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).


The Andes as Case Study Textile studies look like a field where the materiality of the objects cannot allow us a distorted view. Nevertheless, the textile education we received, and some methods and tools we use, sometimes impede us from seeing and understanding what is under our eyes. In some ways, we are not fully ready to recognize the originality and achievement of Andean weavers' thoughts, a question which is as political, as it is scientific. One example is the importance given in Western culture to the direction of the warp to indicate the orientation of tapestries. As long as scholars focused on this feature when looking at pre-Hispanic tunics woven in the highlands - mainly Wari and Inca - with horizontal warp threads and those woven on the coast with vertical warp threads, it was not possible to understand that distinction as part of a large set of oppositions. Only when it became clear that pre-Hispanic Andean weavers attached more importance to the threads visible on the surface, the weft threads for tapestry, did the full meaning of the horizontal/vertical opposition emerge. In some areas from the Early Horizon, this opposition reveals a geographical contrast between coastal and highland male tunics, and, if considering also the direction of the openings for head and arms, a gender contrast between female and male main garments in both regions and in the Amazonian piedmont. Considering these and other examples will demonstrate how difficult it is for Western eyes to take off their culturally-colored glasses when looking at Andean textiles.