Herms, Anne (2021). Pashmina going global: dealing with cultural heritage and authenticity in the Kashmiri shawl business in Mamallapuram, India. Masters thesis, Universität zu Köln.

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This volume engages with a problem that has repeatedly been addressed in the anthropology of globalisation, the more recent anthropology of art and the anthropology of tourism, namely the question of how 'culture and commerce' relate to one another, or what effects tourism and commerce have on the symbolic and social value of material culture and its modes of production. It is based on Anne Herms' MA thesis which was supervised by Prof. Susanne Brandtstädter. The ethnographic theme of this study is the sale of 'real' pashmina shawls by Kashmiri traders in Mamallapuram, a tourist town in the south of India. It is based on empirical research conducted in Mamallapuram between October and December 2018. Kashmiri pashmina shawls have a long history of global circulation, and have been widely regarded as desirable prestige objects. Following the debate on the 'social life of things' initiated by Appadurai, reference is first made to the diverse contexts of meaning between people and things, as well as to the proposition that as a result of commodification and global consumption, cultural artifacts suffer a loss of meaning or authenticity, and object and producer become 'alienated' from one another. The work focuses on three questions: How do traders relate to the shawl? What significance does authenticity - a modern term that arose from the tension between original and copy - have in the local shawl trade and why? How can the sale of Kashmiri shawls be assessed in light of the debate on the commodification of culture? As it turns out, dealers have a close, almost emotional identification with the goods, and take pride in their sale and worldwide distribution. Their personal relationship with these objects seems to embody a special 'sociality' of handcrafted shawls and an idea of pashmina as a Kashmiri cultural heritage. Authenticity is of major importance in the (local) shawl business, for tourists and dealers alike. Herms describes how pashmina shawls that come to Mamallapuram as commodities receive (back) the 'aura' of the authentic, and argues that the production of authenticity not only increases the economic value of the goods, but also their symbolic and social meaning. The concepts of 'commodity', 'art' and 'cultural heritage' are practically not separate categories here. The traders' cultural appreciation of the shawl is also due to its commodification, its marketing history and the continuous sale on site. Thus, traders do not become alienated from the product, but rather connected to it.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters thesis)
CreatorsEmailORCIDORCID Put Code
URN: urn:nbn:de:hbz:38-539810
Series Name at the University of Cologne: Kölner ethnologische Beiträge
Volume: 60
Date: 2021
Place of Publication: Köln
ISSN: 1611-4531
Language: English
Faculty: Faculty of Arts and Humanities
Divisions: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Fächergruppe 4: Außereuropäische Sprachen, Kulturen und Gesellschaften > Institut für Ethnologie
Subjects: Customs, etiquette, folklore
Uncontrolled Keywords:
Kashmiri shawls, cultural heritage, authenticity, tourism, India, MA thesisEnglish
Kaschmirschals, Kulturerbe, Authentizität, Tourismus, Indien, MasterarbeitGerman
Date of oral exam: 2019
NameAcademic Title
Brandtstädter, SusanneProf. Dr.
Refereed: Yes
URI: http://kups.ub.uni-koeln.de/id/eprint/53981


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