SENKU seminar with Dr Laurence Douny

Textiles as meta-communication: towards an indigenous epistemology of silk material



Abstract: This talk explores the cultural significance of West African indigenous silk that is the main component of Marka-Dafing tuntun wrappers, which enact as a form of meta-communication in this community of the Mouhoun region of Burkina Faso. This cloth of prestige stands as a means by which Marka-Dafing women express messages woven in silk that include critiques and insults addressed to a co-wife or a husband and also act as reminders of the society’s moral values. Framed within an epistemology of materials, it highlights the properties of silk, such as its sheen or daoula, that is drawn out of cocoons through complex technical processes. It is suggested that the sheen of wild silk, a force that is inherent to the matter, not only serves to legitimate woven messages but, in the manner of an aura, confers charisma and allows women to display their social status and power.


Laurence Douny is an Associate Research Fellow at LAMC, Dept. of Anthropology, Université Libre de Bruxelles, and an Honorary Research Fellow at UCL Anthropology. She is an anthropologist who has conducted extensive field research since 2008 on the production of indigenous silk in Mali, Northern Nigeria and Burkina Faso. Framed within an anthropology of techniques, her work focuses on an indigenous epistemology of materials and the making of West African textiles design. She has published several papers, on Hausa silk embroidered garments in The Journal of Material Culture (2010), on the material efficacy and cultural significance of sheen in Textiles (2013), and more recently on the cosmological meanings and social implications of sheen in West African Islamic magic in the Journal of Ritual, Witchcraft and Magic (2017).


The seminar will take place in the seminar room on the 3rd floor, Frederiks gate 2 (Entrance via back door on Kristian IVs gate - ring the doorbell for the third floor) . After the seminar there will be room for informal conversations and drinks.



SENK, Geoffrey Gowlland and Tone Wang
Published Aug. 29, 2017 1:28 PM - Last modified Nov. 6, 2017 9:56 AM