Constructing common knowledge: Design practice for social change in craft livelihoods in India

Annapurna Mamidipudi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


From a policy point of view, the nine million craftspeople in India are underdeveloped economically and in need of expert design interventions to adapt to the market. Within nationalistic projects those same craftspeople are transformed into a heritage that needs to be preserved, rather than having a trajectory into a promising future. Is there an escape from these discourses of poverty or museumization when thinking about craftspeople? In response, this article investigates how design can be key to achieve social change that craftspeople desire. I propose that designers intending to mitigate vulnerability in livelihoods of craftspeople have to design not towards a pre-determined set of desirable economic outcomes, but include social and cultural outcomes. Using empirical examination of designer narratives as base, this article extends constructivist STS concepts of “cultures of technology” to “cultures of design” to elaborate three lenses to analyze design practice: Intervention, which focuses on the economic impact of development; Interaction that focuses on symmetric social relations between actors, within socio-technical ensembles that respond to nascent aspirations and needs of craftspeople; and Mediation, which includes constructing cultural worlds where craftspeople's expertise is common knowledge–as active producers of culture, rather than passive consumers of design.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-50
Number of pages14
JournalDesign Issues
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018


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