The transnational spaces of things: South Asian textiles in Britain and The Grammar of Ornament

Philip Crang, Sonia Ashmore

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South Asian, or ‘Indian’, textiles have long been both apparent and appreciated within British culture. They form an important part of what we can see as a British Asian transnational space of things. This paper examines this transnational space and the cultural exchanges that constitute it. The paper starts with some contextual observations on the approach to transnationality that foregrounds matters of material culture. It then focuses more specifically on Owen Jones’s The Grammar of Ornament (first published in 1856), relating its representation and reproduction of Indian patterns to the material collections of South Asian textiles within the Victorian ‘exhibitionary complex’, examining the material transformations made to Indian ornament in these processes, and setting these acquisitions and alterations in the context of Victorian British design culture. By way of conclusion, the paper draws out what this narrative of The Grammar of Ornament says more generally about how we approach transnationality, and specifically transnational space, through things and material culture.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)655-678
JournalEuropean Review of History
Issue number5
Early online date20 Oct 2009
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • transnationalism
  • material culture
  • owen jones

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