Cable Crossings: The Aran Jumper as Myth and Merchandise

by | Jun 21, 2014

Abstract

This article considers the Aran jumper as a cultural artefact from an anthropological perspective. As an internationally recognized symbol of Irishness that comes with its own myth of origin, the Aran jumper carries emotionally charged ideas about kinship and nativeness. Whether read as an ID document, family tree, representation of the landscape or reference to Christian or pre-Christian spirituality, the Aran jumper’s stitch patterns seem to invite interpretation. Emerging at a particular period in the relationship between Ireland and America, this garment and the story that accompanies it have been shaped by migration and tourism, but may be understood very differently on either side of the Atlantic. The resilience of the myth of a fisherman lost at sea, whose corpse is identifiable only by designs his relatives have stitched into his clothing, is explained in light of its resonance with diasporic narratives and transnational longings.