"Pleasure in the confusion of boundaries": Mexican textiles and subversion of the imperial gaze
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Textiles are multifaceted objects that exist as art, clothing, currency, a means of communication, and even objects for consumption. For this reason, many people look outside the world of mass production to Mexico for textiles that carry traces of tradition. Mexican textiles may be cohesive objects, but they exist in a divided world where they are also the objects of interest for travelers with imperial gazes. These travelers, although they live immediately to the north in the United States, function with a “Western” mindset of the “self” versus the “other”. These figures include the traveler, the designer, and the ethnographer, all roles that both include an imperial gaze but also have the potential to subvert the legacy of colonialism. Using Mary Louise Pratt’s idea of “imperial eyes,” I consider how each of these figures: the traveler, the designer, and the ethnographer, looks at Mexican textiles and to what degree they perpetuate the imperial agenda. Mimi Sheller’s Consuming the Caribbean provides a model for the task of decolonization, both of imperial relationships and the self, and Donna Haraway’s “A Manifesto for Cyborgs” provides the theoretical inspiration of unity. Considering all of these structures and possibilities, it becomes apparent that each figure has to deal with historically granted power but that with the correct ethics of responsibility, it is possible to subvert the imperial structures in place.