Dr. Emma Shercliff’s professional output

Digging up the past: re-mediating the making of social relations

Conference – Published 19th Sep 19

We know there are many benefits to be gained from using textile crafts as a way to engage people in their communities, to build stronger ties to place, and to build resilience and self-confidence through the steady progress of accumulating stitches and piecing together stories. But what happens afterwards? Many artefacts end up in storage, unable to continue their work of mediation.

Using the example of a rug made collectively 14 years ago with a group of women in the Belleville district in Paris, this paper reflects on some of the questions arising from the aftermath of a community textile making endeavour. It explores the complexity of remembering works made in and for specific communities in the absence of the work itself asking, if the work and the people are no longer there, how can this crafting of community continue to have meaning?

Drawing on Walter Benjamin’s reflections on the excavation of the past through memories, and literary theories of orality and performance, this paper points towards new understandings of these types of collective textile-making projects as a different kind of creative practice: as a narrative performance of the experience of making social relations.