To view this PAPER PRESENTATION, search for the session title in the Browse by Titlelisting. (See the session title located immediately below ["In Session:"])
In Session: “Blown Together” on the Winds of Trade: Japanese Presence in Southeast Asia Before and After World War II
1: Sarasa in Patchworks: Fragmentation and the Selection of Heterogeneity
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
3:00pm – 4:30pm EDT
Harvard University, United States
The fragmentation of fragile textiles over the vicissitudes of time—whether purposeful or the result of wear-and-tear—might be considered a ‘loss’ or ‘decay’ of an original object. Indeed, many scholars and artisans have dedicated their work to reimagining and recreating that which was lost from extant fragments. However, rather than focus on recovering such previous ‘object-states,’ this paper spotlights the role of fragmentation as a catalyst for the formation of patchworks during the Edo period. I focus on how fragments of disparate textiles from China, South and Southeast Asia, and Europe came to be 'blown together' in Japan primarily during the Edo period. As the aesthetic of fukiyose suggests, fragments whirling among Japanese circles began to be repurposed alongside other foreign and domestic materials—in effect, forging patchworks spanning both centuries and thousands of kilometers of history, trade, production methods, assigned meanings, and tastes. The dyeing procedures and patterns for sarasa (or chintzes) evolved over time as artisans and merchants studied each morsel of knowledge and physical sample of sarasa the winds of trade carried across Afro-Eurasia. As sarasa and sarasatic patterns passed through the lives of merchants, artisans, religious figures, elite collectors, and eventually consumers of more modest means, sarasa patchworks diversified into various niches in Japanese society. Examples of such patchworks include the jinbaori of Confucian scholar Yamaga Sokō, various fabrics used in chanoyu and sencha tea ceremonies, and textile adornments for Gion Matsuri floats, among others. When considered together, these sarasa patchworks represent one node at which we can reexamine Japanese trade and diplomatic relations over time, not only with Southeast Asia, but also with South Asia and Europe.