Building Princely States: Mobile Intermediaries, Labor, and Islamic Heritage 1857-1915
Panel:09 | Crossing Boundaries of British India: New Perspectives on Connected Histories of Princely States
Timeslot:07/27 | 15:30-15:50 UTC+2/CEST
This paper analyzes the technical practices of architecture and construction in three Muslim-led princely states– Hyderabad, Bhopal, and Rampur. These three states were linked by employment networks that drew in Indian technical intermediaries like engineers, draftsmen, overseers, and lead masons. Mobile intermediaries evolved new technical, aesthetic, and material practices that connected not only the architectural styles, but also the labor regimes of construction between these states. The paper focuses on the labor and technical work at projects of monumental Islamic architecture, including mosques, tombs, and shrines, as well as repairs to older Muslim monuments in Hyderabad, Bhopal, and Rampur. Despite divergent ideologies, in all three states trained technical intermediaries applied materials and technologies associated with industrial and architectural modernity to the re-imagination of regional Islamic heritage. I draw on recent scholarship that has analyzed princely state reorientations of colonial modernities, as well as work on the architecture of the three states. To understand how concepts of architectural modernity and Islamic heritage evolved in tandem between states, I use state records reflecting the employment of mobile intermediaries and use of materials and technologies of construction. In addition, I analyze overlooked local construction, engineering, and masonry manuals, written primarily in Urdu between the mid nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I argue that even when technical intermediaries themselves did not move between states, they shared technical practices and labor expectations codified in this corpus of educational literature.