SOAS University of London

Department of the History of Art and Archaeology, School of Arts

Transnational Identities and Jinghpaw (Kachin) Dress in Burma, Northeast India, Thailand and Yunnan

Dr Mandy Sadan (SOAS)

Date: 14 January 2009Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 14 January 2009Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: B104

Type of Event: Seminar

Standardised Jinghpaw Kachin dress has in recent years become a highly visible and easily recognisable marker of ethnic identity in Burma, and the market for 'Kachin' textiles has expanded in line with this greater visibility. However, this expansion has not been brought about through the greater participation of Kachin women in Kachin textile production, even though they are key players in the circulation and consumption of Kachin cloth. This paper will examine the ways in which 'Kachin' textiles are produced in Burma today and the reasons why Kachin women have not been able to make the production of Kachin textiles an economic niche for themselves. The paper will also take a comparative perspective, considering related textile markets in North East India and Thailand, as well as Yunnan, where Jinghpaw 'Kachin' groups (known variously as Singpho or Jingpo) also reside. The paper will consider the ways in which local political structures and cultural-economies impact upon the production, circulation and consumption of 'Kachin' textiles and create locally different economic possibilities for women in relation to textile markets for 'their' dress. Finally, the paper will consider how the failure to take local markets and economic factors into consideration sometimes fatally compromises the well-intentioned textile production projects initiated by NGOs in the region, who often consider textile manufacture, particularly the revival of hand-woven textile practices, as a primary tactic in the economic empowerment of marginalised ethnic minority women.

Organiser: Dr Crispin Branfoot and Dr Elizabeth Moore

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