Thesis ID: CBB845659840

Colonizing Time: Caste, Colonial Rule, and the Exact Sciences in India, 1783–1874 (2021)


Kumar, Siva Prashant (Author)
Mukharji, Projit Bihari (Advisor)

University of Pennsylvania
Mukharji, Projit Bihari
Publication date: 2021
Language: English

Publication Date: 2021
Physical Details: 352

This thesis is about how empire shaped the everyday practices of astronomy and mathematics, and how the methods of these sciences came to be used to make historical claims about mythic events and races. I study how British scientific institutions in India became sites for producing new linkages between upper caste Hindus and a technical modernity, which proclaimed itself both European and unprecedented. Colonial rule is sometimes understood in terms of a black-and-white distinction between dominant imperial actors and a dominated colonial population, whose sphere of action was limited to passive participation. My interest is in historical actors and kinds of knowledge which trouble this distinction, in which the methods and the interests of both Indians and imperials is detectable. British rule in India was sustained by European claims to intellectual and technical superiority, which were not seperate from, but intricately related to, projects of political and economic domination. Achievements in mathematics and astronomy were no small part of this claim. I account for the changing relationship between modern and antiquarian knowledge by following a number of British surveyors in the Bengal Delta in the eighteenth century, who attempted to recover mathematical knowledge from Sanskrit texts. Back in London, these texts were studied by East India Company administrators, in the early nineteenth century, and mined for information valuable to a universal history of mathematics. As the British established hegemony over the subcontinent, Sanskrit astronomy was seen as a joke, a mere superstitious vestige. Yet it also qualified the Brahmins hired in Company observatories to produce new data. I show that observatories and universal histories alike were made to work by incorporating upper-caste labor and knowledge into the larger matrix of imperial power. By the end of the nineteenth century, a number of Indians tried to ``engraft" modern mathematical and observatory techniques onto Sanskrit astronomy. In tracing the day to day activities of observation and data collection required to regulate the multiple timescales of an empire, I show that practices of timekeeping exerted pressure on the cosmologies of both colonized and colonizer.

Citation URI

This citation is part of the Isis database.

Similar Citations

Chapter Schaffer, Simon; (2010)
Exact Sciences and Colonialism: Southern India in 1900 (/p/isis/citation/CBB001023235/) unapi

Book Andrew J. Rotter; (2019)
Empires of the Senses: Bodily Encounters in Imperial India and the Philippines (/p/isis/citation/CBB861511745/) unapi

Article R.C. Kapoor; Wayne Orchiston; (2023)
Colonial astronomy as an element of Empire in British India (/p/isis/citation/CBB770458313/) unapi

Article Sreeramula Rajeswara Sarma; (2021)
Who is the Native of the Sarvasiddhāntatattvacūḍāmaṇi? (/p/isis/citation/CBB123032314/) unapi

Article Mulich, Jeppe; (2013)
Microregionalism and Intercolonial Relations: The Case of the Danish West Indies, 1730--1830 (/p/isis/citation/CBB001421522/) unapi

Article R. Champakalakshmi; (2016)
In Search of the Beginnings and Growth of Knowledge Production in Tamil (/p/isis/citation/CBB168865911/) unapi

Article Noémie Verdon; Michio Yano; (2020)
Al-Bīrūnī’s India, Chapter 14: (/p/isis/citation/CBB494234499/) unapi

Article Sho Hirose; (2016)
Two Versions of a Description of the Armillary Sphere in Parameśvara's Goladīpikā (/p/isis/citation/CBB737286190/) unapi

Book MacLeod, Roy; (2000)
Nature and Empire: Science and the Colonial Enterprise (/p/isis/citation/CBB000110572/) unapi

Article R. Venkesteswara Pai; (2019)
Rationale for Śrīrguṇamitrādivākyas as described in the Laghuprakāśikā (/p/isis/citation/CBB546484769/) unapi

Article Sarma, Sreeramula Rajeswara; (2011)
Shabnumā-wa-Rūznumā: A Rare Astronomical Instrument Extant in Two Specimens (/p/isis/citation/CBB001510330/) unapi

Authors & Contributors
Sarma, Sreeramula Rajeswara
Kapoor, R. C.
MacLeod, Roy M.
Orchiston, Wayne
Plofker, Kim L.
Raina, Dhruv
Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage
History of Science in South Asia
South Asian History and Culture
Centaurus: International Magazine of the History of Mathematics, Science, and Technology
Indian Journal of History of Science
Journal of Global History
University of Minnesota
Oxford University Press
Univ. Chicago Press
University of Chicago Press
Cross-cultural interaction; cultural influence
al-Bīrūnī, Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad
Jones, William
Linnaeus, Carolus
Roxburgh, William
Whewell, William
Sachau, Eduard
Time Periods
19th century
18th century
20th century, early
17th century
15th century
16th century
Great Britain
West Indies
Jesuits (Society of Jesus)
East India Company (English)
Manila Observatory (Philippines)

Be the first to comment!

{{ comment.created_by.username }} on {{ comment.created_on | date:'medium' }}

Log in or register to comment