Associate Professor of History Lisa Trivedi is the author of a new book, Clothing Gandhi’s Nation: Homespun and Modern India (Indiana University Press). According to the publisher: In Clothing Gandhi’s Nation, Lisa Trivedi explores the making of one of modern India’s most enduring political symbols: khadi, or home-spun, home-woven cloth.
The image of Mohandas K. Gandhi clothed simply in a loincloth, plying a spinning wheel, is familiar around the world, as is the sight of Gandi, Jawaharlal Nehru and other political leaders dressed in 'Gandhi caps'and khadi shirts. Less widely understood today is how these images associated the wearers with the swadeshi movement – which advocated the exclusive consumption of indigenous goods to establish India’s autonomy from Great Britain – or how khadi was used to create a visual expression of national identity after Independence. Bringing together social history and the study of visual culture, Trivedi tells the story of khadi as both symbol and commodity, product and style of dress.
"Gandhi argued that India’s self-rule (swaraj) could only be achieved if it became self-sufficient and he urged people to take up spinning and wear only home-spun clothing. Khadi came to be used across British India as a symbol in public processions and demonstrations. Trivedi provides the first institutional history of the organizations that oversaw the development, production and sale of khadi. She describes the swadeshi movement’s various techniques for popularizing textile production – posters, traveling exhibitions and tours – as an attempt to bridge differences of language, literacy region and religion. She goes on to examine the place of khadi in the life of the nation after independence. Welters wore it to identify with the less fortunate, but always with some ambivalence about giving up the markers of their own status. The new national calendar was punctuated by holidays with flag-hoisting ceremonies surrounding the khadi charka, or spinning-wheel flag. In India today, the use of the flag is still debated, while khadi clothing has experienced a revival among the fashion-conscious. Written in a clear and narrative style, Clothing Gandhi’s Nation provides a cultural history of how this everyday object came to represent independent India."