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The Crisis of Traditional Craft in India

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The Crisis of Traditional Craft in India

Lodaya, Arvind

The crisis of "traditional craft" in India is in many ways a crisis of value - given the processes of industrialization and modernity gradually sweeping across the country, craft is struggling to find a place - and price - for itself.

What compounds the crisis of craft is that "craft" means different things to different people, and hence connotes different crises as well. Hence, any "solution" must account for all these dimensions simultaneously, which is perhaps why no single initiative to support or revitalise craft has succeeded entirely - or satisfied all the stakeholders involved.
THE FIRST CRISIS OF CRAFT IS THAT OF LIVELIHOODS
Historically, craft used to be what "industry" today is - the production of a number of everyday utilitarian objects for regular consumption. In the pre-industrial era, this was essentially and necessarily a localized phenomenon: communities of artisans would use locally-available material and produce utilitarian products in localised designs, and these were consumed by local populations. As industrial infrastructure came in (electricity, roads & transport, communications), craft products were instantly undermined by mass-produced goods of better "value" (in terms of price:performance), made in remote factories. Traders started to dominate the local markets, edging out the historic designer-manufacturer-trader communities, rendering their knowledge acquired over generations virtually useless. The traditional craftsperson was not a...

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