Category Archives: Posts

Was your (great-) grandfather a Bombay PWD engineer during the colonial period? Share documents, images and stories

As part of an Indo-French project on the history and sociology of Indian Engineers, I am working on the Indian personnel of the Public Works Department of the Bombay Presidency from c. 1850 to c. 1950.

If your (great-) grandfather happened to be an engineer in this Department (please check the following table which lists the names, dates of birth, etc. of engineers employed in the PWD at that time), I will be happy to share with you the details I have collected in the archives about his career. And I would also be more than interested to learn about your family history.

Please feel free to contact me at the following address: for more information and to circulate this call. Thank you!

Photography: Bust of C. M. Murzban, Murzban Colony, Tardeo, erected in 1936 ©AbodhAras  Continue reading


Today, the engineering profession, more than any other, seems to embody the transformations which affect contemporary India. It simultaneously symbolizes the rise of the hypothetical « middle classes » and the positioning of India as an emerging power in the international job market, since the country has become one of the preferred destinations of large technological firms. Each year, India awards 3,50,000 engineering degrees. Continue reading

Article : Decline of the civil engineering profession in India, EPW

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 :

Book : The Technological Indian

The Technological Indian

Ross Bassett

“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.”

Research Associate Posts on Gender, Skilled Migration and IT

Research Associate

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 or Dr. Clem Herman at

Closing date:  Noon 10 December 2015

Interview date: Interviews will be held early January 2016

For detailed information and how to apply go to or email 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.

ENGIND Seminar : Etienne Gérard – National and international spaces of engineering : the case of Mexico

Le quatrième atelier de l’ANR ENGIND – Ingénieurs et société en Inde coloniale et post-coloniale se tiendra le 1er Juin 2015

de 14h à 16h30, en salle 640, CEIAS-EHESS, 6e étage, 190-198 avenue de France, Paris. 
Métros : Bibliothèque (ligne 14) ou Quai de la gare (ligne 6)
L’espace national d’ingénierie : un miroir de la division du marché international de la formation ? Le cas des ingénieurs mexicains du Système national des chercheurs

Cette présentation tentera de montrer, dans le cas du Mexique, ce que produit la division du champ international de la formation sur la structuration du “champ” de l’ingénierie. À l’aide des données de la base du Système national des chercheurs (SNI) mexicains, dont est membre notre population de référence, nous tenterons de mettre en évidence les dynamiques de regroupement des ingénieurs sur la base de leurs formations. Nous verrons ainsi que, si le champ international de la formation est hiérarchisé en pôles d’inégales attractivité, spécialisation disciplinaire et influence, le Mexique lui-même est « divisé » en fonction des pôles de formation de ses chercheurs, en l’occurrence ingénieurs. À la division internationale du champ de formation correspond, en miroir, une division de “l’espace de l’ingénierie » au Mexique. Ce constat nous conduira à explorer, par l’analyse des lieux de formation et institutions dans lesquelles exercent les ingénieurs du SNI, distingués par sous-disciplines, l’hypothèse d’une existence de réseaux entre institutions étrangères de formation et institutions mexicaines d’ingénierie. Nous verrons notamment que les liens entretenus entre les pôles professionnels mexicains d’ingénierie recherche et les pôles étrangers de formation ont tous les traits d’un « effet réseau » entre les ingénieurs et des écoles étrangères de formation, non moins que ceux d’une « chaîne scientifique » entre institutions étrangères de formation et institutions mexicaines de recherche en ingénierie. En un sens, l’affiliation commune des ingénieurs à une « culture » étrangère donnée constitue le creuset de « collectifs professionnels » au Mexique. Ces collectifs apparaissent ainsi davantage comme le produit de la division du champ international de formation, davantage que celui d’une construction politique de l’ingénierie mexicaine.

Book : Waste management in India and Brazil

1430404312La ruée vers l’ordure. Conflits dans les mines urbaines de déchets

Jérémie Cavé

“Qu’est-ce qu’un déchet aujourd’hui dans une ville ordinaire de pays émergent, ce que les habitants jettent ou bien ce que personne ne récupère ? Cet ouvrage se focalise sur les conflits d’appropriation auxquels les déchets donnent lieu à Vitória (Brésil) et à Coimbatore (Inde). En déployant une écologie politique, l’auteur dévoile un renversement en cours : les déchets sont de plus en plus perçus comme des ressources potentielles et les villes comme de véritables « mines urbaines ».”

Pour en savoir plus :

Book : Impossible Engineering

k8911Impossible Engineering: Technology and Territoriality on the Canal du Midi

Chandra Mukerji

The Canal du Midi, which threads through southwestern France and links the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, was an astonishing feat of seventeenth-century engineering–in fact, it was technically impossible according to the standards of its day. Impossible Engineering takes an insightful and entertaining look at the mystery of its success as well as the canal’s surprising political significance. The waterway was a marvel that connected modern state power to human control of nature just as surely as it linked the ocean to the sea. Continue reading

Online publication : the ICT sector in India

Roland Lardinois, en collaboration avec P. Vignesh Illavarasam, Le secteur des technologies de l’information et de la communication en Inde, Les études de l’emploi cadre, n°2014-07, Février 2014, Association pour l’emploi des cadres, Paris, 142 pages.

Le travail d’investigation réalisé a utilisé toutes les méthodes classiques : recherches et veilles documentaires, entretiens qualitatifs, enquête quantitative. Il éclaire sur une société et une économie où les transformations sont profondes. Ceci a pour premier effet de faire de l’Inde étudiée, un monde plus proche, mais néanmoins spécifique, tant par rapport aux pays développés que par rapport aux autres pays émergents. Toutes les données accumulées proposent une nouvelle lecture de la réalité indienne. Elles donnent à voir les conditions d’émergence d’une classe moyenne éduquée et urbaine dans un pays où la grande majorité des emplois relèvent du secteur primaire (agriculture) et dont la population vit massivement en milieu rural. Elles montrent aussi l’impact des choix politiques, publics et privés, privilégiant le développement du secteur des services IT. Continue reading

Project: Context in Engineering

Rethinking Context in Engineering

Working title for the project group: Issues in Engineering Studies

Publisher: Springer

To be published in the Springer series: Philosophy of Engineering & Technology

Responsible editor and project coordinator: Steen Hyldgaard Christensen

Co-editors: Bernard Delahousse, Gary Downey, Andrew Jamison, Martin Meganck, Carl Mitcham

Approach: A combination of the approach used in: Christensen, Steen Hyldgaard, Delahousse, Bernard, Meganck, Martin (eds) (2009). Engineering in Context. Academica, Aarhus and the approach used in Gary Downey and Kasey Beddoe (eds.) (2010). What is Global Engineering For: The Making of International Educators. Morgan & Claypool Publishers.

Length of the volume: 600 pages

Short description of the Springer project: The aim of this project is to gain a better understanding of the contexts in which engineering activities are situated within the larger realm of human activities. In dealing with context it immediately becomes clear that context is an inherently dialectical concept, since contextualizing in itself is dependent on definitions of what is perceived to be the relevant boundaries regarding both the education and the practice of engineering. Contextualizing thus unfolds its inherent dialectics in the terrain between what “is” and “ought”. In this way the quest for a re-contextualizing of engineering education and practice put forward in this volume inevitably is a value-laden enterprise and therefore not without a certain degree of controversy. It is concerned with both what engineering “is” and what it “ought” to be. Ultimately a greater awareness and understanding of context should result in better preparation of engineers to render those contexts visible in their work, and consequently enable engineers to contribute to more socially robust and responsible endeavors. Engineering practices have to often been characterized by absence of self-criticism, and liberal arts practices by reverence for isolated critical virtuosity. To burst these boundaries in a collaborative effort is a main purpose of the project. Using ”context” and two simply stated but complex questions “What is engineering for? and, What are engineers for?”  as bridges the project sets out to juxtapose important cases of critical participation within engineering with sophisticated scholarly reflection on both opportunities and discontents.

Provisional structure of the volume containing 30 chapters (600 pages).


General Introduction

Section 1 (Introduction + 6 chapters): Contextualizing Engineering

Section 2 (Introduction + 6 chapters): Institutional Contexts of Engineering Education

Section 3 (Introduction + 6 chapters): Context in Engineering Curricula

Section 4 (Introduction + 6 chapters): Context in Engineering Design

Section 5 (Introduction + 6 chapters): Ethics and Values in Engineering

Author Biographies


Short description of the main content of the five sections

Section 1: Contextualizing Engineering

The issue of context in engineering is no doubt one of the most central and controversial topics in the studies of engineering and technology. On the one hand, context is an old issue if one views engineering as an activity adapting technical objects and projects to particular material and social conditions. On the other hand, it is a current issue if one considers the context to be at the heart of contemporary philosophical, historical and social reflections upon technology. Whatever the viewpoint, any attempt to characterize engineering as a core activity of the ‘technology-in-society’ must, as far as possible, choose a position on what can be termed ‘the question of context’. Section 1 is thus meant to serve as a philosophical, historical, and social reflection of the various meanings of “Context” in engineering and technology.

Section 2: Institutional Contexts of Engineering Education

Engineering education takes place at different levels, in different types of institutions embedded in different national systems of higher education. Systems of higher education are not stable entities but are exposed to structural change over time due to institutional and structural dynamics. Examples of typical structural dynamics are academic drift in engineering colleges and vocational drift in universities. Such dynamics work to transform educational systems and to blur the boundaries between the different types of institutions. The aim of this section is to investigate the historical record of a number of ideal typical institutions of engineering education in the United States, Europa, and China and the historical transformation they have gone through. As ideal typical cases The United Kingdom, France, Germany and China represent four historical reference models of higher education – the Oxbridge, the Napoleonic, the Humboldtian, and the Marxist. These reference models constitute the historical initial conditions for the shaping of engineering education and the different status and roles attributed to engineers in the four countries. In section 2 these issues will be scrutinized.

Section 3: Context in Engineering Curricula

The importance of incorporating contextual issues and developing socio-technical competencies in engineering education has been widely acknowledged in the engineering education community in Australia, Europe and the United States. High quality engineering design requires understanding of how the engineered artifact interacts with individuals, society, and  the environment, both natural and manmade. In the US, the ABET EC 2000 criteria ( for accrediting engineering programs incorporate context in two out of eleven program outcomes (a-k) under criterion 3. The two context-related outcomes to be achieved by first-cycle engineering students are (c) “an ability to design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs within realistic constraints such as economic, environmental, social, political, ethical, health and safety, manufacturability, and sustainability”, and (h) “the broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global, economic, and societal context”. In the European EUR-ACE accreditation framework (Document A1-en Final 17 November, 2005), context is incorporated as one outcome out of five under the heading “Transferable Skills”.First-cycle engineering students are expected to “demonstrate awareness of the health, safety and legal issues and responsibilities of engineering practice, the impact of engineering solutions in a societal and environmental context, and commit to professional ethics, responsibilities and norms of engineering practice”. The aim of this section is to investigate whether and if so to what extent, confronted with which obstacles and how socio-technical integration has been tackled and implemented in a number of exemplary engineering education institutions and their curricula.

Section 4: Context in Engineering Design

Engineering design may be seen as the core of engineering. In this section, we will focus on the major structural differences between science and engineering. When embarking on a com­parison of science and engineering from a general perspective, the initial problem one faces is: what to compare? It may be argued that, at a general level, scholars of modern technology of whatever philosophical bent they may be seem to agree that technology can be distinguished from science in three closely related areas: 1. Centre and purpose of activity, 2. Normative foundation, 3. Epistemo­logical breadth and complexity. As engineering design is embedded in a larger context – a “social world” – both at a micro, meso and macro level, the design process can be conceived as a social process as well. A complete design is not in the hands of a single individual. To proceed, engineers have to take into consideration legal restrictions and standards, performance requirements set by customers, they have to negotiate with others in the company etc. Different worlds intersect generating work, which is fundamentally social and process. No overriding instrumental strategy is at hand to reconcile and synthesize the diverse design interests. At the beginning of the design process the performance requirements set by the customer is the basis of the layout of performance specifications, but even these requirements are subject to change. It is impossible to uphold these specifications within an ongoing process of modification, clarification, negotiation and joint interpretation. In this way specifications, which seem clear at the outset are challenged by the very design process. The design process is thus a process of discovery to uncover ambiguities, confusions and contradictions. The aim of this section is to scrutinize engineering design methodology, knowledge components and the role of context in the engineering design process ranging from small scale design of technical devices to large scale socio-technical system design.

Section 5: Ethics and Values in Engineering

Project Start:  Beginning of May 2012

Duration: 2 years, ending 1 December 2014

Kick-off workshop at MIT 4 and 5 May 2012: a 2 days kick-off workshop will be held Friday 4 and Saturday 5 May 2012 in the Conference room at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge in the United States. This has been arranged by Larry Bucciarelli. STS at MIT has offered to host a reception for our gathering on Friday evening. Wine, beer, cheese and crackers will be supplied by the program. 10 faculty members from within MIT will be invited to attend this event. The purpose of the workshop is:

  1. to get to know each other
  2. to give a presentation of the project by the editors
  3. to present publishing editor at Springer Ties Nijssen and project facilities Springer can offer
  4. to create a team spirit
  5. to fine tune the structure of the volume
  6. to discuss in groups interpretations of section titles regarding scope and content of sections
  7. to create an overview of possible chapter titles and their distributions across the seven sections
  8. to agree on deadlines
  9. to listen to a limited number of presentations

Workshop expenditures, travel, meals and accommodation: As there would be no project funding all cost are to be funded by participants via their institutions

Project communication, template and standards (including the system of referencing) for the chapters:

  1. Web site
  2. List of e-mail addresses
  3. Template to be used in the writing of chapters.

Deadlines and milestones:

  1. Delivery of titles, abstracts and names of authors and possible co-authors for and of chapters
  2. Writing of the Preface of the volume by the editors immediately after the kick off workshop
  3. Delivery of individual author biographies for the author biography of the volume at the beginning of the project
  4. Appointment of authors and co-authors of section introductions
  5. Delivery of proofread first drafts of chapters
  6. Review of chapters
  7. Delivery of revised chapters according to the recommendations given in the reviews
  8. Proofreading and copy-editing of chapters by native English speaking participants
  9. Indexing of chapters by the authors
  10. Delivery of final versions of chapters in each section to the authors of section introductions
  11. Writing the General Introduction by the editors and the respective section introductions
  12. Submission to Springer

Target groups:

  1. Scholars of engineering studies and STS
  2. Engineering educators at all levels
  3. Instructors, researchers and practitioners in engineering
  4. Policy makers, accreditation agencies, professional engineering societies
  5. Engineering students

List of participants:

Byron Newberry, Baylor University, Texas (Byron­

Wayne Ambler, University of Colorado, Boulder (

Jen Schneider, Colorado School of Mines (

Juan Lucena, Colorado School of Mines (

Carl Mitcham, Colorado School of Mines (

Louis L. Bucciarelli, MIT (llbjr@MIT.EDU)

Bruce Seely, Michigan Technological University, United States (

Joe Pitt, Virginia Tech (

Matt Wisnioski, Virginia tech (

Gary Downey, Virginia Tech (

Michael Dyrenfurth, Purdue University (

Brent Jesiek, Purdue University (

Erik Fisher, Arizona State University (

Joe Herkert, Arizona State University (

Javier Cañavate, Technical University of Catalonia, Spain (

José Manuel Lis, Technical University of Catalonia, Spain (

Martin Meganck, KaHo, Sint-Lieven, Belgium (

Bernard Delahousse, IUT “A” Lille, France (

Steen Hyldgaard Christensen, Aarhus University, Denmark (

Michael Evan Goodsite, Aarhus University, Denmark (

Matthias Heymann, Aarhus University, Denmark (

Anders Buch, Technical University of Denmark (

Andrew Jamison, Aalborg University, Denmark (

Stig Andur Pedersen, Roskilde University Center (RUC), Denmark (

Fernand Doridot, ICAM Lille, France (doridot (

Sylvain Lavelle, ICAM Lille, France (

Christelle Didier, The Catholic University of Lille, France (

Peter Kroes, Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands (

Pieter Vermaas, Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands (

Wilhelm Bomke, Fachhochschule Regensburg, Germany (

Mike Murphy, Dublin Institute of Technology, Ireland (

William (Bill) Grimson, Dublin Institute of Technology, Ireland (

Li Bocong, The Graduate University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (

Additional authors:

If needed additional authors may be invited after the workshop in May 2012 at MIT.

Presentation: Engineers in Indian Cinema

Engineers in postcolonial India

Arundhati Virmani

Abstract of presentation in « Journée de l’Inde, Maison Méditerranéenne des Sciences de l’Homme, Aix-en Provence

28 May 2011

Since independence, projects of economic development and modernisation of Indian society attributed a legitimacy and a heightened social recognition to the engineer’s profession. Far from being a new profession, the engineer had nevertheless received a renewed social recognition as a result of British colonial policy of railway development and urban infrastructures from the end of the 18th century onwards. The present inquiry into the social responses and reception of the figure of the engineer after 1947, defined with reference to his skills and his technical knowledge in a society still strongly dominated by membership of caste or community is based on a corpus of Indian films produced since the 1950s when Nehru’s government set in motion a modernisation of the country founded on the principles of technical and practical knowledge.

A study of the cinematographic representations of the engineer in the different regional languages offers us a perception into the paths of insertion of this technical group in Indian society. Confronted with other professions such as doctors, lawyers, university professors or policemen, already well integrated in the social system, the engineer is seldom the protagonist of a fim. Hero of a national project led by elites who were products of the new meritocratic system, he is constantly obliged on the field to negotiate with prevailing working conditions and practices in order to achieve the transformation he is expected to to introduce in the urban and rural landscape of modern India. Bearer of practices expected to « revolutionize » society, he incarnatees the tensions between a knowledge imported form the West and the social values and traditions of his own caste or community. A comparison of films produced in the 1950s-1980s and the 1990s to dates highlight the shifts in the engineer’s place and rôle in Indian society and state structures. More recent films ofcourse focus on the figure of the computer engineer which highlight a new kind of tension : sought after in the international market, the engineer has abandoned the mission hitherto assigned to him of modernizing his own country. It remains to be seen if films simply mirror big social transformations or contribute to some of the key transformations in Indian society by suggesting new models of behaviour ?

Arundhati Virmani, after her PhD in history from the University of Paris I-Panthéon Sorbonne taught in Delhi University before moving to France where she taught in the University de Bordeaux. She currently teaches at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences sociales, Marseille.

Her publications include India : 1900-1947. Un Britannique au cœur du Raj (Paris, Autrement, 2001) and A National Flag for India. Rituals, Nationalism and the Politics of Sentiment (Delhi, Permanent Black, 2008)

Forthcoming Atlas historique de l’Inde (Paris, Autrement, 2012)

Emotional Pasts : Questions for Indian Political Culture (Delhi, Three Essays, 2012

Kaala Patthar [Black Stone] is a 1979 Indian drama film directed by Yash Chopra ; starring Amitabh Bachchan and Shashi Kapoor who plays an engineer incharge of the mine.

Delhi Technicological University: Alumni Conclave 2012

From Delhi Polytechnic to the Delhi Technicological University

Delhi College of Engineering, now Delhi Technologial University since 2010, is one of the premier colleges of Engineering education in India and has played unique and important role in the advancement of technical education. Established in 1941 as Delhi Polytechnic, Delhi College of Engineering has played the role of mother institution in establishing Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi, School of Planning and Architecture-Delhi, College of Pharmacy-Delhi, College of Arts Delhi, Netaji Subhas Institute of Technology-Delhi & many more institutions.

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Interview: Wiebe Bijker

Wiebe E. Bijker, Professor, Faculty of Arts and Culture, Universiteit Maastricht, the Netherlands, was in conversation with Pankaj Sekhsaria

about his latest book, The Paradox of Scientific Authority, and his growing engagement with India.

The New Indian Express, November 21, 2010