Between Islam and Industry: Laboring identities in colonial-era India

Between Islam and Industry: Laboring identities in colonial-era India
Amanda Lanzillo


In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Indian artisans encountered industrial change not only as a technological process, but also as an ideology of modernization, often shaped by colonial oversight but refracted through local religious and cultural discourses. This dissertation asks how artisans including stonemasons, carpenters, and metalsmiths adapted to technical and ideological change in colonial-era South Asia. It analyses what I term “Islamic industrial modernity,” meaning the attempts of regional Muslim elites to integrate technical practices rooted in British colonial preferences with the perceived Islamic history and heritage of trades.

The dissertation argues that artisans were not passive recipients of colonial or regional elite conceptions of industrial modernity, but instead participants in an unequal but adaptive exchange. In the context of Muslim-led “native” or “princely” states—quasi-autonomous polities under British administrative oversight—artisans selectively engaged with state policies of Islamic industrial modernity. Through a study of artisan labor in contexts of contested political and religious authority, the dissertation reorients our understanding of artisan engagement with industrial policy and reevaluates the relationships between labor, religion, and technical change.


Amanda Lanzillo

PhD defended at

Indiana University




South Asia