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RaceCraft: A Symposium

An alternative genealogy to the contemporary craft movement

Culver Center of the Arts

Free Admission

RaceCraft: A Symposium

Thursday, October 20, 2016, 12pm - 6pm

Slow. Sustainable. DIY. Green. Local. Anti-mainstream. These are some of the keywords associated with the contemporary craft movement. Enabled by technology and new media, craft culture has been described as a combination of traditional artisanal craftsmanship, punk culture, and a DIY sensibility. It often positions itself as a response to the problems of globalization, hyper-consumerism and environmental degradation. Crafting is now, in the words of the maker-activist Betsy Greer, “craftivism,” a politically active site of social change. 

But has “green” become the new white? 

Despite its activist and inclusive ethos, the contemporary craft movement has been dominated by a neoliberal model of middle-class whiteness. Localism and lifestyle choices have become valorized as the primary modes of social change. People of color are often invisible in the craft movement, except as victims of globalization and exploitative labor practices who need to be saved by first world crafters. 

This one-day symposium features presentations by and conversations with makers, artists, and scholar-teachers who offer an alternative genealogy to the contemporary craft movement. 

RaceCraft explores crafting not as a lifestyle choice but as an effect and response to systemic forms of discrimination. In this context, being “crafty” is not just a DIY attitude and aptitude; it is an enabling subterfuge that doubles as critique, in which the constraints of production are not just aesthetic but also racial. RaceCraft seeks to situate craft within global and local histories of exclusion, colonialism, dispossession and subjugation. We have invited speakers who explore the tensions and fissures of “craft” discourse and that expose its neoliberal underpinnings. Finally, RaceCraft seeks to deepen our current conversations about craft so as to generate new frameworks for thinking about the transformative possibilities of craft, one that takes into consideration, racial justice in relation to “green” modes of sustainability, political activism and community building. 

The work of the symposium speakers will be featured in the affiliated online exhibition hosted by the Center for Art and Thought, co-curated by Marie Lo and Sarita See and assisted by intern Martina Dorff. To explore the exhibition, navigate to: http://centerforartandthought.org/work/project/racecraft

Image: Aram Han, A Mend: A Collection of Scraps from Local Seamstresses and Tailors (Chicago), jean scraps and gold denim thread, 2011-2013. 

Support has been provided by UCR College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (CHASS), the City of Riverside and UCR Department of Media and Cultural Studies.

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