- From loom to machine: Tibetan aprons and the configuration of place
- Environment and Planning D - Society & Space
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- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)
In this paper I examine how objects become connected to place in complex and contradictory ways. Over the past ten to fi fteen years, rapid transformations in Chinese manufacturing and transportation networks have signifi cantly altered the production, marketing, and consumption of commodities made in the Tibet Autonomous Region and traded in Kalimpong, India, and Kathmandu, Nepal. In an attempt to connect the ethnographic study of material culture with more macrolevel processes of geoeconomic change, I begin the piece with an examination of the changing production, materials, and styles of a very specifi c commodity, the Tibetan women’s apron. I then explore
traders’ narratives about the values of handmade, machine-made, wool, and synthetic commodities, arguing that we ought to look beyond dichotomies of ‘old’ versus ‘new’ or ‘authentic’ versus ‘inauthentic’ objects to show in detail how the attachment of commodities to representations of place fi gures importantly in the contemporary study both of globalization and uneven development. Finally, I suggest that Karl Marx’s notion of dead labor is useful in analyzing the recent move towards the revitalization of Tibetan wool for both the domestic Chinese industry and the global tourist industry.
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