ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

09 – Making Artisans: Artisanal Lives and Production in South Asia

How have artisans engaged with material production in South Asia? By analysing practices of artisanal production, this panel aims to reorient scholarly debates of material culture towards the experiences of producers. The panel integrates studies of labour with approaches to artisanship that emphasise shifts in technology and the regional political economy.

Convenors

Amanda Lanzillo - Princeton University
Arun Kumar - University of Nottingham
Adhitya Dhanapal - Princeton University

Long Abstract

How have artisans engaged with material production in South Asia? By analysing practices of artisanal production, this panel aims to reorient scholarly debates of material culture towards the experiences of producers. The panel integrates studies of labour with approaches to artisanship that emphasise shifts in technology and the regional political economy. In doing so it provides new insight into how artisans experienced transformations and traditions wrought by political, economic, and material change. The panel draws together a range of papers that theorise artisan production across temporal and regional divides within South Asia. We do not seek to universalize artisanship, but rather to understand moments of change in the lived experiences of artisan manufacturing, as well as the impact of hierarchy, divisions of labour, and caste and kinship on material culture and production.
The panel is innovative in its interdisciplinary approach. It will bring together historians, anthropologists, art historians, sociologists and others who engage with questions of artisan production, allowing space to challenge traditional temporal and disciplinary divides in the study of artisanship. By putting these disciplines in conversation with each other, we aim to spark ongoing collaborations that integrate analyses of labour, materiality, social hierarchies through a focus on artisan production.  Likewise, we take a broad view and definition of the category of artisanship, seeking to understand its relationship with other modes of small-scale production that have not always been studied as “artisanal.”

Ultimately, the panel will pose expanded understandings of artisanship by examining how the transformation of production is intimately linked to changing dependencies that undergird artisanal manufacturing. We will do so by examining questions of hierarchy, community, caste, and structures of production, developing new directions in the study of artisan lives and livelihoods.