Epic Engineering. Great Canals and Barrages of Victorian India, Beechwood Melrose Publishing, 2013
Alan Robertson and Jeremy Berkoff
“In India in the early nineteenth century, young British officials in their twenties could find themselves in charge of huge projects. With little or no relevant experience, they had to learn on the job.
Proby Cautley designed and built the Ganges Canal. Over 700 miles long, it remains the biggest construction in the world built without mechanical help – using only man and animal power, wheelbarrows and shovels. In the south of India, his rival and exact contemporary Arthur Cotton built a barrage across the four-mile wide Godavari river, turning its vast delta into productive land.
The achievements of Cautley and Cotton were recognised by knighthoods and public acclaim. But they were completely different in characters and they quarrelled fiercely and publicly. This is their story.”
A review of the book in the Hindu
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.”
Impossible Engineering: Technology and Territoriality on the Canal du Midi
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
In this book, Lino Camprubí argues that science and technology were at the very center of the building of Franco’s Spain. Previous histories of early Francoist science and technology have described scientists and engineers as working “under” Francoism, subject to censorship and bound by politically mandated research agendas. Camprubí offers a different perspective, considering instead scientists’ and engineers’ active roles in producing those political mandates. Many scientists and engineers had been exiled, imprisoned, or executed by the regime. Camprubí argues that those who remained made concrete the mission of “redemption” that Franco had invented for himself. This gave them the opportunity to become key actors—and mid-level decision makers—within the regime.
Camprubí describes a series of projects across Spain undertaken by the civil engineers and agricultural scientists who placed themselves at the center of their country’s forced modernization. These include a coal silo, built in 1953, viewed as an embodiment of Spain’s industrialized landscape; links between laboratories, architects, and the national Catholic church (and between technology and authoritarian control); vertically organized rice production and research on genetics; river management and the contested meanings of self-sufficiency; and the circulation of construction standards by mobile laboratories as an engine for European integration. Separately, each chapter offers a fascinating microhistory that illustrates the coevolution of Francoist science, technology, and politics. Taken together, they reveal networks of people, institutions, knowledge, artifacts, and technological systems woven together to form a new state.
Jahnavi Phalkey, Atomic State. Big Science in Twentieth-Century India. Delhi : Permanent Black, 2013
“In 1974 India conducted what it called peaceful nuclear tests. These demonstrated that the country possessed the technology required to make atom bombs. In historical accounts, this explosive achievement has come to be seen as the culmination of a state s efforts at capacity building and self-reliance through big science.
Questioning the received wisdom, Jahnavi Phalkey provides a fascinatingly different history. Mining new data from personal and institutional archives, she contradicts persistent nationalist notions about early atomic science in India as the starting point of bombs. She shows that the emergence of the country s nuclear science infrastructure was in fact tenuous, contradictory, and rich in faction fights which frequently determined outcomes and directions. Continue reading
Vinay Domal, Comparing engineering practice in South Asia and Australia. PhD Thesis, University of Western Australia, 2010
“The thesis presents a qualitative investigation of engineering practice in South Asia and Australia in order to learn about engineering practice and the differences between an industrialised country context and a developing world context. Through a series of interviews, participant observations and focus group interviews it discloses the dynamics of how engineers relate to work, to clients, to suppliers, to managers and to each other. It also examines the perceptions and experiences of their daily work practice in two different worlds. The study introduces the concept of dimensions to call attention to the differences uncovered from detailed analysis of engineering practice in South Asia and Australia. The first dimension is the ability of an engineer to coordinate and exercise authority within their own department as well as outside the company and how this makes a difference in the engineering outcomes. Continue reading
Aparajith Ramnath, Engineers in India : Industrialisation, Indianisation and the State, 1900-47. Ph.D. Thesis. Imperial College London, 2013
“This thesis offers a collective portrait of an important group of scientific and technical practitioners in India from 1900 to 1947: professional engineers. It focuses on engineers working in three key sectors: public works, railways and private industry. Based on a range of little-used sources, it charts the evolution of the profession in terms of the composition, training, employment patterns and work culture of its members. The thesis argues that changes in the profession were both caused by and contributed to two important, contested transformations in interwar Indian society: the growth of large-scale private industry (industrialisation), and the increasing proportion of ‘native’ Indians in government services and private firms (Indianisation). Continue reading
Nair Sreelekha, Moving with the Times. Gender, Status and Migration of Nurses in India. New Delhi : Routledge, 2012
“This book is an attempt to penetrate the silence that surrounds the lives of nurses as migrant women. It offers a perceptive understanding of the trials faced specifically by women from the state of Kerala, in their personal and professional spheres, in the challenges posed to single women migrants as such, and the lower status ascribed to the job. In highlighting aspects of their lived experiences, it reveals how the identities of gender, class and ethnicity unmask the realities behind claims of egalitarianism and equal citizenship. Nurses from Kerala form one of the largest groups of migrant women workers in the international service sector along with Filipinos and Sri Lankans. Continue reading
Balaji Parthasarathy, Reversing the flows of ideas? From local technologies for the marginalised to new forms of global governance. Tiffin Talk, Australia India Institute, 28 March 2013.
“For decades, largely agrarian, previously colonial, developing countries were the recipients of technologies, in domains ranging from medicine to transportation. The technologies also came embedded in specific ideas about social organisation and governance mechanisms, such as bureaucratic or market rationality. Lately, there is evidence of changes to the direction of flow as developing countries have become adept late-industrialisers who produce technology. Continue reading
« The Fascination for India », La Vie des idées, 11 March 2013
Review by Jules Naudet (Translated by Rohini Rangachari)
Roland Lardinois, Scholars and Prophets. Sociology of India from France 19th-20th Centuries. New Delhi: Social Science Press, 2013
“Since the 18th century, India has been portrayed in contradictory ways. While scholarly knowledge is based on the philological study of texts, literary Orientalism expresses its fascination for a society well-known to preserve the values of order and hierarchy. For Roland Lardinois the anthropology of Louis Dumont illustrates the ambiguity of these discourses.”