MASTERCLASS > Summer School

Reading Craft: Itineraries of Culture, Knowledge and Power in the Global Ecumene

Five days of interactive “Summer School” training

Welcome to the webpage of the IIAS Summer School 2014, a programme set up by IIAS in collaboration with the Faculty of Social Sciences of Chiang Mai University, and hosted in Chiang Mai, Thailand.


    Pamela H. Smith is Seth Low Professor of History at Columbia University, New York and specializes in early modern European history and the history of science. Her current research focuses on attitudes to nature in early modern Europe and the Scientific Revolution, with particular attention to craft knowledge and historical techniques. She is recipient of the Leo Gershoy Prize for her book The Body of the Artisan awarded in early modern European History by the American Historical Association, 2005. She is the author of “Making as Knowing: Craft as Natural Philosophy,” Ways of Making and Knowing: The Material Culture of Empirical Knowledge, co-edited with Amy Meyers and Harold J. Cook, 2014, Bard Graduate Center/University of Michigan Press.

    Françoise Vergès is Consulting Professor at the Center for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths College, London and Research Associate, Collège d’études mondiales, Paris.  She has written on vernacular practices of memories, on slavery and the economy of predation, the ambiguities of French abolitionism, French republican colonialism, colonial and postcolonial psychiatry in the French colonial empire, Frantz Fanon, Aimé Césaire, French postcolionality, the routes of migration and processes of creolization in the Indian Ocean world. She has argued for a postcolonial ‘museum without objects’ and conceived a ‘museum of the living present’ at Reunion Region representing the lives and practices of subalterns.

    Aarti Kawlra is a social anthropologist and currently Fellow at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML), New Delhi. She was formerly at the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS), Leiden where she was part of the research cluster on critical heritage. She has had a long engagement with India’s ‘continuing craft traditions’ discursively constructed as folk and tribal art, vernacular design, indigenous knowledge, ethnic costume/fashion and cultural heritage. She has published in Design Issues (MIT Press), Fashion Theory, Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion: South Asia and South East Asia (Berg Publishers), Global Textile Encounters (Oxbow Books, forthcoming), and Feminist Visions of the Network Society (Zubaan, forthcoming) among others.

    Michael Herzfeld is Ernest E. Monrad Professor of the Social Sciences and Curator of European Ethnology in the Peabody Museum at Harvard University. His research Interests include social theory, history of Anthropology, social poetics, politics of history; Europe (especially Greece & Italy), and Thailand. He is advisor to the IIAS on critical heritage studies and urban renewal projects. His many publications include among others Cultural Intimacy: Social Poetics in the Nation-State 1997 and The Body Impolitic: Artisans and Artifice in the Global Hierarchy of Value, 2004.

    Chayan Vaddhanaphuti is Director of Regional Center for Social Science and Sustainable Development (RCSD) and of the Center for Ethnic Studies and Development (CESD) at the Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University, Thailand. He has a Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1984 and received an Honorary Doctorate in Social Anthropology from Goteborg University, Sweden, in 2004. He has edited numerous books including Transcending State Boundaries: Contesting Development, Social Suffering and Negotiation (2011) and Spatial Politics and Economic Development in the Mekong Sub-region (2011).

    Theme Description

    The IIAS Summer School at Chiang Mai will focus on the theoretical issue of the knowledge production, transmission and practice of culture against the backdrop of historically contingent case studies featuring transnational circulations of craft. Cartographies, itineraries and biographies of craft are windows into craft-scapes which, much like Barbara Bender’s work on landscapes, are discursively constructed, disputed, worked upon from disparate frames of value and meaning, and used to accomplish goals pertaining to identity, heritage politics, knowledge and power. 

    The Summer School is an occasion to problematize conceptions of culture articulated through readings of craft across territorial boundaries, temporal episodes and knowledge categories. Alternative readings of craft seek to challenge place-based rootedness of culture in colonial ‘cryptocolonial’ (Herzfeld) and postcolonial constructions in order to emphasize its circulation in global interactions and trajectories. Focusing on ‘social lives’ (Appadurai) or ‘cultural biographies’ (Kopytoff) through records of journeys undertaken and routes charted by the movement of individuals, materials, techniques, recipes, designs and objects within and across diverse epistemic regimes and contexts would allow us to ‘read’ craft from a global perspective.

    There is a need for what Françoise Vergès, calls an ‘alternate cartography’, tracing the material lives and unexpected contributions of ‘the people without history’ in Eric Wolfe’s words - anonymous slaves, refugees, exiles, spies, servants and artisans, in colonial and postcolonial historiographies. Locating craft within global networks of power and knowledge at the Chiang Mai Summer School would not only help to recover subaltern micro-histories but also focus our attention upon counter hegemonic appropriations of materials, techniques, recipes, designs and objects over the long globalization. Engaging with the ‘epistemic travels’ and ‘itineraries’ of such knowledge, according to Pamela H. Smith, would expose those readings of craft which anticipated the construction of new regimes and hierarchies of intellectual authority since the beginning of the modern world. Identifying the shifting agents and sites through which craft as a discourse of culture is formulated and sanctioned in late capitalism would, moreover, spotlight the ways in which practitioners of craft are drawn into what Michael Herzfeld refers to as the ‘global hierarchy of value’.

    Conversations at the Chiang Mai Summer School will revolve around critical reflections on craft in Asian contexts around the following sub-themes among others:

    • Craft as a knowledge system, and knowledge practices of craft since the early modern era
    • Circulation of craft in Eurasian networks of trade, power and cultural exchange
    • Craft as postcolonial and crypto-colonial national heritage
    • The production and reproduction of hierarchies of gender, class and race through craft – identity contestations
    • Interrogating the “what” of craft: disputes over origin, ownership, authenticity, aesthetics, ethics and representation
    • Engaging with the Local/Global dichotomy through the lens of craft

    The Summer School, which will also include some hands-on experience with local artisans, therefore encourages participants whose work seeks to engage with the history and politics of craft through its reading within the long and global mobilities of science, technology, art and fashion.

    Francoise Verges, Pamela Smith and Aarti Kawlra will lead the Summer School with Michael Herzfeld as guest co-convenor and Chayan Vaddhanaphuti as host co-convenor. Together they bring to the School a rich mixture of intellectual perspectives and individual trajectories to facilitate discussions with research students from diverse disciplinary backgrounds in an atmosphere of openness and inquiry. Exposure to various craft discourses and practices (indigo dyeing, hand-weaving and bamboo architecture among others) prevailing in the culturally vibrant context of Chiang Mai will provide an unprecedented learning experience for the participants. The conjunction of field work with classroom exercises at the Summer School will, moreover, help them as they pursue their own research projects, to elicit and develop new theoretical paradigms of craft informed by case studies from various contexts in Asia and elsewhere.

    General Information

    For whom

    The Summer Programme on “Reading Craft in the Long Global Ecumene” is meant for PhD Students. This means that we do not accept students other than PhD researchers.



    Selection procedure

    The programme allows a maximum of 20 participants. All applicants, who registered before the deadline, will be informed about the selection before 1 April 2014. We will not correspond about the outcome of the selection procedure.

    Registration fee

    Participants must pay the following registration fee: € 150. The registration fee includes half board accommodation (breakfast and lunch).


    Lodging is included in the registration fee for the selected participants.

    Travel costs

    Selected participants are expected to fund their own travel expenses. Limited (partial) scholarships are available.  We recommend that you try to raise funds to cover your transportation and/or other expenses as early as possible.


    After you have received the confirmation of your participation, you will receive further information about the payment of the registration fee. You can pay with credit card (Master or Visa) and via bank transfer.

    Cancellation policy

    Participation in the Summer School can be cancelled free of charge until 60 days before the start. If cancellation occurs within 60 days prior to the start of the programme, the fee will not be refunded.


    Participants can receive a certificate for the Summer School.