UCL Anthropology


Prasad Boradkar

Prasad Boradkar

UCL Email: prasad.boradkar.11@ucl.ac.uk
Websites: http://prasadboradkar.com/
Year of start: 2012 (Part time, remote)
Supervisors: Dr Adam Drazin and Dr Suzanne Küchler
Subject: Culture, Materials and Design
Fieldsite: Pune, India

PhD Research

The Social Life of Copper in Tambat Ali, Pune, India [working title]

In the heart of the city of Pune in Western India, roughly 30 to 40 copper craftspeople and their families live and work in an area called tambat ali (coppersmith lane). In the local language Marathi, the word tamba is copper, and tambat refers to the coppersmith. These craftspeople have been making water containers, kitchen utensils, religious artefacts and other decorative items with hand-beaten copper for over 300 years. The tambat craft is recognizable primarily because of the striking hammer tone texture that the craftspeople beat on to the surface of the artefacts using a variety of highly specialized tools. The techniques, skill and tools of making these objects have been passed down through generations, but many craftspeople have expressed concern about how long this tradition will survive in future years. Over the last few years, the number of new apprentices willing to learn the craft has dwindled as the children of these families are choosing to get formal college education and are entering other professions. In addition, the rising prices of copper (fuelled by the global need for the material for a variety of electrical applications) and the advent of other cheaper materials have increased prices of these artefacts, thereby reducing demand. The copper craft community of tambat ali is facing several economic, technological and social pressures due to these changes. And though their trade today is equated to craft, their goods are marginalized due to the predominance of stainless steel and high-speed, mass production technologies of stamping and drawing that can convert sheet metal into product in seconds. I am interested in examining the significance of copper to the people living and working in tambat ali. My research is guided by questions of the role this material plays in shaping biographical relations and kinship in the community as well as the identities and personhood of the tambat. This study is also about design. What does design mean in the Indian context and especially in tambat ali? What is the nature of the interaction between traditional craft conventions and contemporary design practices, the craftspeople and the designers in tambat ali? How are their mutual knowledge systems (the technique of craft and design thinking) shared and what are the benefits of the exchange to the groups? What is the value of a traditional artefact (such as the pimpa or a traditional water container) and that of the contemporary designed product (such as a tea light)? What are the politics of power in the engagement among the designers, government bodies, NGOs and the copper craftsmen, and what role do caste, gender, religion, and economic status play in the relationship? These questions guide my study.

Research interests

  • Design theory
  • Theories of things
  • Material culture
  • India studies



  • Designing Things: A Critical Introduction to the Culture of Objects (Berg 2010)
  • Encountering Things: Design and Theories of Things (Bloomsbury 2017), co-edited with Leslie Atzmon

Book Chapters

  • “Design Encounters with Things” in Encountering Things: Design and Theories of Things, edited by Atzmon, L. and Boradkar, P. (Bloomsbury, 2017)
  • “Agency and Counteragency: A Story of Copper” in Encountering Things: Design and Theories of Things, edited by Atzmon, L. and Boradkar, P. (Bloomsbury, 2017)
  • “Big Things: The Vibrant Culture of Boomboxes” co-authored with Owerko, L. in Encountering Things: Design and Theories of Things, edited by Atzmon, L. and Boradkar, P. (Bloomsbury, 2017)
  • “Design+Anthropology: An Emergent Discipline” in The Routledge Companion to Design Studies, edited by Sparke, P. and Fisher, F. (Routledge 2016)
  • “Visual Research in Design” in The Sage Handbook of Visual Research Methods, edited by Margolis, E. and Pauwels, L. (Sage, 2016)
  • “Design as Problem-Solving” in The Oxford Handbook of Interdisciplinarity, edited by Frodeman, R., Thompson Klein, J. & Mitcham, C., (Oxford University Press, 2010)

Special Issues of Journals

  • Co-edited an issue of the journal Innovation, with Lee Gutkind, titled “Design and Storytelling”. This is a collection of articles examining the role of narrative and creative non-fiction in design. (January 2017)
  • Co-edited an issue of the journal Creative Non-Fiction, with Lee Gutkind and Adelheid Fischer, titled “Learning from Nature”. This is a collection of essays relating to the topic of biomimicry, or innovation inspired by nature. (September 2017)
  • Co-edited a special issue of the journal, Design & Culture, along with Leslie Atzmon, titled “Design and Thing Theory”. This is a collection of articles that examines the significance of Bill Brown’s essay “Thing Theory” in the context of design. (May 2014)

Presentations & Conferences

  • October 2017. “Curiosity, Creativity and Innovation”, TEDx, Colorado Springs, CO
  • September 2017 (Keynote Address). “Biomimicry and the Circular Economy”, Chartered Institutes of Waste Management, Edinburgh, Scotland
  • February 2017. “Biomimicry and the Circular Economy”, ARPA-E, Washington, DC
  • December 2016. “Life-Centered Design”, Design Miami, Miami, FL
  • September 2016. “Life-Centered Design”, Converge, Los Angeles, CA
  • May 2016. “Design Strategy”, Panel Discussion and Presentation, Duke Kunshan University, Kunshan, China
  • April 2016 (Keynote Address). “Beyond Anthropocentrism: Life-Centered Design”, International Symposium on the Study of Biomimicry, Leticia-Amazonas, Colombia
  • April 2016. “Design Thinking”, ArtPlace Creative Placemaking, Phoenix, AZ
  • March 2016. “Obsolescence”, The e-Waste Tsunami, Parsons The New School of Design, New York, NY
  • March 2016. “Life-Centered Design”, Big Island Big Ideas, The Big Island, Hawai’i

Teaching Experience

I have been teaching design at Arizona State University since August 2000

Education History

  • August 1991 – December 1993. Master of Arts, Industrial Design (MA), The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA
  • September 1984 – July 1986. Master of Design, Industrial Design (MDes), Industrial Design Centre, Powai, India
  • June 1979 – December 1983. Bachelor of Engineering, Mechanical (BE), Maharajah Sayajirao University, Baroda, India