Re: Best Book on the History/Sociology of Rug Weaving

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Posted by Michael Wendorf on May 21, 1999 at 10:17:58:

In Reply to: Re: Best Book on the History/Sociology of Rug Weaving posted by R. John Howe on May 20, 1999 at 22:54:07:

: Dear folks -

: By coincidence, I've just finished Mr. Helfgott's book, and I too am impressed with it. It might be worth mentioning that it is written in terms of a quite explicit Marxist perspective (something I share with him a bit, but something that others might find a bit jarring at times). In addition, it is a piece of secondary literature, more bibliographic than original and draws heavily for its real "sociology" on such work as that by Lois Beck, whose two books on her direct field work with the Qashqa'i are primary sources.

: Nevertheless, this is an nice summary and an interesting interpretation. You'll not have much question about where 18th and early 19th century rugs are after reading Mr. Helfgott. He argues that there weren't many made and that most of what we collect ("tribal" too) were in fact produced largely in direct response to Western market forces rather than idigenous demand. He seems to me to pretty well obliterate the distinction between "commercial" and "not made for sale" weavings, since he argues that even 16th century rugs were mostly made in response to Western demand. Dick Wright has been making a similar argument for some time. This book sells in paper for $20 or less. I bought mine on sale for $12.

: Regards,

: R. John Howe

Dear Robert and John:

Perhaps the two of you could do a salon on this topic?
I have also read the book, found it powerful. I think that in considering the sweeping conclusions one must remember that they are drawn to fit a Marxist perspective. I prefer to focus on the really solid information concerning the rise of weaving in the second half of the 19th century. At its beginning, this was a revival in my view. Why it came about and what it became are the stories of this book. Do we tend to over emphasize and exaggerate age? I do not think it can be disputed. I also think that a considerable amount of traditional weaving, whether influenced by commercial considerations or not, existed, it just was not documented. Woven from the Soul, Spun from the Heart makes a nice companion piece to Helfgott's book and contains a bit more even perspective.
Nice to see a post from Robert!
Kindest regards, Michael

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