Heritagising urban craft economy: thinking with Chitpur Road, Kolkata
Date: 13 December 2021
University of Exeter
The PhD research asks how heritage as a construct emerges in Chitpur Road Kolkata, specifically concerning four languishing and thriving craft practices that are based on the Road. It addresses three specific issues: first, it unpacks the material conditions of the crafts’ existence analysing their peripheral urban practices, heritage-led ...
The PhD research asks how heritage as a construct emerges in Chitpur Road Kolkata, specifically concerning four languishing and thriving craft practices that are based on the Road. It addresses three specific issues: first, it unpacks the material conditions of the crafts’ existence analysing their peripheral urban practices, heritage-led spatial politics, and diverse economic organisation in a postcolonial city like Kolkata. Second, it analyses how crafts are acting as a potential locus of heritage production through interventions from artists and civil society organisations. Third, it decolonises heritage ontologies by offering a critique of modernist universal paradigms of colonial and neoliberal heritage frameworks and proposing a counterheritage sensibility grounded in pluriversality. Thus, the thesis contributes to four domains of critical scholarship: postcolonial urban heritage, postcolonial craft economy, critical heritage studies, and decolonial thinking/practice. Ethnographic research with the craftspeople (idol makers, goldsmiths, musical instrument makers and wooden sweetmeat mould makers) and collaborative research with an artist collective conducted between 2018-2019 shape the findings of the research. The thesis argues that crafts in the old urban centres of postcolonial cities inhabit a peripheral space of compliance and defiance that constantly flows in and out of capitalist production regimes. Locally and internationally networked civil society institutions selectively convert these precarious craft geographies into ‘heritage capital’ that signifies a process of living heritage production through which diffused values are assigned to, and derived from, everyday craft practices. Heritage production is doubly bound in this case, as the artists’ vision promises a radical futurity of democratic and affective heritage making that dislocates the authoritative heritage discourse. However, they risk presenting the crafts as mundane spectacles, and at times inadvertently align with capitalist institutional goals, such that the economic justice of the craftspeople is compromised. Through this process, local crafts are brought into global regimes of universal heritage frameworks. The craftspeople on the other hand use the language of heritage strategically and, through micro-political tactics, mobilise heritage to assert rights over land and livelihood. Consequently, the thesis participates in ‘ontological politics’, to propose a new heritage language by learning from the ever-evolving, fluid and impermanent craft practices, arguing for recognition of a dematerialised heritage consciousness which leads to the upward mobility of the craftspeople. The ontological shift proposed by the thesis provides a lens for consideration of socio-spatial justice, whereby elitist architectural heritage and the traditional status quo of caste-based and gendered craft heritage are unsettled and displaced, giving validity instead to the ordinary lived heritage of change and continuity. Finally, the thesis refuses to frame these epistemologies from the South as alternatives in the field of knowledge production, positioning the findings within pluriversal thinking and practice that values diverse ethical and cosmological worlding practices.
Item views 0
Full item downloads 0