Retorik och praktik.: en studie av Gestriklands hemslöjdsförening 1912-1930
- Location: Humanistiska teatern, Thunbergsvägen, Uppsala
- Doctoral student: Eriksson, Rose
- About the dissertation
- Organiser: Textilvetenskap
- Contact person: Eriksson, Rose
The principal aim of this dissertation, Rhetoric and Practice: A Study of the Handicraft Society of Gestrikland 1912-1930, has been to investigate how the rhetoric of the Society – in its early years, as well in the subsequent writings which relate the Society’s history – compares to its actual practices, and to undertake a critical review of the meaning and practical application of the Society’s official slogans. One area of focus is the way Gestrikland’s Handicraft society employed the motto of “helping people to help themselves” – the idea, that is to say, of generating income for the poor. Another focus is the concept of “local character” as applied to the most typical handicraft products for a particular region. Both concepts were central to the Swedish handicraft movement.
The study of archivial records as well as the analyses of textile objects, conducted from the point of view my own practical expertise, has led to significant new knowledge which clearly shows the discrepancy between the rhetoric and the reality of the early Handicraft movement. By problematizing and analysing the central concepts of the movement, “helping people to help themselves” and “local character”, I have been able to give a more relevant understanding of the practice. Specifically, I show that the origin of “local character” does not derive from the qualities of the surrounding natural environment, but rather from the creative initiative of particular individuals. Similarly, the idea of “helping people to help themselves”, which in the official rhetoric was understood to describe an initiative to supplement the income of the poorer folk of the countryside, has also in practice been shown to create occupation also for the women of the elite, and to help them find a place in public life. The handicraft movement thus became an organisation of middle-class women for women of all classes. One might say the organisation even existed to “help one’s own people help themselves”.