Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Textile Society of America 9th Biennial Symposium (2004)


Presented at “Appropriation • Acculturation • Transformation,” Textile Society of America 9th Biennial Symposium, Oakland, California, October 7-9, 2004. Copyright 2004 Textile Society of America.


This paper explores the transformation of the Lao Xam Nuea style sin muk through two different approaches to the examination of change in practice. In the process, the paper reveals ways in which changing handloom production in Southeast Asia are inextricably embedded within broader changing social practices. The first part of this paper presents an historical and structural analysis of revolutionary migration and technological transformation of the Lao Xam Nuea style sin muk. The analysis examines the adaptation of techniques in the adoption of the Xam Nuea style through the comparison of Vientiane and Xam Nuea sin muk. This initial analysis is limited by the information that can be drawn from historical data and the physical features of the textiles abstracted from social practices of production.

To better understand details the first approach may elide, the historical/structural analysis is paired with an ethnographic analysis of product change in Surin, Thailand. A community of weavers in Surin, that less than a decade ago produced complex multi-shuttle ikat textiles, recently became a supplier of supplementary weft fabric for Bangkok markets. Interviews and observations with weavers from this community reveal ways in which transformation of practice is linked to broader transformations of social life; spiritual practices, conceptions of space and time, and educational practices are fundamentally altered along with the shift in products. The ethnographic research from Surin is employed to build a foundation for further theorizing about broader social transformations that may have accompanied the Vientiane emulation of the sin muk.