Materializing Culture: Design, Technology and Community in an Artisanal Textile from India

Guest lecture by Aarti Kawlra

Tuesday, 26th of February at 3pm at CTR’s new location: Amager Fælledvej 56, 2nd floor

The national and international projects of locating and narrating history to imbue artefacts with the aura of heritage to be protected and displayed in museums, is a contested domain involving multiple stake holders of inherited “tradition”. Taking the case of a culturally valued textile, the silk and gold contrast-bordered “wedding sari” of Tamil Nadu in south India, I employ an anthropological approach to foreground the politics of culture in constituting artisanal textiles as heritage. I suggest that mapping the cultural biography of hand weaving within a mutually constitutive triad of design, technology and community introduces, hitherto neglected, agency into the often hegemonic, de-contextualizing and ideologically neutralizing forces of heritage production and preservation.

Aarti Kawlra has a PhD in social anthropology from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi (IITD), and was associated as a part-time faculty at the Dept. of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Madras, Chennai. Currently, she is a Fellow at the International Institute of Asian Studies, Leiden, Netherlands where she is writing a book on the Kanchipuram sari.