“Copy despatches to India on the results of the final examinations” – a somewhat dry description of a file from the Public Works Department of the India Office. It obscures the fact that the contents offer fascinating glimpses into the world of late Victorian technical education and the talents (or lack thereof) of the young men who underwent training in Britain before taking up positions in India. They passed through various courses of instruction at the Royal Indian Engineering College at Cooper’s Hill in Surrey, which opened in 1872.”
Odile Henry, Mathieu Ferry
Educating the engineering elite.
Classifications and classification categories in the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs)
Since Independence Engineering studies have been seen as a force capable of transforming Indian society, with advanced technology being central to the development model. The Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) hence particularly embody the values of modern India. Exempted from the application of reservation policies to start with, IITs tend to be perceived as places that produce a meritocratic elite, freed from the contingencies related to caste and their political exploitation. The success of former IITs students in the US computer industry in the 1980s and the liberalization of the Indian economy in the 1990s tend to make IITs a “brand” associated with Indian global competitiveness and the values of a private sector disembedded from the social and political spheres.
Based on an ongoing fieldwork in one of these technical elite education institutions, we will question this meritocratic model.
The analysis of the process of admission, orientation towards streams (degrees and discipline), selection during the training, and placement on the labor market, highlights the types of hierarchy that exist within the student population and the trends that contribute to the global reproduction of social inequalities.
Part of Oxford India Short Introductions
Surinder S. Jodhka & Aseem Prakash
Who exactly are the middle classes in India? What role do they play in contemporary Indian politics and society, and what are their historical and cultural moorings? The authors of this volume argue that the middle class has largely been understood as an ‘income/ economic category’, but the term has a broader social and conceptual history, globally as well as in India. It is this conceptual and social history of the Indian middle class that the book analytically elaborates.
By Shirish B. Patel
When selecting a lawyer or a doctor, no one asks for competitive bidding, and then awards the work to the lowest bidder. But this is how government and some private organisations select their civil engineering consultants.
On the death of passionate civil engineering, Shirish B Patel in Perspectives, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 51, Issue No. 20, 14 May, 2016 :
By Ian J. Kerr, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada
The publication of Ritika Prasad’s (2015b) Tracks of Change: Railways and Everyday Life in Colonial India marks the maturation of a trend present in the historiography of South Asian railways since the turn of the current millennium. This trend has seen some historians give much more attention to the multidimensional ways in which the railways were central to the making of modern India. Some of the new studies mentioned below are in the form of recently completed PhD theses which, I expect—because they all represent impressive examples of interesting scholarship—to emerge as good books during the next couple of years or so. As an impressive corpus of new research and writing the books, articles and theses that populate this trend deserve to be labelled a new history of India’s railways.
Naval, aeronautic, and mechanical engineers played a powerful part in the military buildup of Japan in the early and mid-twentieth century. They belonged to a militaristic regime and embraced the importance of their role in it. Takashi Nishiyama examines the impact of war and peace on technological transformation during the twentieth century. He is the first to study the paradoxical and transformative power of Japan’s defeat in World War II through the lens of engineering.
Nishiyama asks: How did authorities select and prepare young men to be engineers? How did Japan develop curricula adequate to the task (and from whom did the country borrow)? Under what conditions? What did the engineers think of the planes they built to support Kamikaze suicide missions? But his study ultimately concerns the remarkable transition these trained engineers made after total defeat in 1945. How could the engineers of war machines so quickly turn to peaceful construction projects such as designing the equipment necessary to manufacture consumer products? Most important, they developed new high-speed rail services, including the Shinkansen Bullet Train. What does this change tell us not only about Japan at war and then in peacetime but also about the malleability of engineering cultures?
Nishiyama aims to counterbalance prevalent Eurocentric/Americentric views in the history of technology. Engineering War and Peace in Modern Japan, 1868–1964 sets the historical experience of one country’s technological transformation in a larger international framework by studying sources in six different languages: Chinese, English, French, German, Japanese, and Spanish. The result is a fascinating read for those interested in technology, East Asia, and international studies. Nishiyama’s work offers lessons to policymakers interested in how a country can recover successfully after defeat.
The Technological Indian
“In the late 1800s, Indians seemed to be a people left behind by the Industrial Revolution, dismissed as “not a mechanical race.” Today Indians are among the world’s leaders in engineering and technology. In this international history spanning nearly 150 years, Ross Bassett—drawing on a unique database of every Indian to graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology between its founding and 2000—charts their ascent to the pinnacle of high-tech professions.
As a group of Indians sought a way forward for their country, they saw a future in technology. Bassett examines the tensions and surprising congruences between this technological vision and Mahatma Gandhi’s nonindustrial modernity. India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, sought to use MIT-trained engineers to build an India where the government controlled technology for the benefit of the people. In the private sector, Indian business families sent their sons to MIT, while MIT graduates established India’s information technology industry.
By the 1960s, students from the Indian Institutes of Technology (modeled on MIT) were drawn to the United States for graduate training, and many of them stayed, as prominent industrialists, academics, and entrepreneurs. The MIT-educated Indian engineer became an integral part of a global system of technology-based capitalism and focused less on India and its problems—a technological Indian created at the expense of a technological India.”
Séminaire de recherche IDHES-Département de sociologie
Lignes d’effervescence en sociologie des groupes professionnels
Première séance : Vendredi 19 février 10h-12h30
Salle T11, bâtiment T, Université de Nanterre
(Centre d’études de l’Inde et de l’Asie du Sud, CNRS)
Que fait la figure de l’ingénieur au monde social en Inde ?
Résumé : La prolifération des écoles d’ingénieurs en Inde depuis une vingtaine d’années, la compétition accrue pour parvenir à entrer dans les écoles les plus prestigieuses comme les Indian Institute of Technology, le développement sans précédent de centres de préparation (coaching centers) aux concours d’entrée dans ces écoles professionnelles (ingénieurs et médecine), la mise en place d’un système parascolaire organisé sur un mode quasi-industriel pour s’adresser à ces milliers de candidats potentiels, le poids des formations informatiques liées à l’expansion du secteur des technologies de l’information, l’exemplarité donnée par quelques grandes firmes multinationales comme Infosys, tout cela contribue à interroger ce que la figure de l’ingénieur fait à la société indienne dans un contexte de libéralisation économique où tout service éducatif se monnaie sur un marché libre qui n’épargne aucun secteur de l’économie que l’Etat peine à encadrer.
Le séminaire « Lignes d’effervescence en sociologie des groupes professionnels »
Dans le travail de tout chercheur, il existe des domaines familiers, dans lesquels une solide expérience a été acquise, et des domaines en cours d’exploration, où des investigations ont été engagées mais n’ont pas encore donné lieu à des connaissances reconnues et stabilisées. Pour le dire à la manière de T. Kuhn, l’activité de recherche comporte des aspects de « science normale » et des points d’effervescence, des pistes dans lesquelles on s’aventure pour aborder un domaine nouveau ou s’essayer à des cadres théoriques inhabituels. C’est à la présentation de tels chantiers, à ces objets ou perspectives à l’état d’esquisse qu’est consacré ce séminaire : l’auteur-e sera invité-e à faire part de ses réflexions, ses choix et ses hésitations, sans cacher les difficultés ou les doutes qu’il rencontre.
Le séminaire est conçu à l’attention des étudiant-e-s du master « Etudes et recherches sociologiques, des chercheur-e-s de l’IDHES, des membres du département de sociologie de Nanterre, mais il est ouvert à l’ensemble des chercheur-e-s et doctorant-e-s intéressé-e-s.
Le 11 mars 2016, Reinhard Gressel (IFSTTAR) et Charles Gadea (IDHES) : « Les professionnels mobiles. Une problématique en mouvement »
Valérie Boussard (IDHES) email@example.com et Charles Gadea (IDHES) charles .firstname.lastname@example.org
Open University – Faculty of Social Sciences, Geography
We have an exciting opportunity for 2 Research Associates to work on a 2-year ESRC funded project Gender, Skilled Migration and IT: a comparative study of India and the UK.
You will be a dynamic, highly motivated person, with a PhD in human geography, sociology, gender, development studies or other areas relevant to the project. Excellent skills in qualitative or quantitative research are essential and ideally you will also have some post-doctoral research experience.
One post will be based in the UK but will involve extended periods of fieldwork (of up to 6 months) in India while the other will be almost entirely UK based. We are looking for one researcher with quantitative skills and one with experience of qualitative research. Some knowledge of the IT industry and/or IT labour market would be useful.
If you would like to discuss the particulars of this role before making an application please contact Prof. Parvati Raghuram at email@example.com or Dr. Clem Herman at Clem.Herman@open.ac.uk.
Closing date: Noon 10 December 2015
Interview date: Interviews will be held early January 2016
For detailed information and how to apply go to http://www.open.ac.uk/employment/job-details.asp?id=8931 or email Socsci-Recruitment@open.ac.uk quoting the reference number.
We promote diversity in employment and welcome applications from all sections of the community.
— The Open University is incorporated by Royal Charter (RC 000391), an exempt charity in England & Wales and a charity registered in Scotland (SC 038302). The Open University is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.
Despite Mumbai’s position as India’s financial, economic, and cultural capital, water is chronically unavailable for rich and poor alike. Mumbai’s dry taps are puzzling, given that the city does not lack for either water or financial resources. In Pipe Politics, Contested Waters, Lisa Björkman shows how an elite dream to transform Mumbai into a “world class” business center has wreaked havoc on the city’s water pipes. In rich ethnographic detail, Pipe Politics explores how the everyday work of getting water animates and inhabits a penumbra of infrastructural activity—of business, brokerage, secondary markets, and sociopolitical networks—whose workings are reconfiguring and rescaling political authority in the city. Mumbai’s increasingly illegible and volatile hydrologies, Björkman argues, are lending infrastructures increasing political salience just as actual control over pipes and flows becomes contingent on dispersed and intimate assemblages of knowledge, power, and material authority. These new arenas of contestation reveal the illusory and precarious nature of the project to remake Mumbai in the image of Shanghai or Singapore and gesture instead toward the highly contested futures and democratic possibilities of the actually existing city.
2015 Duke University Press
About the Author
Lisa Björkman is Assistant Professor of Urban and Public Affairs at University of Louisville, and Research Scholar at CETREN (Transregional Research Network), University of Göttingen.
Technology, technicians and the state in South Asia: political and social uses of technical knowledge
The 24th ECSAS (European Conference on South Asian Studies) will take place at the University of Warsaw (Poland) from 27 to 30 July 2016.
This panel invites reflexions and case studies on the political and social uses of technology in South Asia, to discuss its centrality in government policies. Technology is here understood in an extensive manner, to include different types of technical knowledge, practices and tools.
This panel invites reflexions and case studies on the political and social uses of technology in South Asia. Technology is here understood in an extensive manner to include different types of technical knowledge, practices and tools. The centrality of technology in government policies has been widely discussed in contemporary research. This panel would like to discuss this centrality while adopting a historical perspective on the evolving political use of technology and a specific focus on South Asia.
In the years following Independence, technology was conceived as a central tool to further the economic development and social policies of South Asian countries, and technical elites were offered important roles in the implementation of technocratic development programs. The present context of liberalisation and redefinition of the role of the State seems however to have brought both new uses and actors, as well as changes in the modes of interaction between States and technologies. We invite papers discussing this dynamic, and especially welcome case studies focusing on the specific use and place of technology in social policies. We further invite papers looking at processes of defining politically pertinent technologies, as well as detailed papers on the interaction and relationship between the different technical professional groups and the State. Finally, we also invite reflexions and case studies on how technology affects States’ prerogatives, balances of power and control over political territories and spaces in South Asia.
Technology and Rural Change in Eastern India 1830-1980 by Smritikumar Sarkar; New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2014; pp 355, Rs 895.
by Iftekhar Iqbal (firstname.lastname@example.org) is at the Department of History, University of Dhaka.