Locating my work in cultural studies with a focus on material culture, 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 use ethnography as my primary tool in interdisciplinary explorations of the relationship between individuals, matter, and ‘mattering’. 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.
In my current research project, I am interested in exploring 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 South and Northwestern India. I am especially interested in how affective tropes of the handmade, authentic and traditional interact with mechanization and industrialization in the craft world.
Another project, situated in the intersections between clothing and craft, will explore the discursive interchangeability of these tropes with those of the sustainable and ethical, signalling the assimilation of an older, nationalist discourse of anti-materialism into contemporary framings of consumer citizen identities.
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.