Kaamya Sharma

Locating my work in material culture and craft in South Asia, I have an overarching interest in how people engage with and produce meaning from their material worlds through stories and practices. With consonant interests in craft, clothing and heritage, I combine ethnography, archival and policy analysis, visual and media study to examine the relationship between material and social life, the body, politics and markets.

I began research in material culture with an investigation of clothing as a site where semiotic expression, bodily practices, the boundaries between the self and the world are navigated. My doctoral project examined how the sari is a space for contested identities through a cultural examination of its mutations in colonial and postcolonial urban India entailing ethnographic, archival and media analysis. I have published peer reviewed articles on this research which can be found here. A monograph titled ‘The Modern Sari: Examining Narratives of the Past and Present ‘ is currently in preparation. Please reach out to me here if you have trouble finding any of my work.

In my current research project titled Decolonizing Craft: A Comparative Analysis of Craft as Material Culture in South Asia‘, I explore how craft in usage and practice is a site for the generation of meaning and value for various actors in the Indian craft world using insights from ethnographic fieldwork in former Princely states and former Presidencies in India contextualized using media, policy and archival analysis. I am especially interested in how affective tropes of the handmade, authentic and traditional interact with mechanization and industrialization in the craft world. Through this research, I hope to decolonize craft discourse by moving away from West-centric concepts and theories about craft and industrialization.

Another strand of research, situated in the intersections between clothing and craft, will explore the discursive interchangeability of these tropes with those of the sustainable and ethical, signaling the assimilation of an older, nationalist discourse of anti-materialism into contemporary framings of consumer citizen identities. This research is expected to contribute to our understanding of consumption and identity formation in Contemporary Urban South Asia.

A through-line in all my research projects is the relationship between aesthetics, social and material life; aesthetics understood here not merely as a preoccupation with the ‘beautiful’ or ‘decorative’ but in the larger sense of being embedded in and informing the modalities, practices and infrastructures of people’s lives.