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Visualizing change: on-line representation and resistance in the North American hand knitting industry

Authors: Shannon Black*, University of Toronto
Topics: Cultural Geography
Keywords: craft, photography, social media, identity, representation, resistance
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In the Global North, the popularity of fibre-based craft has surged. As more people take up fibre-based craft, many are also producing craft-themed photographs for circulation on social media platforms. These images tend to privilege ‘appropriate visions’ of embodied crafter identities, which in the case of contemporary fibre-craft, is typically a white, middle-class, heterosexual, cis-gender, able-bodied woman. Being able to occupy this identity status helps to legitimatize particular crafters, opening up pathways to networks and income. For those who cannot readily ‘fit into’ this dominant, idealized version, access to opportunities are diminished and barriers reinforced. While researchers have begun to explore the relationship between craft industries and online contexts, there is a paucity of research that examines how visual and digital media are mobilized to buttress and confront the lack of diversity, representation and opportunities within craft sectors. Combining the testimonies of forty-two crafters and craft intermediaries working within the North American hand knitting industry, with visual analysis of knitting-themed photos posted on Instagram, this this paper I examine how craft-themed photography posted on social media platforms can reinforce dominant representations and hierarchies based on race, class and gender, while at the same time, be mobilized to confront spaces and acts of exclusion within craft industries. In this way, craft-themed photos posted on social media platforms are more than representations - they are also spaces of struggle and organizing, in a way that craft industries in general, and the North America hand knitting industry in particular, at present are not.

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