The Value of Traditional Knowledge to Women in Fragile Places

The Value of Traditional Knowledge to Women in Fragile Places

CISA Speaker Series

Monday, March 1, 2021

10:00 AM - 11:00 AM (Pacific Time)

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My work focuses on the visual and material cultures of regions to understand the shifts caused therein by the conflicts. I use a cultural mapping methodology to explore how communities of women, across different conflict contexts rely on coded and tacit knowledge to rebuild their lives. This knowledge and its related skills are often situated and specific to the community. However, this knowledge is key to understanding the dynamics of conflict and its impact on women. Larger numbers of communities than ever before are on the move and displaced from their homes, however they carry their culture with them, often in the shape of visual and material belongings, language and narratives. This culture and traditional knowledge is essential in defining not just their identity and its related politics but has implications for where they will go in the future. My work aims to understand these cultures to explore their potential as the starting point for discussions about identity, ambitions of peace, understandings and reconstructions of their futures and also the turning point at which cultures are identified as pre-conflict and shift and change as time goes by. Most of my work builds bridges between academic projects and real time development activity through partnering with industry or commercial organisations.




Dr. Neelam Raina is an Associate Professor of Design and Development at Middlesex University, London. She is also works for United Kingdom Research and Innovation as the Challenge Leader for the Global Challenges Research Fund’s Conflict and Security Portfolio

Neelam’s research interests include conflict, security, peace building, material cultures, gender, and livelihood generation. She works mainly in South Asia with a focus on Kashmir where she has conducted primary research over the last two decades both in Indian and Pakistan administered Kashmir. The Women, Peace and Security Agenda is key to Neelam’s work. Her research seeks to foreground voices of vulnerable and marginalised women within fragile, conflict affected areas.

Dr. Raina has led several funded research projects which examine material and social practices through which Muslim women in conflict areas reproduce themselves on a daily and generational basis and through which the social relations and material bases of capitalism are renewed to understand both the costs of conflict and the connections between vastly different sites of production. Her work allows connections to be built between, creative home-based workers who are largely seen as peripheral, to development economics, and on the fringes of formal employment and contributors to GDP; to the larger notions of peace building, countering and preventing violent extremism, poverty spirals and conflict theory through culturally significant, socially relevant practices. Raina has also worked in Kurdistan and Southern Iraq, on the impact of the long-standing conflict in Iraq from the perspective of the Iraqi and Kurdish craftspeople. Her research looked at socio-economic changes in Iraq’s craft tradition, with a special focus on the craftswomen of Samawah in the south and Erbil in the Kurdish north Raina’s work explores notions of healing, trauma, peace and reflection through the embodied practices of making, using material culture and traditional knowledge as the underpinning for approaching violence and peace building and for sustainable income generation, that in turn could contribute towards socio-economic reconstruction and post-conflict development.

Neelam has a Ph.D. in Design and Development, and a Masters in Design and Manufacture from De Montfort University, Leicester. She also has a post graduate degree in Textile Design from NIFT in New Delhi. Raina did an undergraduate degree in History (Hons) at Lady Shri Ram College for Women, Delhi University and is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and also holds a Post Graduate Certificate in Higher Education. She has been a Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics at the Centre for Women, Peace and Security. She is an editor for the International Journal of Traditional Arts, and her new work ‘Creative Economies of Culture in South Asia – Performers and Craftspeople’ comes out in 2021. Raina serves on the strategic advisory boards of research think tanks and multi donor projects as well as on advisory boards of development aid projects.

Her most current research can be viewed here







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Download file: Neelam-Raina-t0-0el.pdf

Sponsor(s): Center for India and South Asia

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