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Producing Paradise: Kashmir's Commodity Economy and the Politics of Representation, c. 1830-1930. 


By
 

Dr. Vanessa Chishti  
Assistant Professor, Jindal Global Law School

On

Friday, 22nd September 2017 at 3:00 p.m. 

Venue: Seminar Room (First Floor),Department of Sociology, University of Delhi 

 

 

Abstract 

This paper traces the biographies of shawls and raw silk, two of Kashmir’s most iconic commodities, to examine the production of Kashmir as ‘paradise’ and its people as ‘skilled artisans’ in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. As the shawl industry declined in the late-nineteenth century, raw silk was developed as a state monopoly and an alternative export. Ideas about Kashmir and Kashmiris, articulated in colonial discourses around the shawl, provided founding assumptions for the development of the silk industry: in particular the notion of Kashmiris as inherently skilled textile workers. Kashmir’s legacy as a source of fine textiles was invoked to market the silk. The trajectories of these commodities demonstrate divergent ways of representing Kashmir in this period. Whereas shawls were singular commodities valued for their putative ‘Kashmiri-ness’, Kashmir silk was a standardised raw material offered as a cheap alternative to Italian raw silk. The production of desire for shawls was premised on the presumption of irreducible difference: thus, Kashmir as exceptional landscape. However, in trying to produce demand for silk, the India Office and its affiliates invoked Kashmir as a surrogate landscape: in the likeness of Europe, transformed by colonial agency. The paper juxtaposes the history of shawls and silk to interrogate the simultaneous production of the people, commodities, and place and its implications for economic and cultural histories of the region.  

Contact Information

Telephone: 91(0)11 27667858
Address: Department of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics, 
University of Delhi (North Campus)
Delhi - 110007
India

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