The Working Group on Latin America and the Global presents:
Ashli Akins (Interdisciplinary Studies), “The Chaos Point of Quechua Textiles: How Community-Owned Policies can Safeguard Living Cultural Traditions”
Thursday, January 19, 2017, 12-2pm
Research Unite (First Floor), Liu Institute for Global Issues
This project is a response to years of dialogue with tourists, consumers, indigenous weavers, and NGO workers about discrepancies in marketing Quechua textiles. In the Peruvian Andes, the Quechua textile tradition is one of the most important cultural cornerstones; indigenous women weave with backstrap looms, using natural alpaca fibres and local plant dyes, embedding centuries of oral history into their art. Though this timeless tradition has adapted through centuries, it now races against the clock. Unsustainable forms of tourism and development have rapidly encroached on indigenous Quechua subsistence communities, threatening their most important art form. New roads, airports, hotels, and restaurants have forced people off their lands, alienated them in their own home, and introduced new problems. Globalized markets offer synthetic machine-made copies of authentic traditional products that are appropriating their symbols and undermining their value. Over the past decade, I have heard a common dilemma from both conscientious consumers and development workers offering fair-trade market outlets: “But how do we know the difference between an authentic textile and a copy?” Specifically, weavers have suggested solving this dilemma through collective certifications of authenticity. To investigate this path of inquiry and conduct a feasibility study of an authenticity certificate, my theoretical research will explore, among others, the relationship between authenticity and adaptation, as well as critically analyse standardization and essentialism as side-effects of both safeguarding mechanisms and commodifications of cultural heritage.
Ashli Akins is a human rights advocate, artist, and social entrepreneur. When she was 21, she founded Mosqoy, an international charitable organization that works with highland indigenous communities of the Andean mountains in Peru, to mitigate the adverse effects of unsustainable tourism and development by providing economic opportunities that nurture their threatened indigenous culture. She is also a PhD student in the Interdisciplinary Studies Graduate Program with the Liu Institute for Global Issues.