Throughout this work, I have examined the nature and organization of fourteenth- through seventeenth-century South Indian craft production from a frame intended to allow broader considerations of the Vijayanagara empire and period. The study of craft production provides a valuable window into questions of state and institutional organization and control, as well as into social life, belief systems, economic structures, and their change over time and variability over space. I have argued that craft production is a social act, and that craft producers and the goods they produce are deeply embedded within broader social, economic, political, and ideological contexts.
The crafting of goods is in a significant sense the crafting of culture. Human experiences and knowledge are shaped and defined by the material world that we inhabit. The spaces we move through, the garments we wear, the ornaments that adorn our bodies, and the tools we use to transform the physical world, are integral to how we define ourselves as individuals and as members of social groups, and to how we perceive and characterize others. Much cultural knowledge based in the material is unquestioned and “embodied,” constituting basic core understandings of the world. Beyond this realm (Bourdieu's habitus; 1977), humans consciously use and manipulate the material world to affect their positions within their social universe. The production and use of goods thus assumes centrality in discussions of social relations, polity, identity, and belief, as well as economy.