Thesis ID: CBB791107848

Airborne Colony: Culture and Politics of Aviation in India, 1910-1939 (2019)


If the beginnings of aviation in India had the appearance of a public spectacle, what was merely a sideshow in Allahabad soon became the centerpiece of the tableau of late colonial politics. This dissertation traces that transformation. It forges a history of aviation away from the genius of aeronautical innovations in the West, and away from the foundries and factories, to situate its introduction and evolution in the field of everyday experiences of the colonial society. Airplanes in India were constitutive of the governing logic of the late colonial state and they produced a material reality quite different from that which it shaped elsewhere. The history of colonial aviation in the subcontinent deserves attention, not only because of the vastness of its circulation, but also because of the extent of its reach and the particularities of its use in the practice of aerial policing and surveillance of the frontier tribesmen. If the British sought to singularly propel the airplanes, in my dissertation, a cast of frontier tribesmen, legislators, writers, princes, an airhost, and peasants animated the colonial aviatic. To tell this story, my dissertation engages with two historical views. One view decenters the conventional British representations of the aviatic sense of the colonial natives and their assumed inadequacy in the reception of technological modernity. The colonial subjects on their part challenged the colonialist perspective to deliberately remodel it through their discursive, experiential, and material practices. The British empire’s interest in aerial vision that facilitated the formation of knowledge is the second view I explore. The privileged intimacy of the vertical perspective, I argue, enabled the territorialization of punitive, extractive, and epistemic powers of the colonial state.

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Authors & Contributors
Aspengren, Henrik C.
Bhattacharya, Nandini
Kumar, Deepak
Lahiri Choudhury, Deep Kanta
Nadkarni, Asha
Ogborn, Miles
Indian Journal of History of Science
American Quarterly
British Journal for the History of Science
History of Science
Osiris: A Research Journal Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
Social History of Medicine
Palgrave Macmillan
University of Pennsylvania
Cambridge University Press
Liverpool University Press
Oxford University Press
University of Chicago Press
Great Britain, colonies
Science and politics
Science and government
Technology and politics
Howard, Albert, Sir
Semple, David
Joshi, Prem Vallabh
Time Periods
20th century, early
19th century
18th century
17th century
20th century
Great Britain
Bengal (India)
British East India Company

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