The Needle as Medium: Using Embroidery to Speak to Ghosts

  • Christine Rogers RMIT University
Keywords: autoethnography, hauntology, embroidery, adoption, Māori

Abstract

As an adoptee, I am haunted by what Lifton (2009) calls the Ghost Kingdom, a place filled with the spectres of the ancestors I have been disconnected from. Derrida (1993), with his notion of hauntology, tells us that we must learn to speak to ghosts, and that by doing so we will learn to live. I am on a journey to speak to the ancestors of my birth father who were Ngāi Tahu (Māori), and through this, to make meaning in my present and future (Carsten, 2000). I am using embroidery as a medium to speak to, and with, my great-great-grandmother, Elizabeth (Fitzpatrick & Bell, 2016), working in a craft vernacular that would have been deeply familiar to her. This paper will discuss how the methodology of autoethnography, informed by adoption scholarship and feminist studies of craft, has led me to stitch work that engages with craft tradition, and speaks to loss, identity and belonging. 

Author Biography

Christine Rogers, RMIT University

Christine Rogers is a writer and filmmaker.  She has multiple screen credits in drama, documentary and digital stories. Her fiction and non-fiction writing has been published in anthologies, newspapers and blogs. She is currently undertaking a PhD at RMIT University, where she is the recipient of The Vice Chancellor’s Scholarship, an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship. See www.christine-rogers.com

References

Anderson, A. (1998). The welcome of strangers: An ethnohistory of Southern Maori AD 1650-1850. Dunedin, NZ: University of Otago Press.

Anderson, A., & Niven, B. (1991). Race against time: The early Maori-Pakeha families and the development of the mixed-race population in Southern New Zealand. Dunedin, NZ: University of Otago Press.

Anderson, L., & Glass-Coffin, B. (2013). I learn by going. In S. Holman Jones, T. Adams, & C. Ellis (Eds.), Handbook of autoethnography (pp. 57-83). Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press Inc.

Barrett, A. (2008, September). A stitch in time: New embroidery, old fabric, changing values. Paper presented at Textile Society of America 11th Biennial Symposium: Textiles as Cultural Expressions, September 4-7, Honolulu: USA.

Batty, C., & Berry, M. (2015). Constellations and connections: the playful space of the creative practice research degree. Journal of Media Practice, 16(3), 181-194. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/14682753.2015.1116753

Binney, J. (2006). “In-between” lives: Studies from within a colonial society. In T. Ballantyne & B. Moloughney (Eds.), Disputed histories: Imagining New Zealand’s pasts (pp. 93-118). Dunedin, NZ: Otago University Press.

Bochner, A. P., Ellis, C., & Tillmann-Healy, L. M. (2000). Relationships as stories; accounts, storied lives, evocative narratives. In K. Dinda & S. Duck (Eds.), Communication and Personal Relationships (pp. 13-30). New York: John Wiley.

Brookfield, H., Brown, S. D., & Reavey, P. (2008). Vicarious and post‐memory practices in adopting families: The re‐production of the past through photography and narrative. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 18(5), 474-491. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1002/casp.960

Brown, H. (2016). Hawhe Kaihe Ngāi Tahu: Half-caste land allocations in the Ngāi Tahu Takiwa. Ngāi Tahu Information Paper. Unpublished.

Cameron, E. (2008). Indigenous spectrality and the politics of postcolonial ghost stories. Cultural Geographies, 15(3), 383-393. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1177/1474474008091334

Carsten, J. (2000). ‘Knowing where you’ve come from’: Ruptures and continuities of time and kinship in narratives of adoption reunions. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 6(4), 687-703. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9655.00040

Caughley, V. (2009). Her civilising mission: Discovering Hannah King through her textiles. History of Education Review, 38(1), 16-28. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1108/08198691200900002

Caughley, V. (2014). New Zealand’s historic samplers: Our stitched stories. Auckland, NZ: David Bateman Ltd.

Coddington, K. S. (2011). Spectral geographies: Haunting and everyday state practices in colonial and present-day Alaska. Social & Cultural Geography, 12(7), 743-756. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/14649365.2011.609411

Daniel, T. (1886, October 30). Riverton Native School. Western Star, p. 2. Retrieved from https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/WSTAR18861030.2.9.1.

Davis, C. (2005). Hauntology, spectres and phantoms. French Studies, 59(3), 373-379. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1093/fs/kni143

Derrida, J. (2012). Specters of Marx: The state of the debt, the work of mourning and the New International. London, UK: Routledge. (original work published in 1993)

Ellis, C., Adams, T. E., & Bochner, A. P. (2011). Autoethnography: An overview. Historical Social Research/Historische Sozialforschung, 36(4), 273-290. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/23032294

Ellis, C., & Bochner, A. (2006). Analyzing analytic autoethnography: An autopsy. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 35(4), 429-449. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1177/0891241606286979

Else, A. (1991). A question of adoption. Wellington, NZ: Bridget William Books.

Evison, H. C. (2006). The Ngai Tahu Deeds: A window on New Zealand history. Christchurch, NZ: Canterbury University Press.

Fitzpatrick, E., & Bell, A. (2016). Summoning up the ghost with needle and thread. Departures in Critical Qualitative Research, 5(2), 6-29. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1525/dcqr.2016.5.2.6

Gordon, A. (1997/2008). Ghostly matters: Haunting and the sociological imagination. Minnesota, MN: University of Minnesota Press

Haines, D. (2009). ‘In search of the “Waaheen”’ Ngai Tahu women, shore whalers, and the meaning of sex in Early New Zealand. In T. Ballantyne & A. M. Burton (Eds.), Moving subjects: Gender, mobility, and intimacy in an age of global empire. Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press.

Harris, A. (2014). Ghost-child In J. Wyatt, T. E. Adams (Eds.), On (writing) families: Autoethnographies of presence and absence, love and loss (pp. 69-75). Rotterdam, NL: Sense Publishers.

Harris, A. (2016). The way we weren’t: False nostalgia and imagined love. Qualitative Inquiry, 22(10), 779-784. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1177/1077800416667684

Harvey, D., & Williams, R. (1995). Militant particularism and global ambition: The conceptual politics of place, space, and environment in the work of Raymond Williams. Social Text, (42), 69-98.

Haseman, B., & Mafe, D. (2009). Acquiring know-how: Research training for practice-led researchers. In H. Smith & R. Dean (Eds.), Practice-led research, research-led practice in the creative arts (pp. 211-228). Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh University Press.

Haxell, K. (2012). The stitch bible: A comprehensive guide to 225 embroidery stitches and techniques. Newton Abbot, UK: A David and Charles Book.

Holloway, J., & Kneale, J. (2008). Locating haunting: Ghost-hunter's guide. Cultural Geographies, 15(3), 297-312. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1177/1474474008091329

Holman Jones, S. (2016). Living bodies of thought: The “critical” in critical autoethnography. Qualitative Inquiry, 22(4), 228-237. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1177/1077800415622509

Homans, M. (2006). Adoption narratives, trauma, and origins. Narrative, 14(1), 4-26. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20107378

Hung, S., & Magliaro, J. (2007). By hand: The use of craft in contemporary art. New York: Princeton Architectural Press.

King, M. (2003). Penguin history of New Zealand. London, UK: Penguin.

Lewis, F. (1990). Needlepoint samplers. London, UK: Studio Vista. (Original work published in 1981)

Lifton, B. J. (1994). Journey of the adopted self: A quest for wholeness. New York: Basic Books.

Lifton, B. J. (2009). Ghosts in the adopted family. Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 30(1), 71- 79. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/07351690903200176

Lippard, L. (2010). Making something from nothing (toward a definition of women’s ‘hobby art’). In G. Adamson (Ed.), The craft reader (pp. 483-490). Oxford, UK: Berg. (Original work published in 1978)

Local and General. (1895, October 5). Western Star, p. 2. Retrieved from https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/WSTAR18951005.2.7

McKeating, J. (2012). Ground in cloth and thread. In A. Kettle & J. McKeating (Eds.), Hand stitch: Perspectives (pp. 28-37). London, UK: Bloomsbury.

Meredith, P. (2000). A half-caste on the half-caste in the cultural politics of New Zealand. In H. Jäcksch (Ed.), Maori und gesellschaft: Scientific and literary essays. Berlin, DE: Mana-Verlag.

Metge, J. (2010). Tuamaka: The challenge of difference in Aotearoa New Zealand. Auckland, NZ: Auckland University Press.

Middleton, A. (2007). Silent voices, hidden lives: Archaeology, class and gender in the CMS Missions, Bay of Islands, New Zealand, 1814–1845. International Journal of Historical Archaeology, 11(1), 1-31. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1007/s10761-006-0023-1

Millar, L. (2012). Embroidery, memory and narrative. In A. Kettle & J. McKeating (Eds.), Hand stitch: Perspectives (pp. 12-14). London, UK: Bloomsbury.

Morrell, A. (2012). From Madras to Manchester: A narrative on the desire to hand-stitch. In A. Kettle & J. McKeating (Eds.), Hand stitch: Perspectives (pp. 90-103). London, UK: Bloomsbury.

Niederhumer, G. (2015). Mend. (Unpublished master’s thesis). University of Cape Town, Cape Town, SA.

Obituary. (1936, December 5). Mrs. John T. Wesley. Evening Post, p. 18. Retrieved from https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/EP19361205.2.151.9

O’Regan, T., Palmer, L., & Langton, M. (2006). Keeping the fires burning: Grievance and aspiration in the Ngai Tahu settlement. In M. Langton (Ed.), Settling with indigenous people: Modern treaty and agreement-making (pp. 44-65). Sydney, AU: Federation Press.

Ormond, M. (forthcoming). Adoption, genealogical bewilderment and heritage bricolage. In Z. Muzaini & C. Minca (Eds.), Critical geographies of geritage-from-below. London, UK: Edward Elgar.

Parker, R. (2010). The subversive stitch: Embroidery and the making of the feminine. London: IB Tauris. (Original work published in 1984)

Paterson, L. (2010). Hawhekaihe: Maori voices on the position of 'half-castes' within Maori society. The Journal of New Zealand Studies, (9), 135-155. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.26686/jnzs.v0i9.121

Richards, R. (1995). ‘Murihiku’ re-viewed: A revised history of the Southern New Zealand from 1804 to 1844. Wellington, NZ: Lithographic Services.

Russell, C. (1999). Experimental ethnography: The work of film in the age of video. Durham, UK: Duke University Press.

Salmond, A. (1992). Two worlds: First meetings between Maori and Europeans, 1642-1772. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

Smith, L. T. (2013). Decolonizing methodologies: Research and Indigenous peoples. London, UK: Zed Books Ltd.

Statistics New Zealand (2012). Demographic trends 2011. Wellington, NZ: Statistics New Zealand.

Stevens, K. (2008). 'Gathering places': The mixed descent families of Foveaux Strait and Rakiura/Stewart Island, 1824-1864. (Unpublished BA honors thesis). University of Otago, Dunedin, Otago, NZ.

Te Punga Somerville, A. (1998). Two rivers within me flow: An exploration of mixed race writing in Aotearoa/New Zealand. (Unpublished master’s thesis). University of Auckland, Auckland, NZ.

Tuck, E., & Ree, C. (2013). A glossary of haunting. In S. Holman Jones, T. Adams, & C. Ellis (Eds.), Handbook of autoethnography (pp. 639-658). Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press Inc.

Wanhalla, A. (2007). Ngāi Tahu historiography. History Compass, 5(3), 802-817. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1478-0542.2007.00427.x

Wanhalla, A. (2015). In/visible sight: The mixed-descent families of Southern New Zealand. Wellington, NZ: Bridget Williams Books.

Wilson, E. (1976). Hakoro Ki Te Iwi: The story of Captain Howell and his family. Invercargill, NZ: Invercargill Times Printing.

Published
2019-02-27