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Production and consumption of traditional textiles: The transformation of local perceptions through the politics of cultural heritage and tourism

Research period:2018.10-2023.3



traditional textiles,tourism,cultural heritage


This study will examine the processes whereby traditional textiles embedded in a set of social and cultural contexts within a local life-world are commercialized and circulated on global markets.
We will pay a particular attention to the ways in which the promotion of tourism and “heritagization” have affected the production and consumption of traditional textiles in the Asian region. The authentication of cultural objects as heritage inevitably treats them as national assets, and place them within a higher, global context; the endeavors in the tourist industry, at the same time, accelerates commoditization, which make these objects open to external evaluation.
More specifically, we will address the following questions: How are individual, traditional textile crafts now assigned value?; How has the local significance associated with each product changed among local producers and their society as a whole?; and Have those local changes affected the selection of techniques and materials that are used to produce these textiles?

Research Results

The members of this collaborative research project have many years of experience in the field of textile production and consumption, having conducted fieldwork across a wide range of regions including China, Laos, Indonesia, India, Turkey, Uzbekistan, and Australia. At the meetings, members shared their research results to establish a common frame of reference. The group also invited guest lecturers at the workshops both within and outside the museum, where we considered and communicated the meaning of the changes that have occurred in the regions we researched. The latter half of the study consisted of presentations and discussions focused on six themes.
Many issues came up in the discussions, but the main points are as follows:
1) Material features of textiles vis-a-vis the global market
While there are countless other products distributed across regional and cultural borders, the material features of specific textiles are inseparably connected to the diversity of materials and techniques used in specific contexts. The scope of material procurement and the evolution of production techniques have increased the diversity of products even further, and also given rise to the phenomenon of diversification and geographical expansion of consumers. For this reason, information and narratives about the backgrounds of individual types of textiles now have earned additional value in the global market.
2) Succession of materials, tools, and techniques
One important factor in considering the sustainability of textile production is the environment—in the broad sense of the term—that enables access to materials (e.g., forests and other vegetation, interpersonal relationships in villages). There are also sometimes gaps between the techniques that are passed down locally and the techniques that have earned external acclaim. Due to the advancement of cultural heritagization and tourization, global consumer trends now more often influence the selection of materials and technology that should be passed down in addition to socio-economic factors.
3) Merits and demerits of textile printing technology
Faced with changes in the users and applications of textiles and in the physical bodies and living environments of those who make them, textile print technology that enables mass production of textiles by reproducing designs can mean liberation from the constraints of conventional technologies. Also, the spread of inexpensive goods may also drive the democratization of the use of some types of prestige goods. However, textile printing results in the phenomenon of disregarding the uniquness of techniques, and selecting and foregrounding only colors, patterns, and other designs that are expressed on specific types of textiles. By examining who accepts and who refuses textile printing in what context, we will be able to gain insight into the interaction between the diverse actors involved in the production, distribution, and consumption of traditional textiles.