The politics of the handloom: craft, technology and the modern nation in China and India
Keynote lecture by Professor Francesca Bray at the 9th Annual ADI Conference
Abstract: The politics of the handloom: craft, technology and the modern nation in China and India
This lecture discusses the very different fates of handloom weaving in modern India and China. India became independent in 1947, the People’s Republic was declared in 1949. In both new nations the handloom had a long and potent history, and still constituted a pillar of the economy, an essential tool of livelihood for hundreds of millions. Yet the subsequent fate of the handloom in the two nations followed completely different paths. In China today handloom weaving survives only as an exoticised “heritage craft” associated typically with ethnic minorities. In India the handloom and the values it represents serve as a powerful political rallying-call for social justice and environmental progress. What do the contrasting cases of India and China suggest more generally about the circulation of political ideals, and the deployment of crafts vs technology in building the modern nation-state?
Francesca Bray is Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh. Her fields of speciality are Material culture; China and East Asia; Gender Regimes; Agriculture; and the politics of food, technology and society. With an outset in agricultural history and the history of science, technology and medicine in China, Francesca Bray is now the President of the Society of the History of Technology (SHOT) .
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