Shoddy: From Devil's Dust to the Renaissance of Rags


Product Details

$25.00  $23.25
University of Chicago Press
Publish Date
6.0 X 8.0 X 1.0 inches | 1.05 pounds

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About the Author

Hanna Rose Shell is associate professor in the Department of Art & Art History, the Department of Cinema Studies & Moving Image Arts, and faculty affiliate in the Department of History at the University of Colorado, Boulder; she is the author, most recently, of Hide and Seek: Camouflage, Photography, and the Media of Reconnaissance.


"This fascinating book, laden with historical insights, takes us on a journey from the nineteenth-century origins of shoddy, made from reclaimed wool in the industrial heart of Yorkshire, to the wider world via contexts of politics, war, contagion, and death. Enlightened by the words of contemporary writers and thinkers and by photographic records, the author explores the many dimensions of a textile that became functionally essential for the likes of army uniforms, blankets, and shrouds. Shoddy offers a timely case study for the possibilities of material recovery and of the critical role of textiles to the human experience; it will appeal to historians, textile experts, and general readers, including those with interest in sustainability and recycling."--Hazel Clark, author of The Fabric of Cultures: Fashion, Identity, and Globalization
"Shoddy is that rare book that takes you from the direct experiences you share with the author (what to do with your used clothes? the feeling of 'doing good' when you donate them to clothe someone 'less fortunate') to the larger social, economic, historical, and, yes, moral universe in which those experiences live. Shell takes us on this kind of journey by searching for shoddy. Through her, we learn about the human costs of the Industrial Revolution, British Chartism, the economic realities of the American Civil War, the ideas that animated dissent--of Carlyle, Disraeli, and Marx, just for a start--and so much more, all through the eyes of shoddy. It is an exemplary book in its use of the visual record to weave a narrative that implicates current practice, not just in how we do scholarship across a range of fields in media and science and technology studies, but how we think about ourselves. Shoddy is a book that will change your mind."
--Sherry Turkle, author of Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age
"As textile consumption exploded in the nineteenth century, discarded cloth gained a second life; it provided the raw material for 'shoddy' fabrics that would enter the homes of enslaved workers, attire Civil War soldiers, and provide material for blankets and mattress fillings. Shell's fast-paced meditation on the economic, cultural, and ideological histories of shoddy takes you around the world and into some of the most profound questions about capitalism--from its endless capacity for innovation to its unending appetite for ever more resources. Shoddy: From Devil's Dust to the Renaissance of Rags extends the history of the empire of fibers into the most surprising corners of our history and our modern life."
--Sven Beckert, author of Empire of Cotton: A Global History