ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Seemanthini NiranjanaSubscribe to Seemanthini Niranjana

Many Threads of a Story

Many Threads of a Story Textiles and Weavers in South India by Vijaya Ramaswamy, 2nd edition; Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2006; SEEMANTHINI NIRANJANA The handloom industry in India has been a source for comment by traditionalists, modernists and all those in-between. Its survival and reinvention has baffled many, while its continuing problems pose big challenges for those within the industry and for the policymakers. All this notwithstanding, the production of cloth by handlooms continues to provide new ways of thinking about economic activity and social change, and the links between textile production and trade, weavers, state and society. Typically, in evaluating a traditional industry like handlooms, economic historians have examined the scale and shifts in weaving and trade across centuries. Alternatively, the sociological analysis of handlooms focuses on the way production is organised and the social relations and the networks that support both weaving activity and trade.

Introduction

This special issue seeks to offer a new way of thinking about the relationship between production by handlooms and market theory. The attempt is to map the trajectory of successful handloom enterprises, locating them in the context of the growth of the handloom industry as a whole. The mapping seeks to highlight certain trends and processes that typify how handlooms work with markets and market institutions. In doing so, it also offers insights into understanding marketing practices within an artisanal mode of dispersed production.

Valuing the Non-Market

What are the non-market factors and conditions that influence marketing practices of the handloom industry? This article also studies the innovations handloom firms undertake with regard to production-related tasks. It argues for a production paradigm that values growth along with equity.

Mangalagiri: Case Study of Master Weavers

In Mangalagiri in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh, master weavers dominate and handlooms cooperatives are more or less non-existent. The master weavers handle a large volume of business and have expanded from a small base initially. But the entry into the trade has been managed differently by different entrepreneurs, in terms of their approach to flexibility, product differentiation, new markets, etc. This case study focuses on a small sample of five master weavers from the region.

Thinking with Handlooms

The persistence of handloom weaving right into the present calls for in-depth exploration. Conventional official perception relegates handlooms to a small, niche market and goes on to suggest how this niche demand should be catered to through further design innovation and variation. This article draws on handloom weaving in Andhra Pradesh to contest this viewpoint. Analysing the numerous dimensions within the handloom sector offers insights into how to address and understand different forms of industrial activity in the country, particularly in realms considered as being the peripheries of a dominant industrial core.

Appraising the Indian Handloom Industry

A seminar on the handloom industry in Hyderabad brought to the fore the issues and concerns facing this largely rural sector. Among other issues, it highlighted the lack of a reliable database on the handloom industry, and its implications for policy formulation. Field-based research and analysis can form an important basis for building theoretical models and well as strategies for action for the Indian handloom industry.
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