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Date of Award

9-1997

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Anthropology

Supervisor

William R. Rodman

Abstract

This dissertation is an ethnography of local entrepreneurship in the Tibeto-Nepalese carpet industry in Kathmandu, Ward 6 (Boudha) and the Jorpati Village Development Committee, Nepal. This industry achieved dramatic growth during the last decade, after European carpet buyers developed with Tibetan refugee exporters a hybrid 'Tibetan' carpet that combined European design with Tibetan weaving technique. As a result, thousands of Tibetan and Nepalese entrepreneurs came to occupy a new economic niche that was a creation of global commercial forces. This study is an analysis of survey and ethnographic data from among three hundred carpet manufactories. My primary research consultants were the entrepreneurs (saahu-ji) who operated at a time when the industry was subject to international criticism about the abuse of child labour. Many earlier reports claimed that up to one half of all carpet labourers were children, but I found that by 1995 they were employed only infrequently, as a market downturn placed a premium on skilled weavers. The 'off season', as this market reduction is locally known, and the problem of child labour provides a temporal frame for this analysis. For a theoretical framework, Pierre Bourdieu's 'economy of practices' is used to interpret the data; in particular, I use the concept of social capital to explore the reproduction of ethnic, regional and kinship-based networks in the carpet weaving labour market. Carpet entrepreneurs view weaving labour as a risky resource that requires socially legitimate expertise to master. Child labour is often thought to be such a resource in developing craft industries, but in this case child labour was more an artifact of European demand than a traditional exploitative practice.

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