Josefine Hoffmann


Vocational training in the Indian steel and engineering industries: histories of Indo-German co-operation, c. 1950–1989.


This PhD the­sis is sit­u­at­ed with­in the the­mat­ic com­plex of entan­gled West Ger­man and Indi­an social and eco­nom­ic his­to­ries. It iden­ti­fies and fol­lows bilat­er­al voca­tion­al train­ing co-oper­a­tions in the steel and engi­neer­ing indus­tries on their tra­jec­to­ries through plan­ning and imple­men­ta­tion. Even­tu­al­ly, the project’s aim is to trace the co-oper­a­tions’ impact on the Indi­an indus­tri­al labour mar­ket. Because of chang­ing glob­al and nation­al pol­i­tics, the investigation’s time frame ranges from the ear­ly 1950s until 1989.

Claim­ing phil­an­thropy and altru­ism, the Fed­er­al Repub­lic of Ger­many invest­ed in devel­op­ment and tech­ni­cal aid in recent­ly inde­pen­dent India, where mod­ern­iza­tion of the indus­tri­al sec­tor was an impor­tant fac­tor in the man­i­fes­ta­tion of a post­colo­nial nation. For both, India and the FRG, co-oper­a­tions in the steel and engi­neer­ing indus­tries as a mod­ern state’s show­case indus­tries were expect­ed to have var­i­ous finan­cial and strate­gic ben­e­fits – polit­i­cal­ly main­ly in the Cold War con­text of India’s non-align­ment and the FRG’s Hall­stein doc­trine.

Embed­ded with­in these state polit­i­cal posi­tions and new edu­ca­tion­al schemes of inde­pen­dent India, sev­er­al co-oper­a­tions on the com­pa­ny lev­el emerged. Some of them were ini­ti­at­ed by pri­vate economies, some were in fact rely­ing on finan­cial sup­port by the gov­ern­ments. These diverse and part­ly con­flict­ing inter­ests, that result­ed in hier­ar­chies and plat­i­tudes by the dif­fer­ent actors, rep­re­sent a frame­work for this PhD project. The project exam­ines the co-oper­a­tions in the con­text of voca­tion­al train­ing, appren­tice­ship and knowl­edge trans­fer on the work­ers’ lev­el: one might for exam­ple ask, what hap­pened to the Ger­man dual voca­tion­al train­ing sys­tem, con­sist­ing of a com­bi­na­tion of the­o­ry and prac­tice, applied to an Indi­an con­text.

In fact, voca­tion­al train­ing co-oper­a­tions had tak­en two dif­fer­ent forms in the Indo-Ger­man con­text by the 1960s: Either, Indi­ans were sent to the FRG to be trained in the com­pa­nies there, or, a much pre­ferred option, Ger­mans went to India in order to be „experts” and train the Indi­an com­pa­ny work­ers on the spot. The lat­ter option also includ­ed instruct­ing high­er rank­ing Indi­an employ­ees on how to train new work­ers. How did these two very dis­tinct sit­u­a­tions affect the grow­ing indus­tri­al labour mar­ket in the two above men­tioned indus­tries on both the insti­tu­tion­al and the indi­vid­ual lev­el?

While in the mak­ing of a lib­er­al mar­ket, social and indus­tri­al mod­ern­iza­tion was seen to be inter­causal, invest­ment in „human cap­i­tal” also stressed the impor­tance of prac­ti­cal skills in con­trast to aca­d­e­m­ic knowl­edge. The Ger­man steel and engi­neer­ing indus­tries were rely­ing on skilled work­ers, so called „Fachar­beit­er”, who were doing the work which in many oth­er coun­tries only an engi­neer was able or allowed to do. Col­lab­o­ra­tions under these pre­con­di­tions informed the Indi­an (and maybe the Ger­man) dis­course of skill, knowl­edge, know-how et cetera, thus affect­ed the labour mar­ket and there­by ques­tions of employ­ment, un-employ­ment and secu­ri­ty for many work­ers.

The dis­ser­ta­tion uncov­ers these entan­gled his­to­ries and their rel­e­vance, using main­ly Ger­man archival hold­ings in pri­vate com­pa­nies’ as well as pub­lic eco­nom­ic archives, there­by mak­ing the archives vis­i­ble for the inten­tions of the MIDA project.