Alexandra Dalferro

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Cornell U.

Grant number

Gr. 9453

Approve Date

April 25, 2017

Project Title

Dalferro, Alexandra Grace, Cornell U., Ithaca, NY - To aid research on 'Shimmering Surfaces and Stray Threads: Weaving State Politics into Silk in Contemporary Thailand,' superviseed by Dr. Marina Welker

ALEXANDRA DALFERRO, then a graduate student at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, was awarded a grant in April 2017 to aid research on ‘Shimmering Surfaces and Stray Threads: Weaving State Politics into Silk in Contemporary Thailand,’ superviseed by Dr. Marina Welker. A piece of silk is a swathe of woven energy. It animates and is animated by the things that bring it into being, from the sunlight that nourishes the mulberry leaves, to the hungry worms who crunch those leaves into raw silk, to the humans who extract and weave the silk thread into cloth. Myriad forms of energy — the vital forces generated through and by things — are harnessed by actors in the sericulture and weaving industry in Surin, Thailand, in ways that enable livelihoods and undergird long-observed rituals, even as these efforts are always influenced and sometimes limited by state and royal interventions. Silk weaving still flourishes in Surin, which is surprising considering the popular narrative of the threat of the practice’s disappearance. When loss is an eternal risk on the horizon, energies intensify, and this dissertation project follows the energy flows of silk and its human and non-human producers to better understand how these configurations give rise to social worlds and forms of identification, from proud ethnic and national assertions to entomological classifications to genderqueer affiliations. Paying close ethnographic attention to the affective and sensory dimensions of silk offers expanded insight into the ethics and aesthetics of belonging in a moment characterized by political, economic, and ecological uncertainties.