SOAS University of London

Department of the History of Art and Archaeology, School of Arts

Reading Spinning: The political image of the spinning wheel in South Asia

Anon, photograph of woman spinning with child, c. 1930s-1940s. Sir Malcom Darling Collection, Centre of South Asian Studies, Cambridge, box 6, p. 116, no. 1.
Dr Rebecca Brown (University of Swansea)

Date: 12 March 2008Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 12 March 2008Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: B104

Type of Event: Seminar

In an anti-colonial move toward Indian self-sufficiency, Gandhi in 1909 decided to revive a craft many saw as already dead: the hand-spinning of cotton into yarn. Spinning served as a malleable metonymic symbol for the nationalist movement – a symbol crucial for the success of swaraj. This paper examines the nineteenth century imagery of spinning to ascertain why this particular symbol worked so well for the nationalists. By reading Company paintings and 'ethnographic' photographs, it finds that spinning did not participate in identifications of caste and tribe, instead asserting itself as a gendered action across religion, region, and identity.

Organiser: Dr Crispin Branfoot and Dr Elizabeth Moore