Statement of purpose

Welcome to our Asian Studies Virtual Friendship Quilt web page. Our friendship quilt is composed of a series of quilt blocks, each of which features a swatch of a textile contributed by a member of the ECU community to the Asian Studies web page.

When we decided to create a web site to promote the Asian Studies Program funded in part by a grant from the US Department of Education, we needed to choose a visual motif. We could have chosen famous monuments, or great cities, or striking landmarks. Instead, we choose textiles. Textiles are something that cultures hold in common. At the same time, textile patterns, and even materials, can help us distinguish among cultures. They are, of course, the material of clothing. They are also used in many parts of the home. Moreover, they are an art form.

Like a real quilt, each block of our Virtual Friendship Quilt has three layers. The top layer has the textile image. The bottom layer identifies the contributor. The middle layer is the stuffing. Each quilt block is “stuffed” with the contributor’s story of its "memory-value" or "quilt-value." The stuffing can include other elements as well relating to the textile, such as photos, cultural information, or associated memories. Even audio and video clips can be added.

The images of the Asian Studies web page can help us, we believe, establish a collaborative environment. We hope to build a community of people at ECU and in the Greenville area who are interested in supporting and promoting Asian Studies by encouraging them to create the quilt together.

The first step is to ask them to share their textiles. Some people bring in the actual items of clothing or pieces of fabric for us to photograph. Others send their own digital images. We are pleased that both men and women are eager to contribute. We then prepare and crop the photos so that they conform to the dimensions required by ECU's web layout specifications.

Next we ask the contributors to tell us the stories of their textiles: when, how and why they were acquired; the people associated with them; their familial, cultural or even historical background. In this way we hope to create a context in which we can recount to each other our narratives, a context in which people are free to include personal stories or not as they feel comfortable.

The quilt has become a matrix of shared memories, cultural information, and historical facts. It is a place where people from different cultures, disciplines, colleges, institutions, ages and genders can meet because of a common interest in, or association with, Asia.

We have also created a companion Asian Studies Virtual Friendship Quilt Blog so that the people in this network, most of whom do not know the other contributors, can interact virtually to share their thoughts about cultural issues. Some of these issues are raised by the creation of our quilt itself, others by the existence of Asian Studies as an interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary program. Eventually we hope to discuss issues relating to a multicultural society. Thus we hope to expand our collaboration from the creation of a multi-layered virtual quilt to the establishment of a multifaceted, real exchange of ideas and commentary.