Dirt to Shirt

Dirt to Shirt is an intensive study of the global supply chain for clothing. It examines social, economic, political, environmental, and technological issues all along the supply chain. This includes historical and contemporary production of components such as cotton, wool, and Kevlar; textile processing and garment production; and the after-life of the clothes we dispose of. The class includes readings, discussions, and engagement with multimedia sources; first-person contact with local people involved in the industry; and student projects on a chosen node of the supply chain.

The course is multidisciplinary, but centered in cultural anthropology. In anthropology, empathy is a means to understanding, and a central premise of the course is the need to develop empathy. The book Wired to Care opens with the story of a designer who disguised herself as an older adult to better understand the experiences of older adults in our society. Author Dev Patnaik explains his interest in this experiment. It comes down to empathy: “All of this is to reclaim a very old idea, that quantitative data and facts are no substitute for real-world experience and human connection.” Anthropologists have long-argued for the importance of putting oneself in other people’s shoes for better understanding. The anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski wrote in 1922 that the goal of the anthropologist “is to grasp the native's point of view, his relation to life, to realize his vision of his world." This class takes an empathetic approach to people and activities all along the global garments supply chain.

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New course engineers interest in sustainability

Dirt to Shirt Students Go Foraging in a Thrift Shop

Olin College's Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences Program