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UNIT 21: Colonial Identities

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PERSPECTIVES ON THE PAST

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Transcript of Audio Clip

Anand A. Yang, University of Washington

The story of kashmiri shawls is an example of colonial appropriation of an indigenous item and practice. Its trade flourished well before the British arrived in the Indian subcontinent. Shawls were used as ritual objects given by elites to one another. The British became familiar with it and began to be interested in its use as well as in its trade. They even started to reproduce the shawls themselves, replicating its motifs and designs.

Initially, the British versions were not well received, although the Indian shawls continued to be much prized. They were used as souvenirs. They were much coveted. Even considered a valued inheritance in some families. Napoleon is said to have bought them for his wives. Queen Victoria herself gave them as gifts. They were used in the United States as well.

Kashmiri shawls were much appreciated by visitors to South Asia. It is one of many items that has spread around the world as a result of colonialism. Other examples include pajamas, jodhpurs, and of course every Englishman's favorite takeout food, curry.



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