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Between Marginalisation & Connectedness: Muslim Artisans in India


· Thomas Chambers Oxford Brookes University (Oxford, United Kingdom)


07/27 | 15:50-16:10 UTC+2/CEST


Representations of Indian Muslims and Indian craft industries often share a narrative of decline, marginalisation and nostalgia. This paper challenges these representations through an ethnography of the Muslim dominated woodworking mohallas (neighbourhoods) of Saharanpur, a provincial city in northwest Uttar Pradesh (India). Whilst structural conditions produce affective and material forms of marginalisation within the community, everyday life in the mohallas is also shaped through connections and networks of migration, religiosity and production. An exploration of these networks – as well as the subjectivities and imaginaries they produce – reveals a far more complex and nuanced picture of life in the mohallas. However, the ethnography provides more than a celebratory account of connectedness. Networks that may be enthused as productive of cosmopolitanism or transformative social imaginaries, also embody dualities which, under late capitalism, enable global chains of supply to maintain production through socially embedded networks. Migration may involve the crossing of boundaries and (imagined) borders within the local urban context, yet a sense of being bordered and marginalised can be equally mobile and continuities present in experiences of migration produce forms of enclavement as well as opening transformative horizons. By ‘connecting the margin’, through a dialectical analysis, this paper thinks through these dualities by providing an ethnographic account which shares everyday life, work and migration with Muslim craftworkers in the city as the navigate networks, spatial forces and intensifying pressures from an increasingly hostile state.