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Visually Mapping the "Nation": Swadeshi Politics in Nationalist India, 1920-1930

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Journal of Asian Studies

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In the early years of mass nationalism in colonial South Asia, Mohandas Gandhi inaugurated a swadeshi (indigenous goods) movement, which aimed to achieve swaraj, or “home rule,” by establishing India's economic self-sufficiency from Britain. Invoking an earlier movement of the same name, Gandhi created a new form of swadeshi politics that encouraged the production and exclusive consumption of hand-spun, hand-woven cloth called khadi. The campaign to popularize this movement took many forms, including the organization of exhibitions that demonstrated cloth production and sold khadi goods. On the occasion of one such exhibition in 1927, Gandhi explained the significance of exhibitions for the movement:

[The exhibition] is designed to be really a study for those who want to understand what this khadi movement stands for, and what it has been able to do. It is not a mere ocular demonstration to be dismissed out of our minds immediately. … It is not a cinema. It is actually a nursery where a student, a lover of humanity, a lover of his own country may come and see things for himself.

(“The Exhibition,” Young India, 14 July 1927)

Hamilton Areas of Study

Asian Studies, History