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Quilts In Between: The Material Culture of Commemorative Community Patchwork Made for Chinese Adoptees in the U.S.

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posted on 05.12.2016, 13:23 authored by Marin Freya Hanson
One Hundred Good Wishes Quilts (OHGWQ) are a contemporary form of material culture that commemorates an American family’s adoption of a Chinese child. Made and/or coordinated by parents in the midst of adopting, OHGWQ are community-based objects constructed from fabrics donated by a large number of family, friends, and acquaintances. A practice that spread largely via the internet starting around 2000, the OHGWQ tradition is based upon a host of phenomena and contexts: the sudden growth of China adoption in the late 1990s and 2000s; indigenous patchwork and quilting practices in China and the U.S.; the Western history of cultural appropriation; and present-day forms of web-based communication. Drawing on interviews with nearly two dozen adoptive parents, this research utilised a phenomenological approach to explore the experience of making a OHGWQ, a form of material culture never previously studied. The work explores how OHGWQ function on the individual or personal level, in such ways as celebrating a significant moment in a family’s history, making the adoption process seem less onerous and interminable, building support for a non-traditional method of family-building, and giving makers the opportunity to participate in a form of “everyday creativity” (Gauntlett 2011). The thesis also examines the OHGWQ’s place and meaning in the lives of those who organise and/or make the projects and within American society and culture at large. In particular, the thesis demonstrates that the OHGWQ project plays several “in-between” roles, functioning as a link or transitional device in each case: between being a non-maker and a maker, between disparate Eastern/Western cultural practices, between various groups of people, and between pre- and post-adoption senses of identity for the family as a whole and potentially for the adoptee. In essence, it is argued that OHGWQ connect people, cultures, and ideas.



Dudley, Sandra; Marstine, Janet

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School of Museum Studies

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University of Leicester

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