Thesis

Copper in Tambat Ali: Design, Craft, and the Transformative Properties of a Material in Pune, India

Authors:
To read the full-text of this research, you can request a copy directly from the author.

Abstract

This research is an examination of the materiality of copper in the context of a design and craft community in a place called tambat ali (which in the local language Marathi translates to coppersmith alley) located in the heart of the city of Pune in Western India. For centuries, several generations of coppersmiths (tambats) have been shaping this malleable, sensorial material into a variety of objects for domestic use. Copper (tamba), in an expression of transformational materiality, has in turn, shaped the tambats into who they are as persons. In addition, the materiality of copper has engendered a unique set of skills and techniques, and it has moulded their bodies and gestures. The tambats make a variety of objects that are described as vastu in Marathi, a word that also refers to narratives that arc over the life of the material, the people, and the things themselves. For the past few years, the tambats have been collaborating with architects and industrial designers to create a variety of new copper products that are sold nationally and internationally. While industrial design practice typically tends to focus on form, user needs, or the market, in tambat ali, it starts with an emphasis on the properties of the material. Here, design unfolds in a new social context created by the presence of copper. This thesis, with its focus on materiality, design, and craft, will attempt to show how copper has produced a materially inspired sociability, which has shaped the stories of objects, the nature of place, the practices of design and craft, and the lives of the people of tambat ali.

No full-text available

Request Full-text Paper PDF

To read the full-text of this research,
you can request a copy directly from the author.

ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Article
Full-text available
More and more anthropologists are doing “anthropology of home” by researching within their own communities. Major methodological and theoretical contributions for researchers working in their home communities come from debates surrounding “native” anthropology. Since anthropology has historically involved going outside one's community, the shift to research sites in an anthropologist's home community has fostered debates about the application of traditional anthropological methods to one's own community. This article outlines several important methodological issues that have been debated by native anthropologists including issues of distance, cultural competence, translation, and defining “native.” This article shows that native anthropology offers a critique of dominate anthropological practices by opposing the customary position of natives as objects and countering Eurocentrist domination in academia. At the same time, native anthropologists have been strong in voicing the fluidity of identity which shows that every researcher is both an insider and an outsider. These insights are important for every anthropologist of home.
Book
Full-text available
This open access book describes methods for research on and research through design. It posits that ethnography is an appropriate method for design research because it constantly orients itself, like design projects, towards social realities. In research processes, designers acquire project-specific knowledge, which happens mostly intuitively in practice. When this knowledge becomes the subject of reflection and explication, it strengthens the discipline of design and makes it more open to interdisciplinary dialogue. Through the use of the ethnographic method in design, this book shows how design researchers can question the certainties of the everyday world, deconstruct reality into singular aesthetic and semantic phenomena, and reconfigure them into new contexts of signification. It shows that design ethnography is a process in which the epistemic and creative elements flow into one another in iterative loops. The goal of design ethnography is not to colonize the discipline of design with a positivist and objectivist scientific ethos, but rather to reinforce and reflect upon the explorative and searching methods that are inherent to it. This innovative book is of interest to design researchers and professionals, including graphic artists, ethnographers, visual anthropologists and others involved with creative arts/media.
Article
Full-text available
Designers are entrusted with increasingly complex and impactful challenges. However, the current system of design education does not always prepare students for these challenges. When we examine what and how our system teaches young designers, we discover that the most valuable elements of the designer’s perspective and process are seldom taught. Instead, some designers grow beyond their education through their experience working in industry, essentially learning by accident. Many design programs still maintain an insular perspective and an inefficient mechanism of tacit knowledge transfer. Meanwhile, skills for developing creative solutions to complex problems are increasingly essential. Organizations are starting to recognize that designers bring something special to this type of work, a rational belief based upon numerous studies that link commercial success to a design-driven approach. So, what are we to do? Other learned professions such as medicine, law, and business provide excellent advice and guidance embedded within their own histories of professionalization. In this article, we borrow from their experiences to recommend a course of action for design. It will not be easy: it will require a study group to make recommendations for a roster of design and educational practices that schools can use to build a curriculum that matches their goals and abilities. And then it will require a conscious effort to bootstrap the design profession toward both a robust practitioner community and an effective professoriate, capable together of fully realizing the value of design in the 21st century. In this article, we lay out that path.
Book
Full-text available
This book presents a novel and systematic social theory of soil, and is representative of the rising interest in 'the material' in social sciences. Bringing together new modes of 'critical description' with speculative practices and methods of inquiry, it contributes to the exploration of current transformations in socioecologies, as well as in political and artistic practices, in order to address global ecological change. The chapters in this edited volume challenge scholars to attend more carefully to the ways in which they think about soil, both materially and theoretically. Contributors address a range of topics, including new ways of thinking about the politics of caring for soils; the ecological and symbiotic relations between soils; how the productive capacities and contested governance of soils are deployed as matters of political concern; and indigenous ways of knowing and being with soil.
Article
Full-text available
This article presents the argument that a conventional, form-focused design process causes a lack of knowledge regarding materials and, as a result, creates a knowledge barrier between the designer and the product – a barrier that acts not only against the implementation of so-called advanced materials and new technologies, but also ends up as a major obstacle to the creation of sustainable industrially produced products. A new type of design process is emerging, in which the material is present from the outset and can be seen as the driver of the process. This material driven design process breaks down the aforementioned knowledge barrier and has shown potential for being a design process that enables design for sustainability. However, simply starting with the material does not ensure a sustainable outcome by default. Thus, the overall aim of the research behind this paper is to define the specifics of material driven design for sustainability with the objective of testing to which degree it is possible to design a process that guarantees results compatible with a circular economy. The research is based on constructive design research with a predominant Lab approach and elements from a field in which a new reality is imagined and built to test whether it works. This was done by running a series of five design trials in which the material driven design process was continuously tested, evaluated and adjusted through reflection-in-action. In total, the process was tested one hundred eighteen times by students with the involvement of expert designers and specialists from four different companies and institutions. This article presents the quandary in the relationship between form and matter in established contemporary design processes and specifies the cross-disciplinary field in which material driven design for sustainability is placed. The methodology and the definition of a ‘design trial’ as a method is described, followed by the progress of the process through the five trials. Finally, the material driven design process for sustainability is outlined step by step, including relevant approaches for the experimentation. This article presents a design process that can potentially deliver products which are compatible with a circular economy at the end of their life.
Book
Full-text available
Pottery is the most ubiquitous find in most historical archaeological excavations and serves as the basis for much research in the discipline. But it is not only its frequency that makes it a prime dataset for such research, it is also that pottery embeds many dimensions of the human experience, ranging from the purely technical to the eminently symbolic. The aim of this book is to provide a cutting-edge theoretical and methodological framework, as well as a practical guide, for archaeologists, students and researchers to study ceramic assemblages. As opposed to the conventional typological approach, which focuses on vessel shape and assumed function with the main goal of establishing a chronological sequence, the proposed framework is based on the technological approach. Such an approach utilizes the concept of chaîne opératoire, which is geared to an anthropological interpretation of archaeological objects. The author offers a sound theoretical background accompanied by an original research strategy whose presentation is at the heart of this book. This research strategy is presented in successive chapters that are geared to explain not only how to study archaeological assemblages, but also why the proposed methods are essential for achieving ambitious interpretive goals. In the heated debate on the equation stating that “pots equal people”, which is a rather fuzzy reference to assumed relationships between (mostly) ethnic groups and pottery, technology enables us to propose with conviction the equation “pots equal potters”. In this way, a well-founded history of potters is able to achieve a much better cultural and anthropological understanding of ancient societies.
Chapter
Full-text available
The anthropology of personhood encompasses the definition and study of three conceptual terms: person, self, and individual. It explores the identity of the individual actor and the relationship between that identity and the symbolic forms and material and moral practices of various sociocultural milieus. Recognizing the individual in the role player, the anthropologist comes to portray sociocultural milieus as composed of and constituted by a diversity of individual consciousnesses: human actors making a diversity of meaningful worlds by way of a commonality of cultural forms. Recognizing that any human individual may exist within any sociocultural role, the anthropologist moves from particular environments of conventional symbolic exchange toward an appreciation of personhood as an issue of moral universality.
Article
The paper considers what it means to capture design knowledge by embodying it in procedures that are expressible in a computer program, distinguishing several possible purposes for such an exercise. Following the lead of David Marr's computational approach to vision, emphasis is placed on ‘phenomenological equivalence’ — that is, first defining the functions of designing, and then specifying how people design. The paper goes on to describe design phenomena that a computational strategy of this kind would have to reproduce. All of them are integral to a view of designing as reflective conversation with the materials of a design situation, and depend on the idea of distinctive design worlds constructed by the designer. These phenomena include: the designer's seeing-moving-seeing, the construction of figures from marks on a page, the appreciation of design qualities, the evolution of design intentions in the course of the design process, the recognition of unintended consequences of move experiments, the storage and deployment of prototypes, which must be placed in transaction with the design situation, and communication across divergent design worlds. Considered as performance criteria for a phenomenologically equivalent computational designer, these phenomena are formidable and threatening. Considered as performance criteria for the construction of a computer-based design assistant, however, they may be highly evocative.
Article
As part of a wider picture of increased funding for interdisciplinary art-science projects, a number of institutions and instruments have arisen in the UK over the last 35 years which aim to facilitate the transfer of knowledge about materials between materials producers and users. In this paper I focus on the development of one kind of institution in particular; the materials library. The paper examines the perceived need for the development of these institutions; resulting from a paucity of materials education in the arts, a perceived problem of communication between increasingly specialised disciplines and a rapidly increasing number of autonomous and ‘imperfectly characterised’ new materials. The moral imperative behind materials libraries is also discussed. There is a common belief that the ‘correct’ or ‘incorrect’ use of materials can have positive or detrimental effects on society, and materials libraries are seen to be a way of controlling and ‘bettering’ the development of materials. This paper also examines the different and competing modes of knowledge transfer employed in materials libraries, and suggests that we might be seeing a shift in the nature of knowledge communication from a predominantly text-based mode of learning to one that emphasises play, experimentation and performance. Finally this paper critically examines the notion that the transfer of knowledge across perceived boundaries between different kinds of knowledge is a kind of panacea for societal problems.
Article
‘In a sense we are unique moist packages of animated soil’. These are the alluring words of Francis D. Hole, a professor of soil science renowned for encouraging love for the soil and understanding of its vital importance. Affirming humans as being soil entangles them in substantial commonness. This article explores how altering the imaginaries of soils as inert matter subjected to human use and re-animating the life within them is transforming contemporary human–soil affections by developing a sense of shared aliveness. Presenting research on current practices, material involvements and stories emerging from scientific accounts, community involvements and artistic manifestations, I propose five emerging motifs of renewed imaginaries of soil’s aliveness that feed into each other to affirm intimate entanglements of human–soil matter. I argue that while a vision of anthropocenic soils invokes yet another objectified natural resource brought to exhaustion by a deadly human-centred productionist ethos, as soils are re-animated and enlivened, a sense of human–soil entangled and intimate interdependency is intensified. These new involvements with soil’s aliveness open up a sense of earthy connectedness that animates and re-affects material worlds and a sense of more than human community in those involved.
Book
This volume expands understandings of crafting practices, which in the past was the major relational interaction between the social agency of materials, technology, and people, in co-creating an emergent ever-changing world. The chapters discuss different ways that crafting in the present is useful in understanding crafting experiences and methods in the past, including experiments to reproduce ancient excavated objects, historical accounts of crafting methods and experiences, craft revivals, and teaching historical crafts at museums and schools. Crafting in the World is unique in the diversity of its theoretical and multidisciplinary approaches to researching crafting, not just as a set of techniques for producing functional objects, but as social practices and technical choices embodying cultural ideas, knowledge, and multiple interwoven social networks. Crafting expresses and constitutes mental schemas, identities, ideologies, and cultures. The multiple meanings and significances of crafting are explored from a great variety of disciplinary perspectives, including anthropology, archaeology, sociology, education, psychology, women’s studies, and ethnic studies. This book provides a deep temporal range and a global geographical scope, with case studies ranging from Europe, Africa, and Asia to the Americas and a global internet website for selling home crafted items.
Book
To care can feel good, or it can feel bad. It can do good, it can oppress. But what is care? A moral obligation? A burden? A joy? Is it only human? In Matters of Care, María Puig de la Bellacasa presents a powerful challenge to conventional notions of care, exploring its significance as an ethical and political obligation for thinking in the more than human worlds of technoscience and naturecultures. Matters of Care contests the view that care is something only humans do, and argues for extending to non-humans the consideration of agencies and communities that make the living web of care by considering how care circulates in the natural world. The first of the book's two parts, "Knowledge Politics," defines the motivations for expanding the ethico-political meanings of care, focusing on discussions in science and technology that engage with sociotechnical assemblages and objects as lively, politically charged "things." The second part, "Speculative Ethics in Antiecological Times," considers everyday ecologies of sustaining and perpetuating life for their potential to transform our entrenched relations to natural worlds as "resources." From the ethics and politics of care to experiential research on care to feminist science and technology studies, Matters of Care is a singular contribution to an emerging interdisciplinary debate that expands agency beyond the human to ask how our understandings of care must shift if we broaden the world.
Book
What makes a product iconic? How did IKEA really conquer the home-furnishings market from Sweden to China? Why do design innovators spend more time observing consumers than making new things? Design Anthropology charts the radical turn to ‘the user’ that has transformed our contemporary object culture. Featuring leading design thinkers, Design Anthropology offers a provocative insight into how different groups, from South London urbanites to Australian aborigines, use designed objects to make sense of their everyday lives. As design corporations ‘go native’ they now look to us – our homes, our spiritual worlds and our intimate rituals, for their inspiration. Design Anthropology is a must-have read for everyone in design, creative industries, sociology, anthropology, marketing and cultural studies – and for anyone interested in what is really at stake in our material world. "These timely, thoughtful and well-written essays are essential reading as we explore the changing tasks of design in these new times" John Thackara, Doors of Perception "Alison Clarke's anthology is a must-read for anyone interested in the growing links between design and anthropology. Featuring essays by leading writers working at the intersection of both fields, it is a well-constructed foray into a world where material culture meets design research, where practice and theory intertwine. As designers add social science theory to their box of tricks and theorists seek relevance and impact for their ideas, Design Anthropology is where it all comes together." Jeremy Myerson, Director and Helen Hamlyn Professor of Design, Royal College of Art
Book
The Handbook of Material Culture provides a critical survey of the theories, concepts, intellectual debates, substantive domains, and traditions of study characterizing the analysis of "things." This cutting-edge work examines the current state of material culture as well as how this field of study may be extended and developed in the future.