REFLECTIONS ON CRAFTS IN INDIA
Craft producers in India stand in the shadow of deep divisions–rich/poor, urban/rural, modern/traditional, Brahmin/Dalit, educated scientist/illiterate labour, and so on. These divisions become further entrenched when knowledge owned by dominant social groups is privileged over others’ knowledge, thus reinforcing existing hierarchies. Yet through the claiming, contesting and attributing of knowledge, craft ensembles of production and consumption are able to change what is valued as knowledge.
Based on practices of contemporary Indigo dyers in South India, in this talk I would like to explore the making and maintaining of knowledge claims as opportunities for political action: as a unifying device for cultural cohesion, and as a tool for democracy and justice.
Annapurna Mamidipudi’s work is at the intersection of supporting craft livelihoods and academic research in the history and sociology of technology. She focuses on the study of how craftspeople innovate their material practices ,while making knowledge claims to build value for their work in past and contemporary society. Having theorized handloom weaving in India as an innovation of tradition in the discipline of Science and Technology Studies, she explored how such innovation could be historicized, to understand craft as epistemology.
She has co-edited a book on Ownership of Knowledge: Beyond IP, at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. Her current work as a post-doctoral researcher at the PENELOPE project of Deutsches Museum in Munich is an exploration using a history of mathematics, of what the weaver craftsperson knows, when she knows how to weave, past and present. Prior to her academic career, she set up and worked in an NGO to conserve traditional craft livelihoods in South India for 15 years.