The Needle as Medium: Using Embroidery to Speak to Ghosts

Christine Rogers

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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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127–152
JournalArt Research International
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 27 Feb 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • autoethnography
  • hauntology
  • embroidery
  • adoption
  • Maori


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