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Karuna Dietrich Wielenga

Email: [email protected]

Karuna is historian with a broad interest in the economic and social history of modern south Asia. Her work is grounded in the history of labour, with a special focus on the informal sector. Her doctoral dissertation explored the changing world of handloom weavers in south India – and the economic restructuring of the industry – from the early nineteenth to the mid twentieth century. Prior to joining APU she was a Newton International Fellow at the University of Oxford. Her post-doctoral research focused on the historical emergence of the informal sector in India, looking at the complex interactions and conflicts between labour, capital and the state in a variety of industries between 1930 and 1970.

Academic Qualifications

Ph.D, University of Delhi.


At APU she is part of the School of Liberal Studies and teaches common curriculum courses such as Understanding India and courses in the History major for the undergraduate programme.

Publications and Writings

“The emergence of the informal sector: Labour legislation and politics in south India, 1940-1960”, forthcoming in Modern Asian Studies.

“Repertoires of Resistance: The handloom weavers of south India, c. 1800-1960” in the International Review of Social History, No. 61 (2016), pp. 423-458.

“The geography of weaving in nineteenth century south India” in the Indian Economic and Social History Review (IESHR), Vol. 52 (2) (June 2015), pp. 147-184.

“Caste and Work: Weaving in 19th century South India” in Sabyasachi Bhattacharya (ed), Towards a New History of Work (New Delhi: Tulika Publishers, 2014), pp. 97-120.

'Formalising the informal: What's in it for workers?', The Wire, 8 February 2018.

‘You can’t go back: Migrant workers told in Tamil Nadu’, The Wire, 9 May 2020.

On-going Projects

Her book titled “Weaving Histories: The Transformation of the Handloom Industry in South India, c. 1800-1960” is being published by the British Academy and is expected to appear in October 2020.

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