Sowparnika Balaswaminathan

Ph.D. Student, Anthropology

Sowparnika Balaswaminathan is an international student from India who is researching the ethnographic and archaeological aspects of south Indian bronzes, popularly referred to as "Chola bronzes". By utilizing anthropological interviewing and sociological censuses, Sowparnika is translating a narrative of the bronzecasters who make these bronzes. Residing in a village in Tamilnadu, India, called Swamimalai, these bronzecasters identify themselves as an artisan caste called Vishvakarma and trace their lineages to master craftsmen from the time of the Chola Empire (9-13th century). Sowparnika is exploring the human agents who create these bronzes, and also the non-human agents that influence how bronzes are valued - governmental institutions such as schools, ideological institutions like museums, as well as the bronzes themselves. Museums all over the world hold bronzes dating from 8th century onwards. An archaeological study of bronzes will look into the conservation and exhibition process that is born out of the value seen in them. This includes traditional chemical treatments as well as more experimental virtual 3-dimensional possibilities of conserving and presenting specific, unique bronzes. She is carrying out her doctoral research under the direction of Prof. Tom Levy as part of the UCSD Calit2 Cyber-Archaeology unit. Sowparnika has a Masters in International Relations from Madras University, India and interned at DakshinaChitra, an archaeological museum in Chennai from 2007-2008. She also worked with the National Folklore Support Centre, Chennai, on short-term projects.