and cultural practice proposes “a template of alternative histories and approaches to knowledge (Walker 11),” as was described in Walker’s text. Because of “women’s conditional access to knowledge (Walker 6),” I find it necessary to loop in ideas like that of Barbara Christian in her essay “The Race for Theory.” Essentially, due to the Eurocentric hierarchy imposed on academia by colonial powers, knowledge is only valuable when expressed through the written word, in the proper terms, and backed up by the appropriate education. Christain states that “I consider it presumptuous of me to invent a theory of how we ought to read. Instead, I think we need to read the works of our writers in our various ways and remain open to the intricacies of the intersection of language, class, race, and gender in the literature (Christain 53).” As Walker mentions, to generate a comprehensive, accurate account of women’s role in history it is necessary to consider how each woman’s circumstances interact with societal trends and movements. Bringing the discussion back to textiles, I believe it is necessary to focus on not only the labor and the production of women, but also their knowledge of craft and how they passed it on. A woman’s work with textiles is not only indicative of her cultural background and place in society, but also her individual goals, talents, creativity, and knowledge. I look forward to exploring this knowledge further, in all its forms and applications, through the exploration of feminist craft practice.
Althea Hurwitz is a fourth-year student at NYU's Gallatin School of Individualized Study. There, she combines a blend of disciplines, including fine arts, art history, and museum studies, to create a concentration entitled Art in Real Life: Considering Access and Meaningful Participation in Art Education and Practice. Althea is originally from Arlington, VA, but now calls NYC home. In her spare time she enjoys playing ultimate frisbee, thrift shopping, and exploring new art mediums.