Colloquium: Asian Industrialism, Labour Movements and Cultural Nationalism: Interwar contexts of German trade-union writings on “Working India”. By Prof. Dr. Ravi Ahuja. (Jan 19, 2021)

Depart­ment of Modern South Asi­an Histo­ry Col­lo­qui­um

Asi­an Indus­tria­lism, Labour Move­ments and Cul­tu­ral Natio­na­lism: Inter­war con­texts of Ger­man tra­de-uni­on wri­tings on “Working India”

Prof. Dr. Ravi Ahuja

The 1920s saw a flur­ry of Euro­pean tra­de-uni­on dele­ga­ti­ons hea­ding towards Asia. Among them was a joint dele­ga­ti­on of Bri­tish and Ger­man tex­ti­le workers’ uni­ons that visi­ted India’s indus­tri­al districts in the win­ter mon­ths of 1926/27. This Bri­tish-Ger­man dele­ga­ti­on could not agree on a joint report being split over the issue of colo­nia­lism. The Ger­man book-length report, publis­hed in 1928 as Das werk­tä­ti­ge Indi­en (‘Toi­ling India’) had a most curious recep­ti­on in Ger­ma­ny. A uni­que docu­men­ta­ti­on of the Indian labour land­s­cape and a pas­sio­na­te defen­se of Indian natio­na­lism, the book also dis­play­ed dis­tur­bing ideo­lo­gi­cal ambi­va­len­ces. It even hel­ped to estab­lish lines of com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on, in 1932, bet­ween sec­tions of the social demo­cra­tic Ger­man tra­de uni­on lea­ders­hip and cer­tain sec­tions of the anti­re­pu­bli­can and ultra-natio­na­list extre­me Right. This talk, then, explo­res how the ‘Indian ques­ti­on’ could be con­strued as an area of friend­ly com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on bet­ween appar­ent­ly irre­con­cil­ab­le poli­ti­cal currents.

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2021-01 Col­lo­qui­um fly­er GSA