Made in San Pedro: the production of dress and meaning in a Tz’utujil - Maya municipality

dc.contributor.authorOertling, Emily Jean
dc.description.abstractThis study examines dress practices – encompassing design and production processes, discussion about dress, use, and styling decisions – in the Tz’utujil - Maya municipality of Tz’unun Ya’, commonly referred to by participants as San Pedro La Laguna (San Pedro), Guatemala. By examining the relationship between women and all available clothing, this study recognizes the development of traditions and attends to dress practices as a way to engage with local culture. This study identifies the dress in use in San Pedro and its importance in the community, determines the influences on dress practices, and evaluates the complexities of dress practices in view of cultural sustainability. Understanding if the dress practices of San Pedro are culturally sustainable required inquiries into people-product relationships, social interaction amongst community members, and the systems that produce these garments. A qualitative data collection method was employed – collecting data primarily through 60-90 minute, semi-structured online interviews with 21 Tz’utujil identifying women. The research process adapted to themes and curiosities emerging from the data. The goal was to understand, clarify, and confirm reoccurring actions, reasons, and motives relating to the phenomenon of dress practices in San Pedro. In-process analysis of interview transcriptions supported data collection and, therefore, the data analysis strategy (Esterberg, 2002). Information from the participants’ interviews was transcribed and translated using Documents were edited and open-coded in Spanish and then focused-coded in English, using the MAXQDA qualitative data analysis software. Accounts provided by participants were also coded for premises of Blumer’s (1969b) social interaction theory. During data analysis, procedural and analytical memos were generated and code progression was documented. Data analysis also employed techniques such as the null hypothesis check and diagramming (Esterberg). In San Pedro, the production of dress is the production of meaning. Garments are created through a system influenced by local tradition, social interactions, economic and practical needs, as well as desires to display heritage and individuality. This study’s approach, to assess dress as a measure of culture, led to nuances between traditional garments not accounted for by previous literature. Participants regularly highlighted the importance and role of the blusa Pedrana in the community. Pedranas (women of San Pedro) have distinct relationships with traditional garments, municipal-affiliated clothing, and Western dress. These categories of dress are manufactured and consumed at different speeds. Variations in the fashion cycle reflect the involvement of the residents in these processes, and the value they have for the products. Women’s relationships with dress is based on the communal understanding of the apparel production process. A strong presence of local production, and subsequently involvement in the making of traditional and municipal-affiliated clothing, supported a sustainable product relationship. The emergence of fast fashion cycles is a potential threat to the existing culturally sustainable system. This study’s findings are beneficial to Pedranas concerned about the future of their dress practices and invested in maintaining their heritage. This body of work will also serve as a record of dress for the community, potentially useful for educational or future conservation efforts. Within the scope of cultural sustainability, this project offers a perspective for thinking about traditional dress practices. It reinforces the idea that cultural systems, and their products, develop with respect to human agency. Garments, like the blusa Pedrana, can be undervalued in one region and an emblem of society in another. The meaning of these objects – derived by those who interact with them in everyday life – also change. In a practical sense, this study models a dress-forward approach to investigating social relationships and meaning within a community.en_US
dc.description.advisorKim Y. Hiller Connellen_US
dc.description.degreeDoctor of Philosophyen_US
dc.description.departmentDepartment of Interior Design and Fashion Studiesen_US
dc.subjectSan Pedro La Lagunaen_US
dc.subjectCultural sustainabilityen_US
dc.titleMade in San Pedro: the production of dress and meaning in a Tz’utujil - Maya municipalityen_US


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