Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Published in Textiles and Politics: Textile Society of America 13th Biennial Symposium Proceedings, Washington, DC, September 18- September 22, 2012.


Copyright 2012 by the author(s).


Textiles of War: Women's Commentaries on Conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan Shortly after the events of September 11, 2001, patriotic imagery in the form of American flags began appearing in traditionally patterned rugs woven by Navajo women and beadwork sold on the reservation. This was not the first time women's textiles provided a political commentary on the destruction resulting from warfare. During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989, rugs featuring Soviet weaponry and vehicles appeared in the markets of Peshawar. Created by nomadic Beluch women who experienced the impact of war first-hand, the war rugs helped the women cope with the violence surrounding their everyday lives and served as a source of income for families devastated by warfare. War rugs, whose production had ceased with the Soviet withdrawal, again appeared in Peshawar and the United States after September 11 - this time made by individual women and in factories by men, women and children. The iconography and color palette also differ from the originals, as these rugs serve as a means of showing solidarity with Americans as well as providing sources of income for families once again surrounded by violence. In the U.S., war imagery became a subject for American textile artists as well. Imagery on quilts displayed at shows across the country reflected the artists' support for or protest against American military involvement in the region. These same sentiments appear in the works of embroiderers, knitters and beaders as they reflect on the impact of the war on American society, those fighting overseas, and their own lives.