Beverly Lemire is Professor and Henry Marshall Tory Chair in the Department of History & Classics at the University of Alberta. Beverly publishes in the areas of fashion, gender, material culture and early modern global trade, with attention given to the contested imperial politics of material culture. Her recent volume addressing early modern globalism is: Global Trade and the Transformation of Consumer Cultures. The Material World Remade, c. 1500-1820 (Cambridge University Press, 2018), with a recent co-edited volume titled: Dressing Global Bodies: The Political Power of Dress in World History (Routledge, 2020). Another co-edited volume with McGill-Queen’s University Press is based on a SSHRC-funded collaborative project for which she was PI. The expected publication date for the entitled volume is fall 2020: Object Lives and Global Histories of Northern North America: Material Culture in Motion, c. 1780-1980.
Gendered Textiles from the Pacific in the Colonial
‘Decentered’ Histories of Material Technologies
Pacific-based societies inaugurated exceptional textiles cultures with global impact in fabric and fur exchanges. Influences flowed in multi-directional ways along oceanic and land networks, along with smaller cohorts of Asian peoples (women and men). The formal trans-Pacific routes inaugurated by Spanish imperial forces, added another layer to these networks from the 1560s onwards, tying the Americas to Asia. These entangled systems included scripted and unscripted linkages materialized in textiles, embroideries and commercial systems. Material culture study illuminates these events, as recorded in gendered artifacts like the stitchery of globalized Asian designs. Layered interactions ensued over centuries, knitting together textiles, people and knowledge flows. Material ecologies were transformed through generations of exchange.
From the 18th century, the growth of textile and clothing production and consumption surged. New forms of production and fashion became increasingly defined by whiteness, where laundering was vital. The western-based material technologies that ensued became progressively more important in defining class, race and gender, as western imperial systems burgeoned across the Pacific. I conclude my wide-ranging appraisal by noting the significance of the trans-Pacific laundering systems emerging in the 19th century: Chinese laundries. This textile technology is a phenomenon as worthy of study as early modern textile trade. In combination, the histories of gendered Asian textile exchange shaped major traditions of aesthetic and material meaning.