The Value of Culture in Conflict - Investigating the Sustainable Livelihood Generation for Craftswomen in Azad Kashmir (Pakistan)
AHRC-ESRC Cross Council Theme - PaCCS Inter-disciplinary Research Innovation on Conflict - Innovation Awards
The women of this region work within the crafts sector and produce an intermittent collection of goods that don't always
provide them with sustainable livelihood. This project aims to provide these women with training within crafts, to enhance
their ability to generate incomes. Working with a regional partner, with a track record of working within crafts, allows this
project to build upon existing knowledge and skills. The project builds upon previous experience of training within crafts in
the Srinagar Valley, in India for doctoral research conducted by the PI. Here craftswomen were trained in design and
logistics of trade to enhance their income generation abilities. This project therefore has larger ambitions of conducting a
cross border comparative case study of India and Pakistan, and the Kashmiri women who are rebuilding their lives through
creative, culturally relevant, production of goods.
The Value of Culture in Conflict seeks to establish a framework that will advance the way in which we talk about the value
of culturally valued creative activities within regions of intense conflict. This project specifically looks at the Neelum Valley
region of Azad Kashmir (Pakistan). The first part of the framework will be an examination of the cultural experience of craft
production in itself and its impact on individuals and its benefit to the society and local economy.
The second part of the framework will develop interconnected networks in the region with the partner organisation that has
worked in promoting cultural production with craftswomen's groups and develop training for them that would filter out to
their partner members who are the main beneficiaries of the project. This project relies on local knowledge, tacit
understandings and the will to develop programs that enhance income generation capacities of the women who face the
lived realities of the ongoing conflict.
The project will take as its starting point the different forms of cultural experience, such as, for instance, the aesthetic and
cognitive dimensions of our cultural encounters. This might be seen as analysing the phenomenology of cultural
experiences in order to understand better the benefits uniquely associated with cultural activity. This significant approach
will be conducted alongside exploration of the many other economic and social benefits conventionally associated with
This work would be potentially of use to those organizations that work within development at the grass roots level. It would
also be of use to women's self help groups, and NGOs who promote craft working for income purposes. This work would
also be useful to political scientists who study the shifting understandings of conflict and post conflict. However, in the main,
it is useful to crafts women, who seek to enhance their knowledge and skills in order to boost their income generation
The project builds upon previous experience of training within crafts in
the Srinagar Valley, in India for doctoral research conducted by me. Here craftswomen were trained in design and
logistics of trade to enhance their income generation abilities see doctoral thesis
Dr Neelam Raina
Senior Lecturer Fashion and Interiors
Neelam Raina’s research explores the links between culture, conflict, poverty and development. Her doctoral research analyzed this from the perspective of Muslim women in post-conflict Kashmir and the role crafts plays in generating income for them. Crafts and working within them have changed the lives of women who have borne the impact of the conflict in Kashmir: their new and changed roles as head of their families and income earners has had deep repercussions for them and their families.
Neelam’s current research focuses on how Muslim women in other conflict zones cope and their needs of income generation in unstable environments, with limited skills and resources, and the question of whether vocational training could impact their ability to generate income through culturally relevant activities. She is interested in exploring women in Afghanistan and their survival strategies; and, in reverse, the impact on income generation on their socio-cultural identity.
Neelam simultaneously continues to work in Kashmir with women’s crafts groups, exploring the impact of skill based training on their income and in the long run on the quality of their lives. This work also feeds into development thinking with regards to post-disaster construction as well as the role that design plays in development.
Her research interest lies within the understanding of the potential role of design in economic development of conflict areas, with a special focus on women. Conflict areas and their presence within the broader zone of disaster recovery and reconstruction have been an area of interest and debate that emerged from her doctoral research. She is keen to explore the mechanisms that govern donor priorities while approaching reconstruction, and is also keen to explore the links between ethno-cultural identity, its economics and its importance to reconstruction.
Sondos Baslouh: Islamic Art Elements in Contemporary Art
Noura Bakhet F Alotaibu: The Role of Handicraft within Design: A comparison between Art and Design communities in Saudi Arabia and Europe
‘Design for Developing Contexts’ (Forthcoming)
Chapter Title: The Role of Design in Reconstruction of a post conflict area : Kashmiri Crafts
Editor : Dr James Fathers
Publisher: Ashgate Gower Publishing
‘Post Disaster Reconstruction – Meeting Stakeholder Interests’.
Chapter Title: Economic Regeneration in Areas of Long Term Conflict: The Case of Kashmir
Editors: David Alexander, University of Florence, Italy, Colin Henry Davidson, University of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Andrew Fox, Coventry University, Coventry, UK, Cassidy Johnson, University of
Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Gonzalo Loizzarde, University of Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Publisher: Firenze University Press.
‘Gender and Islam – Perspectives from South Asia’ (Forthcoming)
Chapter Title: ‘Reconstruction of Kashmir and the role of Islam’
Editors: Anna Lindberg, Ph.D, Assistant Professor of History and
Women’s Studies, Pennsylvania State University, USA, Shailaja
Fennell, Ph.D, Faculty at the School of Development Studies, University of Cambridge, UK
Publisher: Routledge Press, London.
Paper Title: Post Conflict Crafts (Panel Organised and presenter)
London, 12th-14th April 2012
Conference Title: British Association of South Asian Studies Annual Conference
Organised by: School of Oriental and African Studies, London.
Paper Title: Power Matters – State Society Interactions in South Asia
Paper Title: Lived Realities of Islam
Edinburgh, 25th – 29th March 2009
Conference Title: British Association of South Asian Studies Annual Conference
Organised by: Centre for South Asian Studies, University of Edinburgh
Paper Title: Kashmir, Crafts and The Path To Reconstruction
Otago, 22 – 25th November 2007
Conference Title: 17th New Zealand Asian Studies Society International Conference, 2007
Organised by: The New Zealand Asian Studies Society and The
University of Otago.
Paper Title: Reconstruction of Kashmir and the role of Islam
Leiden, 27- 30th June 2006
Conference Title: The 19th European Conference on Modern South Asian Studies
Organised by: European Association of South Asian Studies, International Institute of South Asian Studies and Leiden University.
Paper Title: Economic Regeneration in Areas of Violent Long Term Conflict– The Case of Kashmir
Florence, 17-19 May 2006
Conference Title: Third International I-Rec Conference. Post Disaster reconstruction: Meeting Stakeholder Interests.
Organised by: The I-Rec Group at the University of Montreal and CESPRO at the University of Florence.
Lecture: Crafts after Conflict - Economic and Social Reconstruction of Kashmir
Oslo, 16th March 2006
Conference Title: My World - Interaction between Crafts and Design,
Organised by: Norsk Form (Norwegian Architecture and Design Centre), Oslo.
Funding: Sponsored and Invited by Norsk Form, Oslo.