Design Research: History, Theory, Practice - Histories for Future-focused Thinking









Redrawing the Boundaries of Craft in India 

Kamala Murali 

The Good Earth Company

Keywords: design; capability approach; craftsperson; Indian textiles


This thesis asks if craftspeople have agency within the current paradigm of textile craft practice in India. Agency fuels freedom by empowering marginalized people to evaluate and engage with their realities, so as to be powerful agents of social change. Traditional textile production in India is a constant struggle for the craftsperson, because those in seats of power – politicians, policy makers and designers – have limited or denied their agency. In response to those limitations, there are a variety of cross-cultural initiatives by Indian NGOs, international brands and designers that are engaging with craftspeople in the interests of creating change for and with them. In this context, it becomes critical to ask whether the agency of craftspeople is, in fact, being enhanced through these efforts. Using Amartya Sen’s capabilities framework, this paper will explore two themes: cultural agency in a globalized context and national agency in an Indian context. 

This paper is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International licence.

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Cite this paper: Murali, K. (2016). Redrawing the Boundaries of Craft in India. Proceedings of DRS 2016, Design Research Society 50th Anniversary Conference. Brighton, UK, 27–30 June 2016.

This paper will be presented at DRS2016, find it in the conference programme

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