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Morgan Centre for Research into Everyday Lives

Global denim

Its history, extent, economics, and consequences

2007 and ongoing

About the project

The Global Denim Project is based on what may initially appear to be a very simple question, but that in fact has a very profound answer. Our research suggests that on any day the majority of the world’s population is wearing just one textile – denim, usually in the form of blue jeans. We want to know why.

The project was launched through a paper called A Manifesto for a Study of Denim, (Social Anthropology 2007 15: 335-351 by Daniel Miller and Sophie Woodward). The Manifesto also argued for a unique approach to the further study of denim. That if we want to understand both the cause and the consequences of this global phenomenon then this meant we needed a huge programme of research, combining many different forces. Instead of academics choosing their next topic because no one else was studying it we suggested that over the next five years people choose to study an aspect of denim because so many other people will work on the same topic at the same time. The model is loosely based on an ideal of ‘open source’ in that we are not an institution (we also have no large overarching funding) and all the projects are autonomous.

One product of this loose collaboration is this website where individual projects can introduce themselves. A further publication, Global Denim, edited by Daniel Miller and Sophie Woodward, published by Berg in 2010, offers in-depth analysis of many of the research projects involved in this project.

Further information