The Prison Industrial Complex: Fabricating Lives, Fabricating Products in Colonial India

Anand A Yang

University of Washington,  United States

My paper examines the ways in which prisoners in some Indian jails were employed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to work in a number of different industries, including handicrafts, in part to equip inmates with skills for their post-penal lives and in part to lessen the government’s costs of their upkeep.  My focus will also be on why colonial authorities chose to have prisoners develop certain kinds of products and not others and what these choices reveal about British understandings of the workings of arts and crafts in India.


Anand A. Yang, Professor of International Studies and History, is the author of several books, including two recent works, an edited and co-translated volume on Thirteen Months in China and a forthcoming book on Empire of Convicts. His articles have appeared in many national and international journals.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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