Document Type


Date of Award



Weavers, India, Kānchipuram, Weaving

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Owen Lynch

Second Advisor

Michael M. Horowitz

Third Advisor

Brian L. Foster


This study is concerned with the effect a planned system of economic growth and the development of the co-operative movement as national policy has had on one local group of people for whom these policies have been devised. The silk weavers of Kanchipuram, a city located in Madras State, are the group selected for study. The research is directed toward answering four questions: (1) what is weaving as a way of life; (2) how, or to what extent, does the occupation itself structure the social relations of those involved in it; in particular, what kind of relationship exists between caste as a basic unit in Indian society and weaving as an occupation; (3) how did the introduction of co-operatives as an organizational form change the way of life of the weavers, both in terms of the structure of the industry and in terms of weaving as a way of life; and (4) to what extent and why are co-operatives successful or failures?

We find that although weaving is an occupation centered around the home and family, most families over a lifetime are not self-sufficient in terms of personnel or equipment needed to carry on the occupation. The result is an interdependence among weaving families and concentrations of weavers in neighborhoods in the city. Weaving is traditionally a caste occupation, but the caste composition of the weavers is diverse. The requirements of the occupation have a leveling effect on the different castes involved in it and caste identity is not a basis for most social interaction among weavers.

The weavers in Kanchipuram actively sought the establishment of co-operatives and the co-operative movement has been successful. The introduction of co-operatives has had economic, political, and social effects. The allocative structure of the industry has changed and weavers now have greater control. Through the political involvement of the co-operatives, weavers have been integrated into politics and gained access to government officials. Co-operative activities have brought the weavers out into the All-Indian wider society in which they are participating.