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

Preliminary abstract: Ethnic Khmer silk weavers in Thailand bring unique methods and meanings to their craft. In Thai government efforts to promote the industry, however, Khmer silks are often treated as part of a static ‘Thai’ national cultural heritage. Woven in today’s Thailand for over 1,000 years, silks were key tributary gifts exchanged among neighboring kingdoms, as the choice of cloth bestowed rank upon recipients in an embodiment of political and social hierarchies. Time has not diminished the salience of silk and the roles it plays in enacting distinct visions of relatedness and belonging. Using sensory ethnographic methods and archival research, I will treat silk as an assemblage of species, cultural orientations, values and histories that creates and is created by weavers and consumers in particular ways for diverging ends. I will examine how Khmer weavers in three villages, Natang, Tha Sawang and Piyaram, in Surin province are engaging with state-mediated demands for shimmering surfaces that conform to standards of technical quality, marketability, and Thai heritage ideals that may elide local meanings and creation processes. My project aims to explore the tensions that play out in the arena of silk making between efforts to ‘democratize’ heritage while simultaneously recuperating it for a monoethnic nation-state. These tensions have broader relevance to how material and intangible heritage objects and practices are negotiated nationally and globally.