Contested Threads: Textiles, Resistance & Identity Work in Western Ukraine

Section of exhibit with embroidered shirts and images of people wearing them

Section of the exhibit about the vyshyvanka (embroidered shirt)

Showing: Appalachian Center Longwall Gallery, April 28 – September 10, 2022

Curator: Christopher A. Miller, LJAC Associate Director & Curator;
Student Curators: Ainsley Golden & Lyle Wagner; also assisted by Lilly Rice, Erika Wilson, and Hannah From

The current war in Ukraine is the latest chapter in a longstanding struggle over Ukrainian identity. 

During the last 500 years, parts of Ukraine have been subjected to rule by Russian, Polish, Austrian, Hungarian, German, Soviet, and Turkish overlords. In each case, the occupiers actively denigrated and marginalized Ukrainian culture. In some cases, they violently oppressed it. This is not the first time the struggle has turned to war. However, typically the battle over identity is fought through less-violent behaviors. 

Identity work with textiles has long been a special form of resistance in Ukraine. It includes what people wear, what they display in their homes, and how textile motifs are used in art and media. It involves not only national identity but also ethnic, regional, local, and even family.  

“Contested Threads” presents the findings of a visual ethnography focusing on textile identity work in western Ukraine.  It includes over 40 images and 11 textile artifacts.  All photos are by Christopher Miller, taken in Ukraine 2008-2017.

Photos of people using textiles and various ways that may be interpreted as identity work.

Identity work photo collage – left section

Pair of photos on the wall draped with Ukrainian textile decorations

Lyzhnyk and advertisement


modern lyzhnyk and photo of Franko's cottage