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Soumhya Venkatesan


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I welcome queries from students who are interested in questions of materiality, agency, craft and human/god relations. While my own regional specialisation is in India, I have also conducted fieldwork among carpet weavers and traders in Uzbekistan.


PhD (Social Anthropology) Cambridge 2002.

MPhil (Social Anthropology) Cambridge

MA (History of Art) National Museum Institute, New Delhi, India.

BA (History) Women's Christian College, Madras, India.

Research interests

Research interests:

My doctoral research focused on a group of Muslim weavers in South India and their engagement with development. As 'traditional craft producers', the weavers are celebrated within the Indian nation, as poor Muslims, they are marginalised and treated with a certain amount of suspicion. How they then used the objects they weave to negotiate this paradoxical state of affairs was one of my research questions. This work has led to a number of publications including my monograph Craft Matters: Artisans, Development and the Indian Nation (2009, Orient Blackswan).

My current research takes my interest in the agency of objects, questions of intentionality and causality further. I am now working with ritual sculptors and potters in India who make images that become gods that are worshipped. Through my focus is on the transformation of stone or clay into god, expert processes and knowledge practices, I ask how a thing becomes a god and how this can illuminate our understandings of relations between different kinds of entities.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality


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