Kathy M’Closkey

Department of Sociology and Anthropology

University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario Canada

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The popularity of Navajo rugs as ‘collectibles’ for Anglos (Anglo-Americans) has diminished our understanding of Navajo aesthetics. Navajo weavers’ feeling for hózhó (beauty/harmony/local order) encompasses far more than the Western concept of ‘classical aesthetics’ which locates ‘beauty’ in the isomorphic object. Based on extensive interviews with weavers, I argue that weaving is a form of metacommunication which imparts information that cannot be transmitted discursively. Drawing on Gregory Bateson’s concept of aesthetics, and adapting topological illustrations from Wilden, I demonstrate that weaving serves as an example of a recursive-hierarchical system, that is a system whose patterns of interconnection are recursive and in which weaving is a ‘signifying event’ that signals movement, mapping and transformation.. Utilizing this communicational perspective enables an understanding of why Navajo women would continue to weave under persistent, difficult conditions, and gives a counter-perspective to the split between Navajo conception of pattern in a rug and rug as commodity. The Anglo insistence on dividing pattern from commodity threatens Navajo life ways.

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