Visualizing change: online representation and resistance in the Canada-US hand knitting industry

Authors: Shannon Black*, University of Toronto
Topics: Cultural Geography, Social Geography, Women
Keywords: craft, photography, social media, racism, representation, resistance
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 4:40 PM / 5:55 PM
Room: Virtual 37
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In recent years in the Global North, the popularity of craft has surged. Increasingly, crafters are turning to visual and digital mediums, such as photography and social media, in an effort to showcase their work, exchange creative ideas, cultivate communities, and generate business opportunities. As crafters move online, the ways in which inequities in general, and racial inequities in particular, circulate within craft sectors, and how they manifest, articulate, and are struggled against via visual and digital media, require urgent study. In this paper I address this gap. Combining the testimonies of forty-two crafters and craft intermediaries working within the Canada-US hand knitting industry, with visual analysis of photos posted on knitting themed Instagram accounts, I examine how visual and digital media are important tools for confronting persistent discrimination within the hand knitting industry, and how the space of the digital platform in particular, is a key site for the transgression of barriers, the enactment of agency, and the organizing of anti-racist action and solidarity. However, because platforms, and the visualities and interactions that circulate within and through them, are not outside the material worlds in which they are situated and, as such, are not immune to existing structures of racism, the transformative potential of using visual and digital media to confront systemic inequities within the hand knitting industry remains tenuous. Highlighting potentials and pitfalls of online representation and resistance, this paper invites conversation about the role of visual and digital media in the struggle for racial equity more broadly.

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