The website for Asia Scholars and Asia Studies in Europe


Textiles in Motion & Transit



15 February 2020

Conference dates: 5 - 8 October 2020


History is filled with stories about and references to textiles. Beyond their practical function to provide warmth and protection, textiles play a central role in social, economic, and spiritual interactions. Textiles and clothing speak volumes about the hierarchy of power relations amongst their users, including power that defines stratifications of class, wealth, and gender. Textiles also act as repositories of spiritual power that can be tapped into by following the correct prescriptions. In most cases, the meaning and values of textiles are culture-specific, often unspoken, but fully understood within a given tradition.

Due to their portability, textiles regularly move to and transit through foreign places. Their measurable worth in the raw material and the amount of labor put into them makes this material a perfect medium for commercial exchange as well as for tribute. At the same time, their intangible cultural value, for example as a medium to express identity, meant that textile and their practices, travelled along with the movement of peoples. On these journeys textiles sometimes lost their original values, acquired new significance, or communicated messages that were changed or distorted in their new environments.

Textiles in Motion & Transit explores the lives of textiles—their displacements and transformations—within the Asia-Pacific region as well as between the region and the rest of the world. The conference seeks contributions from scholars in various disciplines including art and textile history, museology, archaeology, ethnography, anthropology, and textile conservation. It invites papers that investigate the materiality, the making, and the use and reuse of textiles outside the context of their original culture, with particular attention to agents that facilitate their movements, the forces that contribute to accumulating new meanings, and the circumstances that allow these transformations to take place.

Papers may explore, but are not limited to, topics related to:

  • Textiles as offerings
  • Textiles uses in rites of passage such as marriage and funerary contexts (bride wealth and burial goods)
  • Textiles as currency, taxation and tribute
  • Textiles as medium for exchange in localized and long-distance trading networks
  • Textiles as surrogates for memory in personal and global history
  • Textiles as mediators of gendered roles in society
  • The politics of textiles in colonialism and migration
  • Repurposing of textiles in new contexts

Conference format

The conference will consist of keynotes and paper presentations. In addition, participants are invited to partake in practical workshops at the Leiden Textile Research Centre.

Confirmed keynote speakers:

Zhao Feng, Director China National Silk Museum, China
Dale Carolyn Gluckman, Textile Historian and Independent Curator, USA
Sumru Belger Krody, Senior Curator George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum, USA

Application procedure

We will consider contributions of novel historical, archaeological, and present-day/ethnographic research. The conference aims to create a dialogue between these diverse fields both theoretically and empirically.

The deadline for paper proposals is Saturday 15 February 2020. Participants will be notified before 1 April 2020. Please visit the Application Form Page to submit your proposal.


Participants are expected to cover their own travel and accommodation expenses. Limited financial support may be available to some scholars who reside in Asia and some junior or low-income scholars from other parts of the world. If you would like to be considered for a grant, please submit the Grant Application Form. Please also specify other funding sources that you will apply for or will receive. Please note that the conference operates on a limited budget, and will only be able to provide a partial coverage of the travel costs. This form should be submitted before 15 February 2020. Requests for funding received after this date will not be taken into consideration.


Sandra Sardjono, Tracing Patterns Foundation, California
Christopher Buckley, Wolfson College, Oxford
Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, Textile Research Centre, Leiden


The conference is organised by the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS), Tracing Patterns Foundation, and Textile Research Centre.