Kathy M'Closkey

Kathy M'Closkey

Kathy M’Closkey, PhD, MA, BA Honours
Adjunct Associate Professor and Freelance Curator

Office: 10CHT
Email: mcloskey@uwindsor.ca
Telephone: 519-253-3000 ext. 4073


Research and Teaching Areas:

Kathy M’Closkey was awarded her PhD in Anthropology by York University, TO, in 1996. Her research focuses on globalization and gendered injustice, social justice, intellectual and cultural property rights, appropriation, and the political economy of “collectibles” with a geographic emphasis on historic and contemporary production by Native American artisans living in the southwest United States. She is a research affiliate with the Southwest Center, University of Arizona, Tucson, the sponsor of Swept Under the Rug: A Hidden History of Navajo Weaving (University of New Mexico Press, 2002, 2008), and IPinCH Associate Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC.  Kathy served as research director for the award-winning PBS documentary Weaving Worlds (2009), directed by Navajo (Diné) Bennie Klain of Trickster Films, Austin, TX. Her research has received funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada from 1998 to 2012, with a GRF carryover.

Her forthcoming book Why the Navajo Blanket Became a Rug: Excavating the Lost Heritage of Globalization (UNM Press), repositions weavers and woolgrowers within a globalization and neoliberalism framework. This revisionist analysis reveals how, as pastoralists, Diné were dramatically affected by rapid transformations occurring in agriculture and textiles, two of the three largest post-Civil War domestic industries as the United States transitioned from an agrarian society to a modern industrialized state. It places her research within broader debates of Native American women’s labour in international and comparative political economy.  After 1890, the split wool tariff permitted duty-free imports of carpet wools from thirty countries, while offering high tariff protection for the finer clothing wools raised by domestic growers (National Association of Wool Manufacturers, 1870-1943). Free trade in carpet wools triggered an escalation in textile production by thousands of weavers as reservation traders sought profitable ways to market the coarse, unstandardized wool clip. Until the 1960s nearly all textiles were acquired from weavers by weight. Women received credit, from three to eight times the current value of Navajo fleece, and their textiles were shipped to regional wholesalers to pay down traders’ accounts.

By 1930, the reservation was badly over-grazed, and the government ordered a reduction of livestock, ostensibly affecting the silting up of the newly constructed Boulder Dam spanning the Colorado River.  The carpet-woolled churra sheep which provided the best wool for thousands of female hand weavers, were targeted and destroyed. This horrific event still resonates, and many Diné refer to it as cultural genocide.  Weaving declined from 30% to < 3% of the reservation economy. The wool tariff and stock reduction stories are inextricably linked.

Currently over 20,000 weavers encounter “double jeopardy” due to the competition stimulated by the investment market for the pre-1960 “pound blankets,” in tandem with the “knock-offs” imported from twenty countries. Sales of knock-offs are perfectly legal under the federal Indian Arts and Crafts Board Act, a truth-in-advertising act that protects consumers, not producers. As long as imports are not labeled “Indian-made,” sales of knock-offs are permitted. The Navajo Nation has trademarked its name, but protection for communal property rights eludes producers. With the breakdown of the trading post system, weavers face increased marginalization and formidable global competition. For centuries weaving provided a livelihood and means to perpetuate Diné culture, with the concept of k’e, (clanship, environment, reciprocity) at its roots. Weavers reveal during interviews how the process of weaving expresses a form of spirituality. Thus “double jeopardy” has created serious problems, contributing to the potential for cultural fragmentation as weavers are no longer able to provide for their families in this culturally appropriate way.

Because many Navajos endure impoverishment, my analysis challenges anthropologists’ support for the unauthorized reproduction of Navajo designs by Zapotec weavers from Mexico. Such appropriation clearly violates Articles 11, 20 and 31 of the UN Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007), which support weavers’ rights to protection. Her forth-coming book reveals remarkable parallels between the under-researched history of Diné weavers and woolgrowers, and dilemmas confronting Indigenous producers worldwide, coping with globalization, subsistence insecurity, and “development.”  The disenfranchisement of thousands of Navajo woolgrowers and weavers occurred as a result of an earlier wave of neoliberalism, highlighting the consequences of the invisibility of women’s non-waged labour.

Teaching Contributions:

Sessional Instructor, 22 courses in Anthropology and Sociology, University of Windsor, including:

  • Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
  • Biology, Society and Culture
  • Northern Peoples of Canada
  • Indian and Metis Peoples of Canada
  • Social Aspects of Modernization and Development
  • Enthnographic Methods
  • Women in International Development
  • Indigenous Peoples: a Comparative Perspective
  • Ethnic Groups and Society


Ph.D., York University (1996), Anthropology
M.A., University of Windsor (1985), Sociology
B.A. Honours, University of Windsor (1983), Anthropology

Post-graduate Research Grants and Fellowships:

  • 2008-2012 Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada Standard Research Grant, $66,372, with General Research Funds carryover to June 30, 2020.
  • 2004-2007 SSHRC $67,365.
  • 2001-2004 SSHRC $55,650.
  • 1998-2001 SSHRC $37,100.
  • 1998-1999 NEH Post-doctoral Award (6 months), Newberry Library, Chicago, $15,000 USD
  • 1997 W. M. Keck Foundation Fellowship and Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellowship, Huntington Library (2 months), San Marino, California, $4100 USD.
  • 1997 Jacobs Research Fund, Whatcom Museum Society, Washington, $1200 USD.
  • 1997 Southwest Center, University of Arizona Tucson, $700 USD.


  • 2018 "Excellence in Dinè Studies," 21st Dinè Studies Conference, Dinè College, Tsaile, Navajo Nation, AZ.
  • ​2018 "Human Rights and Social Justice" Office of Human Rights, Equity and Accessibility, University of Windsor.


  • 2013, 2014 Weaver-Tremblay Award, CASCA. Nominated by Dr. Lynne Phillips, Dean of Arts, Memorial University.
  • 1997, 1998 First Alternate, Charles Phelps Taft Post-doctoral Award, University of Cincinnati, to work with Dr. Rhoda Halperin, $30,000.


Books Authored

  • Forthcoming. Why the Navajo Blanket Became a Rug: Excavating the Lost Heritage of Globalization. University of New Mexico Press. 160,000 word mss. Under contract.
  • 2002 (reprinted 2008). Swept Under the Rug: a Hidden History of Navajo Weaving. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. 322 pp. Published with subvention from the Southwest Center, University of Arizona, Tucson, as a volume of their Southwest Series. Awarded “Outstanding Academic Title” 2003 Choice (American Academic Library Association; ranked ‘Essential’).

Chapters in Books (peer reviewed)

  • 2013. “Unravelling the Narratives of Nostalgia: Navajo Weavers and Globalization.” In Indigenous Women and Work: From Labor to Activism.  Carol Williams, ed. University of Illinois Press, pp 120-135.
  • 2012. “Up for Grabs: Assessing the Consequences of Appropriations of Navajo Weavers’ Patterns.” In: No Deal! Indigenous Arts and the Politics of Possessions. Tressa Berman, ed. School of Advanced Research, Santa Fe, NM, pp 128-54.
  • 2010. “NOVICA, Navajo Knock-offs and the ‘Net: a Critique of Fair Trade Marketing Practices.” In: Fair Trade and Social Justice: Global Ethnographies. Sarah Lyon and Mark Moberg, eds. NY: State University of New York Press, pp 258-282. 
  • 2006 (with Kevin Manuel) “Commodifying North American Aboriginal Culture: A Canada-US Comparison.”  In Historicizing Canadian Anthropology. Regna Darnell and Julia Harrison, eds. Vancouver: UBC Press, pp. 226-241.
  • 2004. “The Devil’s in the Details: Tracing the Fingerprints of Free trade and its Effects on Navajo Weavers.” In Native Pathways: Economic Development and American Indian Culture in the Twentieth Century. Brian Hosmer and Colleen O’Neill, eds.  University of Colorado Press, pp 112-130.
  • 2000. "'Part-time For Pin Money': the Legacy of Navajo Weavers' Domestic Craft Production." In Artisans and Cooperatives: Developing Alternative Trade for the Global Economy. Kimberly Grimes and Lynne Milgram, eds. Tucson: Univ. of Arizona Press pp.143-158.
  • 1998. "Weaving and Mothering: Reframing Navajo Weaving as Recursive Manifestations of K'e."  In Transgressing Borders: Critical Perspectives on Gender, Household, and Culture. Suzan Ilcan and Lynne Phillips, eds. Connecticut: Bergin & Garvey. pp 115-127.
  • 1996. "Art or Craft? The Paradox of the Pangnirtung Weave Shop." In Women of the First Nations of Canada. Pat Chuchryk & Christine Miller, eds. Winnipeg: U of Manitoba Press. pp. 113-126.
  • 1995. "'Trading Is a White-man's game..': Appropriation of Navajo Women's Weaving.” In Ethnographic Feminisms: Essays in Anthropology. Sally Cole & Lynne Phillips, eds.  Carleton U. Press. pp 97-118.
  • 1994. “Navajo Weaving as Sacred Metaphor.”  In The Socialness of Things: Essays on the Semiotics of Objects. Stephen Riggins, ed.  Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, pp 393-414.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

  • 2019. “Diasporas of and by Design: Exploring the Unholy Alliance between Museums and the Diffusion of Navajo (Dine’) Textile Designs.” Histories of Anthropology Annual, Vol 13, In press.
  • With Carol Halberstadt. 2005. “Free Trade + Fair Trade=the Fleecing of Navajo Weavers.” Cultural Survival Quarterly 29(3):43-46.
  • 2004. “Toward an Understanding of Navajo Aesthetics.” Jan-Feb 2004.  SEE: Semiotics, Evolution, Energy. Peter Harries-Jones, editor.  <www.library.utoronto.ca/see>
  • 2003. “Trading Accounts: Sam Teller of Two Grey Hills.” New Mexico Historical Review 78(2): 123-46.
  • 2001. (with David Yetman). "’The Sun Is the Poor Man’s Cobija’: Mayo Weavers in a Neoliberal Economy." Anthropologica  XLIII(1): 71-86.
  • 1994. "Marketing Multiple Myths: the Hidden History of Navajo Weaving.” Journal of the Southwest 36(3):185-220.

Book Reviews

  • 2019.  Robert McPherson. Both Sides of the Bullpen: Navajo Trade and Posts.  Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2017.  American Historical Review 124, 2:672-3.
  • 2018. Laurie D. Webster, Louise Stiver, D. Y. Begay, Lynda Teller Pete and Ann L. Hedlund. Navajo Textiles. The Crane Collection at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. DMNS and University Press of Colorado. In Western Folklore 77(2):207-209.
  • 2015. Pavel Schlossberg. Crafting Identities: transnational Indian arts and the politics of race in central Mexico. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.  In Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies 40(3):434-436. 
  • 2011. Shelby Tisdale, ed. 2011. Spider Woman’s Gifts: Nineteenth Century Diné Textiles. Museum of New Mexico Press.  In Journal of Anthropological Research 68: 424-25.   
  • 2011. Marsha Weisiger. 2009. Dreaming of Sheep in Navajo Country. Seattle, WA: U of Washington Press. In American Indian Quarterly Winter 2011 vol. 35(1):149-52. 
  • 2009. Dianne Sachko Macleod. 2008. Enchanted Lives, Enchanted Objects: American Women Collectors and the Making of Culture, 1800-1940. University of California Press. In The America Historical Review, pp 1645-46 (Dec. 2009).
  • 2007. Eva Tulene Watts. 2004. Don’t Let the Sun Step Over You: A White Mountain Apache Family Life, 1860-1975. Tucson: U. of Arizona Press. In New Mexico Historical Review 82(3):423-25.
  • 2007. Simon Bronner. 2002. Folk Nation: Folklore in the Creation of American Tradition. SR Books, and Karen Beardslee. 2001. Literary Legacies, Folklore Foundations: Selfhood and Cultural Tradition in 19th and 20th Century American Literature. U of Tennessee Press. In Canadian Review of American Studies 37(1):135-143.
  • 2006. Sharon Dean, Peggy S. Ratcheson, et al. 2005. Weaving a Legacy: Indian Baskets and the People of Owens Valley, California. U of Utah Press.  New Mexico Historical Review  81(2): 219-21.
  • 2006. O’Neill, Colleen. 2005. Working the Navajo Way: Labor and Culture in the Twentieth Century. Lawrence: U Press of Kansas. H-Amindian@H-NET.msu.edu.
  • 2005. Moore, Ellen. 2003. Navajo Beadwork: Architectures of Light. U of Arizona Press. New Mexico Historical Review 80(4):445-46.
  • 2005. Paula Laverty. 2005. Silk Stocking Mats: Hooked Mats of the Grenfell Mission. McGill-Queen’s U. Press. In University of Toronto Quarterly 77(1) Winter.  
  • 2002. Judith Nasby. 2002. Irene Avaalaaqiaq: Myth and Reality. McGill-Queen’s U Press. In University of Toronto Quarterly 73(1):351-52 (Winter).

Exhibition Reviews

  • B. Lynne Milgram. 2004. “Islands of Embellishment: Transforming Traditions in Philippine Textiles.”  Textile Museum Toronto. Textile History (UK) 35(1):130-32.

Other Research Contributions

Research Director of Weaving Worlds: Navajo Tales of How the West was Spun. Feature length documentary directed by bi-lingual Navajo, Bennie Klain of Trickster Films, Austin, TX, and funded by Native American Public Telecommunications, Independent Television Services, the Arizona Humanities Council, the Texas Humanities Council, with logistical support from the Southwest Center, University of Arizona, Tucson. PBS 2009. Weaving Worlds has won seven national and international awards.

Non-Refereed Articles:

  • 2016. “Protesting the Unethical Appropriation of Navajo (Diné) Weavers’ Designs. In Intellectual Property Issues in Cultural Heritage Project. IPinCH Newsletter 7 (Spring):11.
  • 2014. “Provenance, Pedigree and Poverty: Challenging Museumologists’ Discourses on Navajo Textile History.”  ARLIS (Art Libraries Society of North America) Digital Commons.
  • 2013. “Diasporas of and by Design: Historicizing the Growing Impoverishment of Native American Artisans.” Anthropology News November (3 pp).
  • 2012. “The Politics of Pastoralism: Navajos, Churros, and the Challenges of Sustainability in a Globalizing World.”  Textile Society of America Proceedings. Digital Commons @ the University of Nebraska.
  • 2010. “New Insights from the Archives: Historicizing the Political Economy of Navajo Weaving and Wool Growing.”  Textile Society of America Proceedings. Digital Commons @ the University of Nebraska. Paper 38.
  • 2006. “Carving a Niche: Arctic Co-ops Serve as Mid-wife to Birth of Inuit Art.” USDA Rural Co-operatives Magazine 73(4)14-19. Dan Campbell, ed. www.rurdev.usda/gov/rbs/pub/openmag.htm.
  • 2006. “Up for Grabs: A Roundtable on Cultural and Intellectual Property Rights Issues.” Navajo Studies Conferences Selected Papers, Volume 3, pp 43-65.

Book and journal MS reviews:

  • University of Oklahoma Press (2001, 2018)
  • Northern Illinois University Press (2006)
  • University of Arizona Press (2012, 2013)
  • Anthropology Quarterly (2011)
  • American Indian Quarterly (2010)
  • Anthropologica (2000, 2003, 2005, 2014, 2015, 2016)
  • Critical Arts (2011)
  • Cultural Survival, Human Organization (2006-09, 2012)
  • Material Culture (2011)
  • Maxwell Museum UNM Press (2013)
  • Oregon Historical Society (2018)
  • Social Semiotics (2010)
  • Journal of Anthropological Research  (2012)
  • Anthropology of Work Review (2014)

Recent Invited Presentations:

  • 2017. “Unravelling the Narratives of Nostalgia about Navajo (Diné) Weavers and Reservation Traders.”  Western Colorado Center for the Arts, Grand Junction, CO. In conjunction with exhibition of the Center’s collection of Navajo textiles.  September 22- 25, 2017. 
  • 2015. Navajo Weaving Project, Michigan State University, Lansing, MI.  Day-long class with a dozen Museum Studies students, featuring hands-on examination of a large collection of historic Navajo double saddle blankets gifted to the MSU Museum. Nov. 16, 2015. 
  • 2015. “From Blanket to Rug: Navajo Weavers, Reservation Traders and Globalization.”  Colloquium sponsored by the Fowler Museum, UCLA: “From Trading Posts to Today: The Commodification of American Indian Arts.”  Co-sponsored by the UCLA American Indian Studies Center and the Ethnic Arts Council. November 8, 2015.
  • 2012. Presentation to open exhibition “Woven Stories: Navajo Weavers in a Changing World.” Maxwell Museum, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque. Feb. 4
  • 2011. “Unravelling the Narratives of Nostalgia: Navajo Weavers and Globalization.” Presentation for screening of PBS documentary Weaving Worlds at the Material Culture, Craft and Community Conference, May 20-21, University of Alberta, Edmonton.  
  • 2011. “Up for Grabs: Assessing the Consequences of Appropriations of Navajo Weavers’ Patterns.” In panel No Deal! Indigenous Arts and the Politics of Possessions. American Anthropology Association, November, Montreal. Organized by book editor Tressa Berman.

Recent Conference Papers:

  • 2018. "Mapping the Patriarchal Norm of Misrecognition: Exposing the Consequences for Dine Woolgrowers and Weavers."  Dine Studies Conference, Dine College, October 25-27, 2018.
  • 2017. “Diasporas of and by Design: Exploring the Unholy Alliance between Museums and the Diffusion of Navajo (Dine’) Textile Designs.” CASCA/IUAES, University of Ottawa, ON. Session “What Do Artifacts Want?” May 2017.
  • 2014.  “Threads of Contradiction: Illuminating Pre-and Post-colonial Histories of Diné Weaving Which Challenge Dominant Narratives.”  Session on marginalized populations, organized by Aeleka Schortman and Heather Sawyer.  American Anthropology Association, Washington, DC. December.
  • 2014. “Critiquing the Silences: Navajo Women and the State of Feminist Anthropology.” 1.5 hour session in collaboration with Navajo historian Dr. Jennifer Denetdale, American Indian Studies, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.  Association of Tribal Librarians, Archives and Museums, Palm Springs, CA June 2014.
  • 2014. “Crafting Critique: Unsettling Anthropology’s Metaphysics of Individualism Relative to the Destruction of Navajos’ Relational Ontology.” CASCA, co-organizer and chair of double session honouring Dr. Penny Van Esterik, Dept. of Anthropology, York University, TO.  May.
  • 2013. “The Blood of Your Sheep Is No Good”: Revisiting the Consequences of Stock Reduction Imposed on Navajo Pastoralists.”  CASCA, University of Victoria, BC. Session “Relational Entanglements” organized by Clair Poirier and Mario Blaser.
  • 2013. “Intellectual and Cultural Property Rights: Fresh Insights from the Archives.”  Albuquerque, NM. 1.5 hour session in collaboration with Navajo weaver, activist and cultural specialist Bonnie Benally Yazzie.  Association of Tribal Librarians, Archives and Museums, Albuquerque, NM June 2013.
  • 2012. “The Appropriation of Navajo Weavers’ Designs: Historicizing Gendered and Globalized Injustice.” European Association of Social Anthropologists, Nanterre, France. July. Day-long session, Indigenous Rights in a Global Context, devoted to UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Co- organized by Drs. Irene Bellier and Charles Menzies.
  • 2012. “The Politics of Pastoralism: Navajos, Churros, and the Challenges of Sustainability in a Globalizing World.” Panel on Textiles and Politics:  Textile Society of America Symposium. Sept., Washington, DC.
  • 2012. “Navajo Weavers and Woolgrowers: Historicizing Environmental, Gendered and Globalized Injustice.” Navajo Studies Conference, Institute of American Indian Art, Santa Fe, March.


  • 2017. American Association of Indian Affairs. Monthly teleconference calls monitoring sales of Indian antiquities at national and international auctions. Information updates on revisions to NAGPRA (Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act and STOP Act of 2019 (Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony), currently under congressional review.
  • 2016. Indian Arts and Crafts Board. Washington, D. C. Co-author of brochure describing how to distinguish a genuine Navajo rug from a fake (published Nov. 2017). The Board periodically forwards photographs culled from the Internet for me to confirm whether rugs are knock-offs or authentic. 
  • 2008. History Detectives Episode 704. Highlights the provenance of a Yei Navajo rug circa 1910. Features interview with weaver and cultural specialist Bonnie Benally Yazzie, Crownpoint NM. PBS.
  • 2006. “Why It’s Important to Buy Authentic Navajo Rugs.”  Essay in sales catalogue published by the Navajo Co-op, Thoreau, NM.

Curatorial Activity:

  • “Mingei: Four Centuries of Japanese Folkcraft” Anthropology Museum, U. of Windsor. October 2004-July 2005.  Co-curated with David Pepper.
  • "Threads of Time: 125 Years of Eldon House Needlework." London Regional Art and Historical Museums. Eldon House, London. June 21-December 31, 1998.  Catalogue essay “The Hand Not Idle”, 21 pp colour catalogue.
  • "First Nations/Fine Weavers." 1996-2000. Burlington Art Centre, Burlington, Ontario and the Arizona Commission on the Arts. Support funds provided by National Endowment for the Arts and Folk Arts Program of the Western States Art Federation. Exhibition of 33 contemporary Navajo textiles toured to Elko and Las Vegas, Nevada; Wickenberg, Winslow, Grand Canyon, Peoria, Tucson, and the Navajo Nation Museum and Cultural Center, Window Rock, AZ, the University of Alabama Art Gallery, Birmingham; the Burlington Art Centre, Burlington, and the Woodlands Indian Cultural Centre, Brantford, ON. Twenty-six rugs sold and money remitted to weavers. Curatorial essay “Weaving is a Way of Life for the Diné” 15 pp catalogue.
  • "Brea{d}th of Life: Ties That Bind." Sculpture, prints, poetry and wall quilts by four Polish-Canadian women artists. MacKenzie Hall, Windsor.1996, and Thames Art Gallery, Chatham, Ontario, 1997.
  • "Fields and Flowers: Fabric Landscapes of Prince Edward Island." June-October 1995. Confederation Centre of the Arts, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. Eptek National Exhibition Centre, Summerside, PEI, June-October 1996.  Exhibition of over one hundred historic textiles including quilts, coverlets and hooked mats.  Opening presentation “Threads of Identity” and article “Missed Stitches: the Textile Landscape of a Small Island.” Arts Atlantic 54. Winter 1996: 34-37.
  • “Fibre Tradition/Transition:  Historic Textiles from Essex and Kent Counties and Contemporary
  • Canadian Quilts.” 1988-90. Art Gallery of Windsor. Toured to Ontario galleries in Algoma, Stratford, Timmins, Kitchener-Waterloo, and the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto.  Curatorial essay in 60pp colour catalogue: “Threads of Life: Ties That Bind.” 
  • Academic advisor to University of Windsor Anthropology Museum, revamped in 1999. Our 2001 exhibit Makers Marks: The World Market from the Maker’s Perspective, featured material culture purchased from First Nations artisans in Ontario, Arizona and Mexico. The 2004 exhibit: Anthropology in Action: Anthropology’s Role in Promoting Social Justice, highlighted several themes including a) anthropology and the legacy of colonialism, b) cultural revival and material culture, and c) raises awareness of the harmfulness of “knock-offs” to the livelihood of indigenous producers affected by globalization and free trade.