This article examines the politics and processes through which a sanitised realm of leatherwork was sought to be created through a regime of technical education in colonial Uttar Pradesh in the early decades of the 20th century.
Shivani Kapoor, Associate Professor, O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, Haryana, India.
The conversion of traditional crafts into modern technological industries was one of the important interventions made by the colonial regime in India, in collaboration with the native class and caste elite, in order to provide a boost to industrial development in the colony.
This transformation was sought to be achieved through ustained investments in the regime of technical and vocational education. Leather, with its strategic importance for export-led trade and warfare, was an important commodity for this proposed modern industrial regime. However, due to the inextricable relationship of leatherwork with caste, the colonial administration had to negotiate through complex issues of sensorial and bodily politics in attempting to create a modern industry out of a ‘disgusting’ and ‘smelly’ manual craft.
Examining archival records and relying on contemporary field research, this article examines the politics and processes through which a sanitised realm of leatherwork was sought to be created through a regime of technical education in colonial Uttar Pradesh in the early decades of the 20th century. In delineating the contours of these tense caste and sensorial relationships, this article also reflects on the eventual failure of this enterprise and consequences of this for understanding the relationship between caste, work and education in the present.
Published in: Review of Development and Change
To read the full article, please click here.