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.

Orga­nis­er: Süd­asi­en-Insti­tut (

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