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Informal knowledge exchanges under complex social relations: A network study of handloom clusters in Kerala, India

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Author Info

  • Cowan, Robin

    ()
    (UNU-MERIT / MGSOG, Maastricht University, and BETA, Université de Strasbourg)

  • Kamath, Anant

    ()
    (UNU-MERIT / MGSOG, Maastricht University, and University of Georgia, United States)

Abstract

When agents use informal interaction to exchange knowledge, their production relations may develop as emergent properties of their social relations and may exhibit homophily. The Saliyar community cluster in India is an archetype of this. This cluster’s experience is investigated on how its thickly homophilous networks have steered it from dominance to decline, in the market for a product which calls for constant improvement of knowhow, under unchanging production technology. A network analysis of the Saliyars community cluster — in comparison with the networks of the communities in a cluster of a similar population at Payattuvila, which has surged ahead of the Saliyar Cluster in performance in handloom weaving — provides evidence that it is not simply social embeddedness alone, but the homophily in socially embedded links that are detrimental to clusters dependent upon informal knowledge exchanges. Hence, we provide evidence that social embeddedness is not as detrimental unless combined with homophily. The conceptual ambit of embeddedness has to broaden out to recognise that social relations come in various ‘homophilies’. This has many policy implications too as it involves studying embeddedness and homophily in rural traditional technology clusters intensively involving community social capital; such clusters being ubiquitous in India and whose experiences have not been scrutinised in this perspective.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by United Nations University - Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT) in its series MERIT Working Papers with number 031.

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Date of creation: 2012
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Handle: RePEc:unm:unumer:2012031

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Keywords: Clusters; Handloom; Networks; Social Embeddedness; Homophily; Kerala;

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  1. Sergio Currarini & Paolo Pin & Matthew O. Jackson, 2007. "An Economic Model of Friendship: Homophily, Minorities and Segregation," Working Papers 2007_20, Department of Economics, University of Venice "Ca' Foscari".
  2. Borjas, George J, 1995. "Ethnicity, Neighborhoods, and Human-Capital Externalities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(3), pages 365-90, June.
  3. Borjas, George J, 1992. "Ethnic Capital and Intergenerational Mobility," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(1), pages 123-50, February.
  4. Bianchi, Patrizio & Bellini, Nicola, 1991. "Public policies for local networks of innovators," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 20(5), pages 487-497, October.
  5. Ben Dankbaar, 2004. "Embeddedness, context, proximity and control," European Planning Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 12(5), pages 691-701, July.
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Cited by:
  1. Nour, Samia Satti Osman Mohamed, 2013. "The importance and impacts of knowledge at the macro-micro levels in the Arab Gulf countries," MERIT Working Papers 016, United Nations University - Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).

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