Thesis ID: CBB845659840

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

unapi

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.

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Authors & Contributors
Sarma, Sreeramula Rajeswara
Kapoor, R. C.
MacLeod, Roy M.
Orchiston, Wayne
Plofker, Kim L.
Raina, Dhruv
Journals
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
Publishers
University of Minnesota
Oxford University Press
Univ. Chicago Press
University of Chicago Press
Concepts
Colonialism
Imperialism
Sanskrit
Astronomy
Mathematics
Cross-cultural interaction; cultural influence
People
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
Places
India
Great Britain
Philippines
Europe
West Indies
Brazil
Institutions
Jesuits (Society of Jesus)
East India Company (English)
Manila Observatory (Philippines)
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