Chapter 1: The Indian village in Victorian Space; The Department Store and the Cult of the Craftsman The Festival of India in Britain 1982 and the US 1985-6 staged Indian culture using mega-exhibitions, lectures, films, plays, performances, department store promotions, and celebrity sightings. Some saw it as a public relations gambit, others as ??continual dialogue about the nature of tradition, innovation, and adaptation,? and made possible the creation of new cultural practices ?in a way that gave value to the old?? (27). There was a controversial presentation of the living arts of India. Over a million people came (28). ?In this chapter, I examine the intersection of a number of discrete discourses and practices?economic, commercial, aesthetic, and ethnographic?that had constituted the powerful symbolism of the Indian craftsmen, first enacted during the colonial period, and then reenacted and appropriated in various ways by successive phases of Indian nationalism. I focus in particular on the space of mass consumption that is the nineteenth-century department store, a site where these multiple discourses surrounding the production, export, and display of India?s ?living? craft traditions converged in a spectacle during the 1880s? (28-29). Early department stores were like museums, but also symbols of capitalist modernity. Liberty & CO. gained a reputation as an oriental warehouse in the 1870s by importing products from India. Liberty?s helped to ?popularize and disseminate Indian styles and aesthetics to the metropolitan public? and invented new products??industrially manufactured reproductions of handmade Indian goods, which were more affordable and deemed more suited to European tastes. Thus, what were in some sense hybrid inventions?English-made imitations of Indian things?were nevertheless marketed as ?real? products from India and praised for their ability to rival India?s preindustrial, handmade goods? (29). In 1885, Liberty?s tried to create a living display of Indian village artisans in Battersea Park (29). ?the nostalgic conception of a timeless, traditional India with the village community at its center?all of it located in Europe?s evolutionary past?had its origins in the work of Sir Henry Maine, but?Among the most prominent of these figures was George Birdwood?Birdwood?s book The Industrial Arts of India, published in 1880, would become one of the most authoritative texts in the field, and was frequently cited? (30). Birdwood was an ardent protectionist. He thought that the Indian village, as created by the Code of Many, was full of hereditary artisans (30). Birdwood thought everything was a work of art, and ?attributed the greatness of India?s cultural products to the social structure of the Indian village.? He saw it as idealized and romanticized, and all based on Hinduism. He liked pottery best and hated the threat that industrialization posed to indigenous handicrafts (31). ?Although Birdwood provided a vocal opposition to the commercial excesses of the British government in India, his position was derived from a preservationist impulse that saw a new and paradoxical role for the British in India: to save India from British rule.? Britain had to salvage and save the traditional culture threatened by contact with Britain (32). ?Liberty?s specialized in the space of fantasy; it offered an oriental ?dreamworld? for the metropolitan consumer and constructed an imaginary experience of the colony through its elaborately staged commercial displays? (33-34). Liberty claimed that the goal of his store was to achieve commercial success and conserve the beautiful and unique art of the East (35). ?while the copy of an Indian product in some cases symbolized a loss of purity or individuality, in others it stood for improvement and innovation.? Liberty Fabrics were imported from India and dyed in local colors. The Mysore Silks, for example, were promoted as exact reproductions of old Indian prints and praised for their authenticity. And yet they were hybrids (35). The Liberty?s craftsman fair was a disaster economically. The Indians were not given the food, salary, housing, or clothing promised in the contract. The women were touched by curious fair-goers. They enlisted the help of Mr. Nanda Lal Ghosh to get home and started a lawsuit. The weather was the coldest in 30 years. In India there was outrage about the incident (in part due to growing nationalism).?Newspaper editorialized emphasized the irony that a ?civilized? culture would participate in the barbarous act of displaying human beings? (41). Liberty eventually switched to British goods anyway (41). The import of cheaper mass-manufactured British textiles then began to destroy the Indian hand-made handicraft industry (42).
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