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“Perish or Globalize:” Network Integration and the Reproduction and Replacement of Weaving Traditions in the Thai Silk Industry

The practice of handmade silk weaving has disappeared from much of the world, but continues to be practiced by thousands of people in Northeastern Thailand. However, as the Thai economy becomes increasingly embedded into global flows and networks of commodities, capital and culture, there are worries that silk weaving as a practice will either cease to be reproduced or will have to radically change in order to service the global market. This paper, based on in-depth interviews and surveys with sellers of silk, examines this dilemma faced by the industry. It finds that the means through which economic information is codified and transmitted over space and the tastes of non-local markets are ultimately resulting in changes to production practices throughout the country. Despite the fact that the internet is enabling trade and thereby allowing production practices to continue, fears are being realized about traditional practices being replaced as producers become ever more integrated into global networks.

You can access the paper here:

Graham, M. 2011. “Perish or Globalize:” Network Integration and the Reproduction and Replacement of Weaving Traditions in the Thai Silk Industry ACME: Journal of Critical Geographies10(3) 458-482.

I just had to refer to this paper in a chapter I’m writing, so decided to post it here (I’ve never blogged it, and my website contained a dead link to it). 

If you like the topic, here is some related work that I did:

Graham, M. 2013. Thai Silk dot Com: Authenticity, Altruism, Modernity and Markets in the Thai Silk Industry. Globalisations 10(2) 211-230.

Graham, M. 2011. Disintermediation, Altered Chains and Altered Geographies: The Internet in the Thai Silk Industry. Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries. 45(5), 1-25

Graham, M. 2010. Justifying Virtual Presence in the Thai Silk Industry: Links Between Data and Discourse. Information Technologies and International Development. 6(4), 57-70.

Graham, M. 2011. Time Machines and Virtual Portals: The Spatialities of the Digital Divide. Progress in Development Studies. 11 (3). 211-227.

Graham, M. 2011. Cultural Brokers, the Internet, and Value Chains. In The Cultural Wealth of Nations. eds. Wherry, F. and N. Bandelj. Standford: Stanford University Press. 222-239 (email for a copy).

New article published - Thai Silk Dot Com: Authenticity, Altruism, Modernity and Markets in the Thai Silk Industry

An article that I had accepted into Globalizations has made its way into print:

Graham, M. 2013. Thai Silk Dot Com: Authenticity, Altruism, Modernity and Markets in the Thai Silk IndustryGlobalizations. 10(2) 211-230.

The abstract is below, and you can access a pre-publication version at this link.

The production of silk occupies a unique place in Thai cultural and economic practices. However, the practice is rarely passed on to the younger generation and is widely considered to be a dying craft. In response, influential organizations have proposed use of the internet as a way to reinvigorate the industry and attract new customers. This paper looks at the discourses used to sell silk and the ways in which sellers are either framing Thai silk as a traditional craft in need of saving or as an enterprise that efficiently engages with the commercial needs of the global economy. The paper reviews the range of, often problematic, emotions, images, and associations used to sell a dying craft. Ultimately, it argues that, in contrast to many of the theorized effects of the internet, it seems to be neither encouraging mass homogenization nor pushing sellers to effectively integrate themselves into global markets.
New paper - "Thai Silk dot Com: Authenticity, Altruism, Modernity and Markets in the Thai Silk Industry"

I’ve just had a paper accepted to Globalizations: 

Graham, M. (2013) Thai Silk dot Com: Authenticity, Altruism, Modernity and Markets in the Thai Silk Industry. Globalizations 10(2).

The abstract is below and you can download a pre-publication version here.

The production of silk occupies a unique place in Thai cultural and economic practices. However, the practice is rarely passed on to the younger generation and is widely considered to be a dying craft. In response, influential organizations have proposed use of the internet as a way to reinvigorate the industry and attract new customers. This paper looks at the discourses used to sell silk and the ways that sellers are either framing Thai silk as a traditional craft in need of saving or as an enterprise that efficiently engage with the commercial needs of the global economy. The paper reviews the range of, often problematic, emotions, images and associations used to sell a dying craft. Ultimately, it argues that, in contrast to many of the theorized effects of the internet, it seems to be neither encouraging a mass homogenization or pushing sellers to effectively integrate themselves into global markets.

And a few random pictures from my fieldwork in Thailand: 







New paper published: "Perish or Globalize"

The latest issue of ACME: Journal of Critical Geographies contains a piece that I wrote about the Internet in the Thai silk industry.


The title, abstract, and a link to the piece are below:

“Perish or Globalize:” Network Integration and the Reproduction and Replacement of Weaving Traditions in the Thai Silk Industry 

The practice of handmade silk weaving has disappeared from much of the world, but continues to be practiced by thousands of people in Northeastern Thailand. However, as the Thai economy becomes increasingly embedded into global flows and networks of commodities, capital and culture, there are worries that silk weaving as a practice will either cease to be reproduced or will have to radically change in order to service the global market. This paper, based on in-depth interviews and surveys with sellers of silk, examines this dilemma faced by the industry. It finds that the means through which economic information is codified and transmitted over space and the tastes of non-local markets are ultimately resulting in changes to production practices throughout the country. Despite the fact that the internet is enabling trade and thereby allowing production practices to continue, fears are being realized about traditional practices being replaced as producers become ever more integrated into global networks. 

…….
And a few more photos that I took during fieldwork in Isaan: