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The Fabric of Indigeneity

Ainu Identity, Gender, and Settler Colonialism in Japan

ann-elise lewallen

In present-day Japan, Ainu women create spaces of cultural vitalization in which they can move between “being Ainu” through their natal and affinal relationships and actively “becoming Ainu” through their craftwork. They craft these spaces despite the specter of loss that haunts the efforts of former colonial subjects, like Ainu, to reconnect with their pasts. The author synthesizes ethnographic field research, museum and archival research, and participation in cultural-revival and rights-based organizing to show how women craft Ainu and indigenous identities through clothwork and how they also fashion lived connections to ancestral values and lifestyles. She examines the connections between the transnational dialogue on global indigeneity and multiculturalism, material culture, and the social construction of gender and ethnicity in Japanese society, and she proposes new directions for the study of settler colonialism and indigenous mobilization in other Asian and Pacific nations.

2016. 296 pp., plates, tables, map, glossary, notes, references, index, 6 x 9

Contributors: ann-elise lewallen

Download an excerpt.

“Through this ground-breaking book, lewallen has proffered a timely and richly crafted contribution to the important debate on gender and Indigeneity, one which should provoke lively discussion amongst those researching Indigenous peoples.”
—Jeffry Joseph Gayman, Hokkaido University, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, September 2018

“ann-elise lewallen’s book is a welcome addition to the scholarship on Ainu identity and settler colonialism. Anthropologists, historians, and other academics interested in identity, race, settler colonialism, material culture, and gender will find much here to think about. This brilliant, complex, and engaging study deserves attention.”
—Curtis Foxley, University of Oklahoma, Native American and Indigenous Studies, spring 2018

“At the level of ethnography it is a thorough, detailed and sympathetic study of the ‘politics of cloth’ and the strategies now employed, largely by women who wish to signal or re-assert their Ainu identity . . . through the production of textiles using traditional techniques and/or embodying traditional motifs, and as such can stand as a major contribution to the emerging literature on crafts, gender and identity.”
John Clammer, O. P. Jindal Global University, Ethnic and Racial Studies 41, no. 3 (2018)

“[This] volume is a fascinating and much needed work revealing the tenacious bond between ancestral Ainu women and the contemporary Ainu society in the face of Japanese colonization. The Fabric of Indigeneity is at once loving and sensitive while offering a bold and forceful narrative of Ainu women reclaiming their ancient culture. . . . The story of Ainu revived provided by the women of Yaun Mosir is thrilling to read and restorative even to non-Ainu. Whether you are from an indigenous nation or not, you must read this book—a saga of great importance.”
Bertha Miller, Fourth World Journal, Winter 2017

A Note on Style
Introduction: Contemporary Self-Craft and Gendered Practices
Chapter One: Indigenous Modernity
Chapter Two: Contemporary Practice and Contested Heritage
Chapter Three: The Clamor of Our Blood: The Politics of Belonging and Modern Ainu: Identity
Chapter Four: The “Gendering of Ethnicity” in Ainu Society
Chapter Five: Embodied Knowledge
Chapter Six: In Lieu of Repatriation
Color plates

There are no working papers for this book at the present time.