Dust to dust: a particular history of khaki

Catherine Moriarty

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This essay is an exploration of the word ‘khaki’ in various metonymic contexts, each touching on its etymological association with dust and ideas of the particle. It is not a technical textile history, though elements of process, production and consumption are, as we will see, critical to the formation of what khaki means. It is, therefore, both in terms of approach and content, a particular history. Its focus is the associative power of khaki – in production, in use, and on disposal and dispersal – and it is this that creates the structural basis that sustains forays into what might be described as khaki’s poetics. Conventional textile studies might focus on what khaki is: this essay argues that to suggest what khaki means involves an exploration of the symbolic and the emotional alongside the material, the technical and the political.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)304-320
Number of pages17
JournalTextile: Journal of Cloth and Culture
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2010


  • khaki
  • uniform
  • military
  • dust
  • recycling
  • commemoration


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