2012 Conference

China and Inner Asia Session 55

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Roundtable: Seeing Through Chinese Costume and Textiles

Organizer: Jennifer Purtle, University of Toronto, Canada

Chair: Sarah E. Fee, Royal Ontario Museum, Canada

Discussants: Wen-chien Cheng, Royal Ontario Museum, Canada; Kathleen M. Ryor, Carleton College, USA; Dagmar Schaefer, MPIWG, Germany; John E. Vollmer, Independent Scholar, USA; Ryan Whyte, Ontario College of Art & Design, Canada; Jennifer Purtle, University of Toronto, Canada; Sarah E. Fee, Royal Ontario Museum, Canada

The participants in this roundtable are, with other leading scholars of Chinese art and culture, working to catalogue and exhibit the world-class Chinese textile and costume collection of the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). In anticipation of the first systematic publishing of this collection, this roundtable will use ROM holdings to explore the roles of textiles and costume in Chinese society. Topics include: the sociotechnical system of silk – worm, thread, fabric (Schaefer); the relation of textile iconography to fashion function (Ryor); narrativity of textiles and costume (Cheng); Chinese sumptuary law and fashionability (Purtle); the economics of Chinese silk and fashion in eighteenth-century France (Whyte); the shaping of the history of Chinese dress by the art market of the past 150 years (Vollmer); and, the history of the ROM collection (Fee). Like the catalogue/exhibition project, this roundtable seeks to develop an interdisciplinary cultural history of Chinese textiles and costume that qualifies the notion of costume and textiles as “minor arts” by admitting the importance of clothing in traditional China. This roundtable serves several functions. It permits scholars from many disciplines of Chinese Studies to become acquainted with the ROM collections of Chinese textiles and costume through powerpoint images, facilitates open conversation about the scholarly directions that the larger catalogue/exhibition project will take, and, hopes to recruit participants to the catalogue/exhibition project from as wide a range of disciplines and backgrounds as possible. Interested scholars will be invited, via H-Asia, to view the ROM collection during the AAS in Toronto.