Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Book Chapter "Modern Science and Indigenous Techniques: Subalternity of Knowledge Production in India" by Madhav Govind of CSSP

Modern Science and Indigenous Techniques: Subalternity of Knowledge Production in India
by Madhav Govind
Govind, Madhav (2014). Modern Science and Indigenous Techniques: Subalternity of Knowledge Production in India. In Ashok K. Pankaj & Ajit K. Pandey (Eds.) Subalternity, Exclusion and Social Change in India (pp. 118-148). New Delhi: Cambridge University Press India, 2014. ISBN: 9789382993247.

Introduction: The debates on the indigenous knowledge and practices have mainly focused on how to get the indigenous people acquainted with modern scientific and technological systems and very little effort has been made to make modern scientists to understand the indigenous techniques and practices which could provide important clue to find solutions to many of the current problems. Based on the analysis of occupational roles of two-service castes - Washerman and Barber - this chapter explores the importance of indigenous techniques and practices in the development of modern science. The analysis shows that discourse on knowledge production in India has centered mainly on Hindu religious texts and has overlooked/undermined the importance of subaltern techniques and practices. The chapter shows that many traditional practices and techniques of marginal people in Western societies triggered the development of modern science and technology and their position improved with it; while In India the marginal people despite having almost the same level of expertise and technical skills got further marginalized and subjugated along with their techniques and practices. In tracing the presence of science and technology in India, there were two groups of scholars: one dominated by the colonial perspective who viewed India as a 'tabula rasa' onto which modern science and technology had to be inscribed as part of the colonial civilizing mission. The other group of scholars' acknowledged the philosophical and theoretical ingenuity of native people but relied mostly on the Hindu sacred literature to prove their arguments. As Orientalists, they mastered a number of classical Indian languages, which enabled them to study and translate a wide range of ancient texts to underscore the natives' achievements whether it was in the field of medicine, chemistry, mathematics, astronomy, agriculture and metallurgy. In this debate, the indigenous practices and techniques evolved and used by lower sections of the society have not been recognized as a precursor/constituent of many modern techniques and practices.

About this Book: This book emphasizes the need for adopting an integrated approach to understand the concepts of subalternity, exclusion and social change in India. It also explores the dynamic relations between these three concepts, instead of treating them as unconnected and discrete social facts. The contributors address some important questions of political economy: Why are subalterns, subalterns, and how does a society produce and reproduce them? Are subalterns a historical construction, and, if so, what are those historical forces and how have they produced subalterns? Also, are there any contemporary forces of subaltern reproduction? What are those forces and how do they operate? How do we place the differentially positioned social groups within the larger subaltern category? The essays in this volume capture ideology, knowledge and power as forces of subaltern reproduction in Indian society, and map the dominant trajectories of emancipation and assertion adopted by different subaltern social groups. Contributors show how subalterns are negotiating emancipation amidst continued oppression, subjugation and atrocities.

Further Details: http://www.cambridgeindia.org/showbookdetails.asp?ISBN=9789382993247

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