Monday, December 13, 2010


A framework is a methodology for understanding a problem or process. Thus the problem or process is framed by its methodology. Increasingly, there is an attempt to combine frameworks in order that the limits and boundaries of understanding may be stretched. Here we come up against two problems, one of analysis, and the second of communication.
When we create analytical categories, it is possible to differentiate between science and society, in order to understand each, but then we quickly discover that they are in fact so interlinked that they may be mistaken for each other, in certain situations. Happily, there is still a difference between a scientist, and a sociologist. The difference is in what each knows about science, and what each knows about sociology. This points to the key word, expertise. What combinations of expertise are neccessary, to understand the world around us better? If in effect the world is not to be broken up into science and society, or science and nature, it becomes important to define the boundaries of what constitutes expertise in each. Not that knowledge of one is mutually exclusive of the other, but to know what mix constitutes expertise in science, and what mix constitutes expertise in society.
With this comes another question, so how many kinds of expertise exist? This is based on how we classify knowledge; we have textual or propositional knowledge; contextual or applied knowledge, and the third subtext or tacit knowledge. These exist across all kinds of expertise, each expertise is a mix of these three ways of knowing. Each way of knowing has its history, pedagogy and vocabulary, and these help us locate different kinds of expertise needed to understand specific situations or problems. In addition, this way of understanding expertise can help us with pedagogy as well as vocabulary between different kinds of expertise.

sustainability in terms of vulnerability

The opposite of sustainability is unsustainability. In order to frame a concept of sustainability in livelihoods, we have to look at how different frameworks explicate it, but to complete it we have to include the narratives of those who experience it.
I would propose that we frame unsustainability in terms of vulnerability. The handloom weaver [a person who makes his or her livelihood through handloom weaving] feels vulnerable, to the progress of technology, society and markets. These come to him or her embedded in economic, social and knowledge frameworks that are less and less inclusive. In order that handloom weaving is sustainable as a livelihood, it is important that the weaver is sustainable. But an individual does not experience unsustainability, he or she experiences vulnerability. The question is, does the vulnerability come from handloom weaving; consequently does it mean that moving out of weaving makes the weaver less vulnerable?
I do not have any answers, but would like to explore this question from the point of view of the weaver. It is interesting that the weavers for who weaving is sustainable, are those who do not think in over arching economic terms; the social parameters of happiness play a strong role in keeping them content.
Education, health, home, family, community, these constitute sustainability for weavers, and is this not true of all human kind. So why then do we measure sustainability in terms of financial parameters? Is it possible that in fact handloom technology is ahead, in the progress paradigm, and it is society that is behind in understanding it?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

call me rich

At the introductory session of the WTMC workshop on research for development, Wiebe Bijker and Rob Hagendijk, senior STS scholars were standing with a few of the students. Sabarmatee from the wageningen university, myself and two other dutch Phd students. In a typically indian way, sabarmatee commented on my saree, a tie and die from Orissa; I responded by appreciating the khadi kurta that she wore, which was also woven in Orissa. Wiebe responded to this exchange saying 'this is richness, to be able to place a saree or fabric by looking at it, and to know exactly where it came from; and how it was made, i would have to turn my coat upside down, even to look at the label, and even then it would not tell me much'. I was stunned by what he said, because he was absolutely right, but i had not seen it as a value; rather i had more seen it as a daily attribute of handloom that i lived with.

I commented then, that he was wearing a beautiful shawl that his weaver wife tonny had made for him; and we all agreed that that was then the highest point in the scale of richness. For me this adds another dimension to the way in which i explicate value for the market for handloom.

The aesthetic, or the utility; the design or the technology; the science or the art? What is the value of using any of these categories to explicate the reality that is the richness of the handloom saree?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

colour me poor

What does it mean to be poor? I have answers from poor weavers. But those answers dont tell me anything. I have to listen much better, before i can even begin to understand what those answers mean.
I have half formed thoughts that elude my grasp. I hear the dyer in bhattiprolu saying, when i see a colour, i see the different quantities of chemicals that have to go in together to make that colour. I hear designers say a colour is its place in the palette, i hear forecasters say a colour is its reality in the customer's wardrobe. All this is knowledge about colour, that goes into making the colour real. There is no slippage in the visual reality of the colour. Everyone agrees on what it means to 'be' a colour, say red. But what does red mean to me? Chemical composition to fashion to emotion.

What does it mean to construct 'poor' from the various social groups that participate in constructing poverty? Weaver poor, NGO poor, Government poor, academic poor.....All this goes into colouring poverty..Does the way we understand a 'concept' make a difference to the way we build knowledge around it?