Sharing Session – 32: Cultures of Innovation in Handloom Weaving
Video of Presentation: Innovation & Tradition: A Tale of Two Cities by Annapurna Mamidipudi
Annapurna Mamidipudi is doing her PhD at Maastricht University, the Netherlands. Her research project conceptualizes handloom weaving as a sustainable socio-technology, as an equitable economic activity, and as embedded knowledge for sustainable societies. Annapurna is trained as an engineer in Manipal, India. She is one of the founders of Dastkar Andhra, an NGO which supports craft and handloom livelihoods through intervening in technology, marketing, design and policy.
Handloom weaving is the second most important livelihood in rural India after farming. Improving
handloom technologies and practices thus will directly affect the lives of millions of rural producers. By
analyzing handloom weaving as a socio-technology, it becomes possible to show how weaving
communities are constantly innovating their technologies, designs, markets and social organization—
often without calling it innovation. The speaker uses the ‘invention’ of the ‘Traditional Uppada Jamdani’
in the village Uppada that never had such a technique to illustrate this. This demonstration of innovation
in handloom contradicts the received image of handloom as a pre-modern and traditional craft that is
unsustainable in current societies and that one therefore needs to get rid of by mechanization and/or by
putting it into a museum.
In this sharing session, Annapurna seeks to address three related issues. The first is the importance of
understanding handloom and indeed other crafts as sophisticated socio-technologies. The second is to
deepen the theoretical understanding of innovation by exploring it in supposedly non-innovating
contexts. The third is to explore how this improved understanding of innovation in handloom can inform
politics of development for craft production. To this end, the speaker elaborates on a concept of
innovation that is applicable in contexts where tradition and continuity are more valued than innovation
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