The Aran jumper: Crafting a Transatlantic Heritage

Siun Carden

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


    The garment we now recognise as the Aran jumper emerged as an international symbol of Ireland from the twin twentieth century transatlantic flows of migration and tourism. Its power as a heritage object derives from: 1) the myth commonly associated with the object, in which the corpse of a drowned fisherman is identified and claimed by his family due to the stitch patterns of his jumper (Pádraig Ó Síochain 1962; Annette Lynch and Mitchell Strauss 2014); 2) the meanings attached to those stitch patterns, which have been read, for example, as genealogical records, representations of the natural landscape and references to Christian and pre-Christian ‘Celtic’ religion (Heinz Kiewe 1967; Catherine Nash 1996); and 3) booming popular interest in textile heritage on both sides of the Atlantic, fed by the reframing of domestic crafts such as knitting as privileged leisure pursuits (Rachel Maines 2009; Jo Turney 2009). The myth of the drowned fisherman plays into transatlantic migration narratives of loss and reclamation, promising a shared heritage that needs only to be decoded. The idea of the garment’s surface acting as text (or map) situates it within a preliterate idyll of romantic primitivism, while obscuring the circumstances of its manufacture. The contemporary resurgence in home textile production as recreation, mediated through transnational online networks, creates new markets for heritage textile products while attracting critical attention to the processes through which such objects, and mythologies, are produced. The Aran jumper’s associations with kinship, domesticity and national character make it a powerful tool in the promotion of ancestral (or genealogical) tourism, through marketing efforts such as The Gathering 2013. Nash’s (2010; 2014) work demonstrates the potential for such touristic encounters to disrupt and enrich public conceptions of heritage, belonging and relatedness. While the Aran jumper has been used to commodify a simplistic sense of mutuality between Ireland and north America, it carries complex transatlantic messages in both directions.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2015
    EventTransatlantic Dialogues on Cultural Heritage: Heritage, Tourism and Traditions - Liverpool , United Kingdom
    Duration: 13 Jul 201516 Jul 2015


    ConferenceTransatlantic Dialogues on Cultural Heritage: Heritage, Tourism and Traditions
    CountryUnited Kingdom


    • Cultural Heritage
    • Tourism
    • Migration
    • Irish Studies
    • Textiles

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