ASA12: Arts and aesthetics in a globalising world

Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India, 3rd-6th April 2012


Jewellery as property, jewellery as aesthetics

Location Arts and Aesthetics Lecture Hall No. 102, SAA-I
Date and Start Time 06 April, 2012 at 08:30


Nilika Mehrotra (UC Berkeley, USA) email
Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

This panel aims to explore material, cultural and symbolic dimensions of jewellery.

Long Abstract

Jewellery has attracted the attention of anthropologists and archaeologists for its material and symbolic value in across cultures through time and space. Often symbolic of status distinctions, jewellery and lineage linkage has been marked in royal families. On the other hand poor families often invest in some form of jewels, to ensure liquid savings to be used in rainy days. In the South Asian context, gendered aspects are revealed in gold jewellery has been given to woman as part of dowry to ensure her share from natal property. Religious/ Cultural value of gold and silver inform its consumption than just their aesthetic value. In tribal communities and jewels made up of local products have been used long to demarcate material culture, gender and community identity. Jewellery has served dual function of providing social security as well decorating women's bodies. In global times, new interesting patterns are emerging through commercialisation and burgeoning of fashion industry. Interestingly collapse of aesthetic and material, modern and traditional is visible in gender, marriage and jewellery as sites of contestation and compromise. New setups of beauty and its accessorization through diamonds point to emerging global trends. Economic recession across the globe necessitates rethinking about assets other than land and shares. Innovation, Consumption and investment are manifest trends that inform the lasting value of jewellery and its gendered aspects. This panel invites papers around these issues.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Jewellery and Techno Aesthetic Revolution

Author: Veena Yadava (Govt College, Nahar)  email

Short Abstract

Jewellery today has witnessed unconventional experimentation blending conservatism with modernity leading to emergence of universalised tastes rooted in individuality and human experience.

Long Abstract

With a strong aesthetic value, jewellery has since time immemorial been a symbol of power, wealth, status, protection against evil and spirits besides being a piece of personal adornment. Being a powerful social and cultural signifier of civilisations, it has been a metaphor of changing social, political and religious trends across the ages.

Encompassing a wide variety of ever evolving forms, material and designs, modern period has seen jewellery turning into an expressive metaphor, with art taking primacy over function and wealth. There has been an explosive experimentation rooted in unconventional materials, imaginative techniques and innovative designs bordering on modern primitivism blending conservatism with modernity. Transformational changes in the contemporary period have metamorphosed the concept of jewellery from pricey heirlooms and treasures into wearable pieces that are trendy, affordable and durable manufactured and marketed by brand names for mass consumption. Globalisation has universalised tastes with resultant increased contextualisation towards sleek, hybrid and miniaturised aesthetic ornamental designs that are synthetic, de-gendered and denatured , devoid of cultural emotions but rooted in individuality and human experience. Pioneered by digital jewellery mankind stands on the threshold of a techno-aesthetic revolution.

The Jewellery trail: Interface between the old and the new tradition

Author: Imtirenla Longkumer (Jawaharlal Nehru University)  email

Short Abstract

Jewellery has moved beyond bones and feathers to gold and diamonds among the Aos of Nagaland. However, when occasion demands the traditional prevails.

Long Abstract

Traditional jewellery in Nagaland and among the Aos is prepared with beads of different makes and natural elements. The necklaces of shell beads, stone beads and the glass trade beads are reputed among the Aos. The complex threads of beads are intricately woven by skilled artisans from the community. Some other accessories include the brass cuffs, brass neck rings, wrist bangles, head-hunter necklaces and hairpieces. Many of these are no more made or worn in the traditional way and some are not at all used anymore.

Although there are some Naga ornaments which are of no particular significance and which can be worn by anyone as and when they like, most Naga ornaments have particular meanings and they are therefore 'powerful'. Not surprisingly the right to wear them is strictly controlled.

With Naga society being in tune to the modern wave, much of the jewellery and body adornments are not in vogue. However, it would be misleading to say that the traditional possessions have lost their importance completely. They are used widely on occasions that demand its use. Many ornaments vanished from the community for different reasons. Hence, today, the antique pieces are very expensive and even the freshly made ones are priced high. Unfortunately the traditional jewellery is not much in demand in comparison to the gold and diamond jewellery.

Gendered Prestations and Property: Gold, Aesthetics and Social Identity in India

Author: Nilika Mehrotra (UC Berkeley, USA)  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines the cultural and economic aspects of gold jewellery in relation to gender, aesthetics and social identity construction in India

Long Abstract

Historically Indians are known to be one of the largest consumers of gold and gold jewellery. Based to ethnographic work in Eastern India and textual evidence from other parts, this paper examines the relationship between gold, culture, moral economy, aesthetics, and social identity construction. Taking gender, household and marriage as interlocking structures, the paper argues that an understanding of cultural and economic aspects of gold jewellery needs to be traced over time over generations especially in globalizing times. The dynamics of symbolic representations in terms of gold jewellery as auspicious consumption in social exchanges and gift giving, social security and gendered status identity are some issues that are examined through new market and consumption practices.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.