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A Cultural History of the Sari | Historical & Ethnographic Research

This research, part of my doctoral dissertation, was conducted to unearth a cultural history of the sari as draped clothing. Using a mixed methods approach combining ethnography, archival research, media study, visual & material analysis, I studied the sari’s mutations through the colonial and postcolonial periods, focusing on the emergence of the Nivi style of drape, and what it signified about a new identity for Indian women. For whom was this new image fashioned, and whom did it exclude? I am presently writing a monograph about the Modern Sari. 

The Sari & Social Media| Social Media & Market Case Study

This research, part of my doctoral dissertation, emerged from my observations of sari revival movements on social media. Although saris occupy a lion’s share of the Indian retail market, why are they perceived as endangered and in need of revival? What do saris signify in the larger realm of culture and identity? This research linked identity projects on social media to the clothing consumption of women in urban India. I employed a mixed-methods approach entailing ethnography, social media analysis and quantitative market analysis to contextualize contemporary anxieties about identity within larger patterns of consumption. 

Consuming Comfort | User Case Study

How does the user actually perceive comfort? Is comfort aesthetic – relating to how something looks and is described (using words such as ‘light’ and ‘breathable’, for instance) or haptic – relating to qualities of touch, texture, fit, or both? My earlier research revealed that craft revivalists cited comfort as the reason why handloom textiles are the obvious user choice in the hot, humid weather that prevails in India. Was this true? This research combined ethnography, media research and material analysis to study the relationship between representations and perceptions of comfort among clothing users, focusing on haptic elements of textiles which influence user perceptions of comfort.

Project CRAFT | Problem Validation Research

Project CRAFT is my initiative to create digital tools to augment craft production and consumption in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, using AR-VR and digitalization. Moreover, it sought the use of pattern recognition to help craft users obtain Intellectual Property Rights. Jodhpur, as India’s leading handicraft and furniture exporter, was a salient location for this pilot study. In order to understand the current status and challenges of the craft industry, I conducted problem validation research, using ethnographic methods, interviews, shadowing and observations as well as unstructured interactions in Jodhpur. This project received funding from the Government of India. 

Sustainable Consumption & Identity | Circular Economy

Sustainability has acquired global salience in recent decades with a range of stakeholders including industries, governments, and consumer action groups. This research looks at performative sustainability i.e., how actors act in a given set of circumstances based on their understanding of sustainability. I examine how sustainability objects (or objects that come with a claim of promoting sustainable living) operate in networks of production and consumption to understand sustainability as a process. In the Indian clothing context, questions of sustainability often get uncritically entangled with questions of craft, livelihood, and community. This research looks at how sustainability is deployed in India’s craft and handloom sector through a study of sustainability objects across their life-cycle.

Optimizing Online Teaching | UX Research

Many students have been doing their studies online from their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Unstable and poor internet access is a concern in India. In this context, how can teaching be delivered online inclusively within existing resource constraints while ensuring student engagement and learning? This research is a multi-faceted, continuing analysis of how teaching methods, digital tools and social contexts have influenced online teaching and learning experiences. This research has entailed two case studies so far: one usability study to evaluate Google Classroom as a learning environment for college students and another case study to evaluate the efficacy and user engagement of live teaching versus pre-recorded lectures as online teaching modes.


Strength Training on Instagram | Social Media & Visual Analysis

This research in progress studies recreational strength training communities that have mushroomed online for women on Instagram. Using media and social media analysis, I compare strength training with other performance-oriented subcultures of the body, such as running and cross-fit. This research also examines the communicative features of Instagram as a social media app and how it normalizes alternate displays of female bodies.

Decolonizing Craft Narratives

This project examines how various actors in the craft world create meaning and value in their use and practice of craft. Through archival and ethnographic methods, this research links the historical divisions between craft and industry, the handmade and mechanized to contemporary questions of skill, meaning and value.

Beyond Big Data

Current applications of cutting-edge digital tools for social media research are designed for automation whereas we need methods designed to better connect (human) researchers with their interlocutors in the digital space. This project is an open-ended exploration of how to conduct research on visual social media moving beyond Big Data approaches towards culturally sensitive qualitative research.