Nationalism in India, as we see from the wheel in the centre of the flag, and as we know from the story of Gandhi, has been constructed partly on the economics and symbolism of textiles. Emma Tarlo has catalogued the development of ‘national dress’, and state governments in India enshrine certain kinds of textile production as national culture by propping up handloom co-operatives. This text of identity and cloth has become so accepted that Dipesh Chakrabarty now reports we can tell a politician on the make by his hypocritically rigorous adherence to khaddar wear. Such a national text/ile overlooks a different story of cloth in one non-British colony, India. Its politics reveal how, nationally, the symbolism of Gandhian homespun has masked the perpetuation of caste discrimination.
Azhagarasan, R, Interrogating Indian nationalism in the postcolonial context, Kunapipi, 26(2), 2004.