Our Mundo Monthly series brings outstanding experts, artists, activists, and others to Berea once a month. Each academic year has an international focus on a certain region of the world. This year’s international focus is Europe.
Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2017
Woods Penn Commons
Dinner and Lecture
Free and open to the public
Ethnography and the New Europe: Chinese Migrants and the Made in Italy Brand
The coveted “Made in Italy” label calls to mind visions of nimble-fingered Italian tailors lovingly sewing elegant, high-end clothing. The phrase evokes a sense of authenticity, heritage, and rustic charm. Yet Chinese migrants are sewing “Made in Italy” labels into low-cost items for a thriving fast-fashion industry—all the while adding new patterns to the social fabric of Italy’s iconic fashion industry.
This paper draws on Krause’s forthcoming book, Tight Knit: Global Families and the Social Life of Fast Fashion (University of Chicago Press, Spring 2018), to offer a revelatory look into how families involved in the fashion industry have become entangled in global supply chains and how they cope with globalization. The work draws on long-term ethnographic research in Prato, the historic hub of textile production in the heart of metropolitan Tuscany. The presentation brings to the fore the tensions—over value, money, beauty, family, care, and belonging—that are reaching a boiling point as the country struggles to deal with the same migration pressures that are triggering backlash all over Europe and North America. Tight Knit tells a fascinating story about the heterogeneity of contemporary capitalism that will interest social scientists, immigration experts, and anyone curious about how globalization is changing the most basic of human conditions—making a living and making a life.
Elizabeth L. Krause is professor of anthropology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.