Janice E. Stockar, CEAS Visiting Scholar, 2010-2011
This talk takes as its topic one of the many historical silk roads that crossed the seas to the New World. Stockard, a cultural anthropologist, conducted the research upon which this talk and her manuscript are based. In earlier work, Stockard focused on another silk industry and culture – in China’s Pearl River Delta during the era of mechanization, 1860-1930. Stockard uses her research on the silk industry of South China to probe the experience of New England “silk raisers,” who in the eighteenth century sought to establish a prosperous industry of their own.
In the context of the history of the globalization of silk culture, the ‘silk road’ to New England is a minor road. Today, beyond a close group of silk and textile enthusiasts, it is scarcely known at all. An excavation along it, however, brings to light a fascinating episode in American economic, technological, and cultural history. Our domestic experiment in “silk raising” also highlights the role of Chinese silk roads as ‘information highways,’ along which information about silk production crossed continents and cultures. In eighteenth century North America, this cross-cultural information about how to establish a prosperous silk enterprise was interpreted and adapted at hearthside and in cornfields across New England.
Janice E. Stockard received her degrees in anthropology from Stanford University. Following twenty years of teaching, Dr. Stockard has returned to the Bay Area, where she is completing two manuscripts. She is currently a CEAS Visiting Scholar.