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Clothing Gandhi's Nation

Homespun and Modern India

Lisa Trivedi

Publication Year: 2007

In Clothing Gandhi's Nation, Lisa Trivedi explores the making of one of modern India's most enduring political symbols, khadi: a homespun, home-woven cloth. The image of Mohandas K. Gandhi clothed simply in a loincloth and plying a spinning wheel is familiar around the world, as is the sight of Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and other political leaders dressed in "Gandhi caps" and khadi shirts. Less widely understood is how these images associate the wearers with the swadeshi movement -- which advocated the exclusive consumption of indigenous goods to establish India's autonomy from Great Britain -- or how khadi was used to create a visual expression of national identity after Independence. Trivedi brings together social history and the study of visual culture to account for khadi as both symbol and commodity. Written in a clear narrative style, the book provides a cultural history of important and distinctive aspects of modern Indian history.

Published by: Indiana University Press


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pp. ix


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pp. xi-xii

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pp. xiii-xvi

For any project there are many beginnings. I would like to think that this project began in college, when my advisor urged me to travel in India with an uncle who is a former freedom fighter and labor leader turned social worker. That advice dramatically changed my future. History, which I had always enjoyed, came alive; its implications took on new, deeper meaning. ...

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pp. xvii-xxviii

This is a book about an ordinary object and its transformation into a national symbol in modern India. Khadi, or home-spun, home-woven cloth, had been produced and worn in India’s villages long before the twentieth century. At the outset of the period of mass nationalist politics in the early twentieth century, however, khadi acquired new significance as a fabric of not only ...

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1. A POLITICS OF CONSUMPTIONS: Swadeshi and Its Institutions

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pp. 1-37

In the weeks and months after the Indian National Congress passed the Non- Cooperation Resolution on December 30, 1920, Mohandas Gandhi spoke and wrote passionately about the vital connections between an indigenous goods movement, known as swadeshi, and the attainment of swaraj, or self-government.2 ...

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2. TECHNOLOGIES OF NATIONHOOD: Visually Mapping the Nation

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pp. 38-66

Proponents of the swadeshi movement organized khadi exhibitions to do more than demonstrate cloth production and sell khadi goods. on the occasion of one such exhibition in 1926, Gandhi explained their purpose, writing that they were ...

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3. THE NATION CLOTHED: Making an “Indian” Body

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pp. 67-101

Writing for Young India in the years following the transfer of khadi’s future from the Congress’s Khaddar Board to the All-India Spinner’s Association, Gandhi pointed to the fact that being Indian was no natural matter. Becoming a nation entailed joining disparate groups, linking rich and poor, classes and masses, men and women. ...

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4. RITUALS OF TIME: The Flag and the Nationalist Calendar

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pp. 102-117

A mile long procession wended its way through crowded city streets to swell the gatherings at Azad Maidan [a large open space]. ...

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pp. 118-147

By marking and filling public spaces with khadi, nationalists and ordinary Indians, less focused on India’s identity, expressed both their political aspirations and laid claim to the territory of their community. With the popularization of the Gandhi topi and the khadi charka flag, it became possible literally to see and imagine the Indian nation in new ways. ...

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pp. 148-156

In May 1996, the newly elected Bharatiya Janata Party toyed with the idea of ending state subsidies for khadi, which had been guaranteed for nearly fifty years. After news was leaked to the press, the proposal met immediate and significant public opposition; protesters converged upon the parliamentary buildings in New Delhi to vent their anger and marched through one of the capitol’s major thoroughfares, ...


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pp. 157-182


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pp. 183-196


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pp. 197-205

E-ISBN-13: 9780253116789
E-ISBN-10: 0253116783
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253348821

Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 30 b&w photos, 2 maps
Publication Year: 2007