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).


Brooklyn, NY has become one hotbed of activity for alternative economies defined as small, intimate, and artisanal. This includes emergent practices in "local" and "handmade" textiles?particularly by young women?that have recently caught the attention of scholars. Based on ethnographic fieldwork centered at the new Textile Arts Center in Brooklyn, this paper explores how and why producers of such textiles are inscribing their practices of making and the materiality of textiles with new meanings and intentions as they navigate the systems they seek to change. It further explores how their practices, and their understandings of these practices, are linked to globalized systems and ideologies that both constrain and make possible actors' abilities to make the changes they desire. Scholars have begun to tackle this topic in terms of DIY and Craftivism, stating the ways in which these makers "resist" and "rebel" against capitalism and the mass production of commodities. However this paper addresses a set of politically and socially engaged practices that do not fit within these bounds. I discuss local articulations of ecofashion; a newly implemented garden and curriculum for natural dyes; and makers whose fiber art and textile craft engage politics of labor from the domestic sphere to global trade. Beyond resisting and rebelling, the young women I met in Brooklyn during my fieldwork often express their practices in terms that speak more of connection, intimacy, and engagement.