top of page

Artisans of exile

Artisans of exile: The role of traditional craftsmanship in refugee integration and social cohesion.


A Master's thesis presented to the Department of Design for Social Impact in partial fulfilment of the requirements for “Master of Arts” in Design for Social Impact at Paris College of Art, May 2019. 

This paper examines the effects of conflict induced migration on traditional craftsmanship and the vital role it can play in refugee integration and social cohesion. In order to answer this question, the paper makes a critical appraisal of the ongoing research on the importance of Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) in situations of displacement. The paper presents findings from field- based qualitative research conducted with the support of facilitating organisations in Paris working with refugee artisans. The data is collected from open-ended interviews conducted with four refugee artisans, three refugees and in- depth case study of the association L’Art Kaan and the EU funded art program Studio “4Cs, Celebrating Crafts for Social Change at EnsAD, Paris. Apart from the two detailed studies, comparison was drawn by analysing the different approaches to refugee integration adopted by several other local organisations like Agency of Artists in Exile, Finkela by Singa, La Fabrique Nomade and Crafting for Change. The paper shows that migration not only dislocates artisans from familiar community networks and market linkages, it also significantly affects the continuation of their traditional practice owing to change in socio-cultural and economic contexts. The paper reveals the evolving meanings of what constitutes traditional craftsmanship in times of globalization and migration which adds to the complexity of practising and transmitting traditional crafts knowledge  in exile. Lastly, the paper affirms that since ICH is rooted in cultural identity, social and cultural practices, it moves with its owners and can be harnessed for survival and enhancing bonds with host communities.

Photography by Namrata Tiwari for L'Art Kaan.

Photography by Stéphane Verlet-Bottéro for EnsAD, Paris

bottom of page