South Asia

Organized Panel Session

2 - The Search for “Tanner’s Blood”: Caste, Senses and Technical Education in Colonial Uttar Pradesh.

Saturday, July 7
4:30 PM - 6:00 PM
Location: Jacaranda II, First Floor

Examining archival records and relying on contemporary field research this paper examines the politics and processes through which a sanitized realm of leatherwork was sought to be created through a regime of technical education in colonial Uttar Pradesh in the early decades of the twentieth century. In delineating contours of these tense caste and sensorial relationships, the paper reflects on the eventual failure of this enterprise for understanding the relationship between caste, work, and education in the present.


The process of instituting an educational and training regime to accompany this transformation in India followed the contours of the debates on industrial, vocational and technical education in the Britain of 19-20th century. One of the main motives behind this enterprise was to train and employ the ‘tanner’, similar to the British chemist, who would manage and run the leather tanneries in the colony. The archetypical figure of the tanner was thought of as an “educated young man”, well versed in English, having advanced degrees in natural sciences and significantly, who should have “tanner’s blood” in him. However, a deep sense of caste-based revulsion and disgust, at not just manual work, but also the manual worker, amongst the upper-castes, combined with the inaccessibility of higher education for the leatherworking castes hinted at the impossibility the production of the ‘tanner’. Paying attention to the class, caste and gender dynamics of this framing of technical education, this paper will delve into the politics of caste, senses, work, and education in India.

Shivani Kapoor

O.P. Jindal Global University, India

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2 - The Search for “Tanner’s Blood”: Caste, Senses and Technical Education in Colonial Uttar Pradesh.



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