Fibre Formations: Wool as an anthropological site

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)

Abstract

Contemporary debates on sustainability usually relies on standardised and normative categories, such as ‘social’ and ‘nature’, and on linear notions of time. This study explores a more complex perspective on the delicate borderlands between the ‘un-sustainable’ and the ‘sustainable’. A particular material and a particular place stand at the centre of attention: woollen Merino fibre on the South American grasslands. Being alert to activities around woollen fibre implies efforts to understand how the fibre forms part of larger wholes as it generates collective relations and communities. This focus foregrounds aspects of people’s careful balancing between sustainable and un-sustainable conditions. By drawing on fieldwork among sheep farmers, laboratory technicians, manufacturers, textile traders, artisans, artists and art collectors, the study shows that the idiosyncrasies of how people classify Merino wool include different kinds of interferences, here referred to as processes of displacements, dissonances, dissociations, and distortions. The classifications and their interferences also include the handling of coexisting and contradictory temporalities: rhythms, paces, cycles and intervals. These are vital and imperative yet often overlooked parts of holding together artefacts and worlds. The study demonstrates that the South American grasslands’ multispecies collectives and the wool, their qualities or how they sustain, can be better understood after attention has been paid to people’s practices of classification. To classify is not only to sort and order what is already there but a way to both make sense of and to generate worlds. Fibre formations thus refers to both the transformations that the wool undergoes, and the impact it has upon lives in its surroundings. By letting Merino fibre be the stable point – the site – and the smallest common denominator of each description, the study shows how variations of categorization morph and add to normative categories and to linear notions of time. Woollen fibre is found to be part of several larger wholes and, in a sense, to be larger than itself. This, in turn, contributes to recent reflections on the capacity of anthropological research and is intended as a tentative move towards an anthropology of un-sustainability.

Details

Authors
  • Annika Capelan Köhler
Organisations
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Social Anthropology
  • Social Sciences

Keywords

  • Anthropology, Southern Cone , South American grasslands, fieldwork , Merino wool, formations, classifications, work of art, relationality , material-semiotics
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
Award date2017 May 2
Place of PublicationLund
Print ISBNs978-91-7753-202-6
Electronic ISBNs978-91-7753-203-3
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 2017-05-02 Time: 10:00 Place: Eden auditorium, Paradisgatan 5H, Lund External reviewer(s) Name: Penelope Harvey Title: Professor Affiliation: University of Manchester ---

Total downloads

No data available