South Asia

Organized Panel Session

4 - Genealogies of Civil Society in Modern India: Social Entrepreneurship and Indian Textiles

Friday, July 6
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Location: Maple, Lower Ground Floor

Civil-society and State collaborations substantively reworking the role of crafts, along with Market contributions (especially after 1990s Economic Liberalization ), have helped shape India’s unique position as the world’s largest democracy as well as the most developed in the Global South. NGOs have played a crucial change-agent role since Independence in these partnerships, enabling the handicraft sector to not only survive but become a central signifier of India internationally. Perhaps especially in the realm of textile-crafts, however, there is a much broader taxonomy needed to locate change-agents operating within civil-society, requiring us to capture the dynamic animating efforts that preserve crafts and ensure sustainable livelihoods. From Central Cottage Industries (which works with traditional craftspersons to target global and internal markets, yet is required by the State to make a profit); to NGOs like SEWA-Lucknow (which teaches numeracy and literacy along with embroidery skills to impoverished women, often Muslim, often without a crafts background), and URMUL (building on some traditional textile crafts among their constituents, combined with targeted marketing to distributors like FabIndia); to designer-run enterprises like Anokhi (that animate age-old craft techniques with contemporary designs, and are obliged to provide effective schooling to retain their workforce in craft villages): the interactions of all these actors may make India unique among Asian countries in the central role played by crafts in shaping its history. Focusing on craft to understand change over time thus suggests that the increasingly complex elaboration of civil society is a central component of India’s history.



Sandria B. Freitag

North Carolina State University, United States

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4 - Genealogies of Civil Society in Modern India: Social Entrepreneurship and Indian Textiles



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