The Handstitched Art of Social Transformation: A Look at the Role of Textile Art in Chile’s Political Upheaval (2019-2020)

Authors: Nathalia Santos Ocasio*,
Topics: Political Geography, Gender, Latin America
Keywords: textile arts, creative geographies, Latin America, social movements, community politics, feminist geographies, social transformation
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 35
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Textile arts have generated little traction in conversations around place-based politics and social movements. However, explicitly political textiles have proliferated across Latin America, particularly within the recent feminist wave. In Chile, multiple generations have drawn on indigenous and working-class textile traditions to denounce state violence and economic inequality, instigating social change. Notoriously, arpilleras – political tapestries circulated during the dictatorship (1973-1990) – created a tradition of textile resistance that has been re-interpreted in different contexts and geographies. Drawing on interviews and participatory observation conducted in Santiago de Chile in early 2020, this presentation highlights the role that arpilleras and other textile practices have played in community organization and social transformation. Specifically, I look at the proliferation of textile art and arpillera collectives in the context of the social upheaval that erupted in October 2019 in rejection of 30 years of post-dictatorial neoliberalism and socioeconomic inequalities. While the mass mobilisations have seen an all-around display of creativity and cultural production, the political tapestries created in this context are particularly provocative, as they introduce practices understood as feminine and domestic into political gatherings. While these arpilleras thematically address feminist and women-related concerns, including issues around social reproduction and feminicides, their collective creation in public spaces and local communities has contributed to the mending of the social fabric eroded by 30 years of neoliberalism.

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