Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



From Creating Textiles: Makers, Methods, Markets. Proceedings of the Sixth Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, Inc. New York, NY, September 23–26, 1998 (Earleville, MD: Textile Society of America, Inc., 1999).


Copyright © 1998 by the author(s)


Over the course of the past twenty-five years a cultural transformation has taken place in the Turkish Republic. Overshadowed in more recent years by the political confrontations between secularists and Islamists, an unchecked inflationary spiral that has devalued the national currency, and the social upheavals associated with economic disparity, this cultural transformation has garnished little attention from the more traditionally defined scholarship on the modern Middle East. Revolutionary in nature, it is the result of several factors, among them socio-economic changes brought about by a shift in world markets and the liberalization of the Turkish economy. It is responsible for changes associated with the position of the merchant, specifically the shopkeeper, as a broker or continuer of the cultural heritage of the past, especially in the highly descriptive impressions associated with the textile arts.

Market factors and the marketability of specific goods are no longer dictated by familial concerns or cultural factors inherent within the general ethnographic structure of Turkish society. Instead, the integration of Turkish society into a more global economy has had a radical impact on those items that are usually considered staples of Turkish folk tradition.

The focus of this paper is to illustrate the role the shopkeeper plays in the cultural heritage of human society. Unconsciously, the shopkeeper simultaneously contributes to (1) a loss of the ethnographic characteristics inherent in textile objects originally produced for the home, and (2) the continuation of the traditional production methods associated with weaving, but defined by market concerns that are not relevant to the traditional concepts of production.

Thusly, external market factors have affected changes in the product: (1) configuration, (2) surface design, and (3) coloration. A propositional model to explain the process of cultural change from ethnographic textiles to econo-ethnographic products is offered as a regional evaluation which may be applicable to the study of textiles in a number of cultural settings.