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The Enchantment of Science in India

Author(s): By Shruti Kapila
Reviewed work(s):
Source: Isis, Vol. 101, No. 1 (March 2010), pp. 120-132
Published by: The University of Chicago Press on behalf of The History of Science Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/652700 .
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231 on Mon. United Kingdom.1 Searching for a capital for the partitioned Punjab.ac. In a synoptic overview. Cambridge University.uk. Existing imperial histories of science that are primarily fixated on the eighteenth century cast science as a site of exchange and dialogue. 0021-1753/2010/10101-0007$10.72. Unlike in Europe. and religion. described here as “insurgent. 101:120 –132 ©2010 by The History of Science Society. this essay positions India so as to assess the role and forms of science in the modern world. Jawaharlal Nehru seized this opportunity physically to inscribe the potential of science and planning in the wake of the unprecedented violence and human suffering that had marked the moment of decolonization. 2007). in turn. facilitated a rational mediation between science and man. and to what effects Indians accepted science. By taking the mid-nineteenth century as a moment of departure. Isis. 26 Nov 2012 15:31:40 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . the signature city of the twentieth century’s most celebrated architect. science in India neither declared the death of God nor became “spiritualized” via religion. while religion had become a form of disenchanted but rational knowledge. the power of science is here understood in the context of the politics of religion and rationality. Le Corbusier. the city’s location is a confident announcement of India’s national modernity.00 120 This content downloaded by the authorized user from 192. Instead. 2010. sk555@cam. 1 On Le Corbusier’s life and work.” It argues that science in India was a form of enchantment. I N THE FOOTHILLS OF THE WESTERN HIMALAYAS lies Chandigarh. it asks why. science inflected religion. Situated as it is on the site of a historical frontier. The Art of Architecture (London: Vitra Design Museum. I am grateful to Sujit Sivasundaram and other participants at the workshop held in Cambridge in May 2009 and especially to Simon Schaffer for his constructive comments on an earlier draft. Instead. It is striking that several hundred villages were expropriated * Corpus Christi College. and contrary to orientalist positions. including Chandigarh. under what conditions.The Enchantment of Science in India By Shruti Kapila* ABSTRACT In critiquing methodologies of the “global” as a spatial unit of analysis or a receptacle for influence across the planet. the essay assesses the archaeology of science and the blurred practices between religion and science. thus replicating the narrative of European expansion overseas.168. in the high noon of colonialism. but not biomedicine. Cambridge CB2 1RH. All rights reserved. This specific relationship accounts for the “soft landing” of science in India and its usurpation in the service of an unapologetic national modernity. see Stanislaus von Moos.

As one of the richest cities in contemporary India.72. the local or the historical. it represents in its singularity a turning away from imperial pasts. 1 January 1955. The architectural style.168. Time-Life Pictures and Getty Images. which planned everything from streets to neighborhoods to the powerful seats of learning and government—and indeed every pebble and plant—aimed for a disciplined This content downloaded by the authorized user from 192. Jawaharlal Nehru addressing the audience at the dedication of the new city of Chandigarh. (See Figure 1. with no concession to the vernacular or the classical. 26 Nov 2012 15:31:40 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions F O C U S .FOCUS—ISIS.231 on Mon. 101 : 1 (2010) 121 Figure 1. the presence of Chandigarh as a living metaphor for a postcolonial future requires explanation. toward the experience of freedom as a promise of scientific modernity. Photo by James Burke. immediately after independence in this unabashed celebration of the baldly novel.) Given the powerful hold of historicism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. and Nehru’s own fidelity to liberal historicism. Reproduced by permission of Time-Life Pictures/Getty Images.

101 : 1 (2010) utopia.2 In short. and Mary Louise Pratt. Whether expressed in James Cook’s voyages or in the painstaking collections of curiosities.168.” Science. Press. “science” and cultural difference. Relocating Modern Science: Circulation and the Construction of Scientific Knowledge in South Asia and Europe. Beyond Belief: India and the Politics of Postcolonial Nationalism (Durham. Imperial and national history. did Indians accept science in the high noon of colonialism? INHERITED QUESTIONS AND THE EVENTUALITY OF SCIENCE The eighteenth century has long held the position of privilege in the historiography of science.C. In the shadow of Edward Said.72. travel. 4 For a critical appraisal of this issue and for the distinction between the “global” and the “universal” see Simon Schaffer. Pushing the chronology back to the late eighteenth century. Seventeenth to Nineteenth Centuries (Delhi: Permanent Black. Press. In this approach. while the issues of governance and control are elided. 1992). further viewed non-European societies as passive recipients of science. unlike the high-rise concrete buildings that became dominant in postwar Europe. and exchange as the central frame of reference. a circumstance that was explained in terms of a chronological lag. informed by modernization theory. and encounter have formed the colorful canvas of the “global” nature of science. and nationalism see Srirupa Roy. one method has privileged encounter. herbariums. See Peter Mandler. Strikingly. the nation of India.5 The critique of Basalla has taken three dominant directions. Conn.7 Finally. and contact zones. networks. 2006). without much resistance. 1997). and the interpretative purchase of the word “global” to be appraised here. 5 George Basalla. 3 For a robust and critical appraisal of Nehru’s ideas about planning. which harks back to the imagined past as an architectural utopia for industrial and capitalist society. This content downloaded by the authorized user from 192. travel. 1967. the enterprise of science in those societies was interpreted as a mutant of its “original” European version.3 This essay poses one fundamental question: Why. Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (London: Routledge. Theory. colonial. 1995). science. have “embalmed this chronology” as an explanation and as evidence of the global nature of science itself. and modern continuities but. Chandigarh exemplifies the problematic concerning the question of science. together with the history of science. “Enlightened Knowledge and Global Pathways. the city compels us to reflect not so much on the layering of precolonial.122 FOCUS—ISIS. since the focus of inquiry tends to be either the clash of. or insects of the European gentleman overseas.6 These two are not contradictory approaches but deeply related ones.: Duke Univ. Press. more often than not. and the Arts (Manchester: Manchester Univ. 6 Kapil Raj. Basalla’s model. the question of the instrumentality of science for empire 2 Consider the counterexample of modern Britain. circulation. cities (be they Calcutta or London) and the “periphery” are singled out as sites of the making of science. 2007). on how and why the “new” comes to be accepted as part of the present.4 One of the main emphases of the more recent imperial histories of science has been to critique and overthrow George Basalla’s tripartite model of the “diffusion” of science from the West (or the core) to the East (or the periphery). Orientalism: History. especially in relation to the life of science outside the “province” of Europe. 156:611– 622. Le Corbusier chose a low-rise building style for Chandigarh. N. “The Spread of Science.” 21–22 May 2009. 26 Nov 2012 15:31:40 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Moreover. The Fall and Rise of the Stately Home (New Haven./London: Yale Univ.” paper presented at the British Academy for a conference on “Writing the History of the Global. or the accommodation between. the acrimonious contours of debate in such studies revolve around the relative “agency” of Europeans and others. The second approach of the new imperial and “global” histories of science takes mobility.231 on Mon. rather. exploration. 7 For two opposing positions see John Mackenzie.

India and Beyond. it remains unclear how networks and the exchange of ideas. to identify dizzy connections and nodal points in the traffic of ideas while omitting the history of capital from consideration entirely. 9 But see Richard Drayton. Press. Conversely. and the “Improvement” of the World (New Haven/London: Yale Univ. There was a dramatic shift in political and economic contexts in this period. networks of imperial institutions. Bayly. The synoptic survey offered here will focus instead on the mid-nineteenth century as a critical moment of departure. 2007. 12 Sudipta Sen. Imperial Meridian (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ.231 on Mon. 11 Thomas Metcalf. missionaries. Press. 101 : 1 (2010) 123 and the colonial state has been an enduring field of inquiry. Press. “Science and the British Empire.”11 In this sense. “Race Matters: Orientalism and Religion. and C. It is insufficient and teleological to posit the late eighteenth century as a period of exchange that was followed by racial and colonial inequalities in the nineteenth century. the institutional relations of power in India were fundamentally recast in favor of a distant government that stripped off the residual powers of Indian intermediaries.10 The hold of the late eighteenth century on historical thinking has been salient because it intersects with changing representations of the chronology of the nature of imperial expansion overseas.FOCUS—ISIS. e. Since at least the “reform” decade of the 1830s. the last two decades have accounted for science in terms of its power— either minimal or at its maximum— beyond Europe. It is strange. social and economic processes bore little. Ideologies of the Raj (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. and the inequity of power relations. this transformation is associated with the imperial ideological shift from “orientalism” to “Anglicism. 26 Nov 2012 15:31:40 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions F O C U S . 1981). Imperial Britain. or science relate to the coterminous centralization and statization of national and imperial politics within which science itself became dominant. including scholar-officials. and Jennifer Pitts. 1994). Exchange and circulation are concepts that emanate from the examination and study of capital. A. Beyond the political landscape.” Modern Asian Studies. resemblance to those 8 See. The “drift of time” surely cannot be an adequate explanation. A Turn to Empire: The Rise of Liberal Imperialism in Britain and France (Princeton.72. there are several unresolved problems in the current global narrative of science that privileges circulation and dialogic exchange while it seeks to counter narratives of science as histories of power.8 In summary. if any. Press. recent historians of science have simply restated and worked strictly within the existing chronology of empire.. 2005). 2005. the late eighteenth century was—to take one example—marked by the systematization of race theory precisely in the context of the circulation of ideas. with the aim of disrupting the given chronological framework. This content downloaded by the authorized user from 192. Nature’s Government: Science. with a view to recasting colonial societies along more strictly European lines.g. The Tools of Empire: Technology and European Imperialism in the Nineteenth Century (New York/Oxford: Oxford Univ. On the contrary.9 Moreover. and merchant-entrepreneurs who were dependent on local informants and intermediaries. then. 41:471–510.” Isis. N. Press.168.12 Further.J. 2002). This period has been interpreted as one of relative “openness” that facilitated a context of exchange—whether of knowledge or of commerce—for a range of actors. 10 Shruti Kapila. 2000). In the British-Indian context.: Princeton Univ. Daniel R. the Mutiny of 1857–1858 in India was the single largest and most violent episode of anti-imperial resistance in that century. 1989). Distant Sovereignty: National Imperialism and the Origins of British India (London: Routledge. On the debate about the “command” of science see Mark Harrison. the mid-nineteenth century has been viewed as a time of the entrenchment of exclusive imperial policies that overthrew earlier relations. While much new material has been brought to bear here. 96:56 – 63. Headrick. knowledge.

This legacy was enduring. Yet the critical point of distinction remains that these debates were internal to bodies of scientific knowledge. 1993. 26 Nov 2012 15:31:40 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Gandhi and many Indian public men up to the present day have denounced it. evolution. which were already entirely accepted and increasingly normalized within Indian public and academic life. From the 1830s.231 on Mon. of capitalism itself— both in the center and in the colonial peripheries coincided with the disappearance of meta-organizing concepts in imperial science and politics. physics. The printing press. This intermediate period witnessed two divergent social and ideological processes in the Indian context. 1997). it was thought. experimental.13 The sphere of biomedicine—whether it found expression in vaccination programs at the beginning of the nineteenth century or in the sanitized practices of bubonic plague management at its end— became a site for the eruption of social.124 FOCUS—ISIS. there was an explosion of the power of the printed word. Press. It notes. Prior to the mutiny.: Harvard Univ. Unlike biomedicine. and astronomy. let alone dominance. “Science and Imperialism. exploration. then by the end of the same century race. had become a powerful site for dissemination and debate in various vernacular languages. Medicine. In short. The 1840s and 1850s. rather than the eighteenth century.168. Dominance without Hegemony: History and Power in Colonial India (Cambridge.14 This is not to assert that there was no adaptation or internal debate within disciplines such as chemistry. and economic materialism had emerged as key organizing principles. or “pure” sciences—was accepted without much resistance. that the entrenchment of the colonial state. travel. first. in contrast to biomedicine. in the 1890s and 1900s. Colonizing the Body: State. “pure” science is here simply a shorthand for disciplines such as physics. 84:91–102. both prior to and after the mutiny of 1857–1858. An equal concern was the prospect of European colonization of India—the success of which. For a critical appraisal see Paolo Palladino and Michael Worboys. The 1840s witnessed an unprecedented worldwide crisis in the economy. The widening gap between the colonial state and the “public” sphere from the mid-nineteenth century onward was reflected in the divergence between the lives of biomedicine and of science in India. mathematics. though its emphasis and theoretical foundations 13 While I am cognizant of the difficulties of the term. This crisis of “free trade”—indeed.” Isis. On the nature of colonial power see Ranajit Guha. there were riots against its application. even Western-educated liberals rejected biomedicine. and Epidemic Disease in Nineteenth-Century India (Berkeley/Los Angeles: Univ. While the colonial state became potent but distant from Indian society. science held a considerable power of enchantment for Indians. Mass. required efforts to create a body politic by controlling the productive and deviant aspects of the Indian body. and political contestation around the Indian body. and Smithian political economy.72. To clarify: there is a negative explanation for the divergent fortunes of science and biomedicine in India that has been investigated thoroughly by historians in the last two decades. the argument here is that. 14 David Arnold. Despite the fact that some Indian elites were sympathetic to biomedicine and colonial officials propagated modern hygienic measures. science—in the sense of the abstract. 1993). could be guaranteed only through a vigorous implementation of colonial biomedicine. cultural. 101 : 1 (2010) of the prior period. California Press. offer a critical juncture in the mutual enchantment of science and empire. which arrived late on the Indian scene. This content downloaded by the authorized user from 192. biomedicine failed to achieve hegemony. the issue of “white death” and the health of the East India Company army necessitated many biomedical policy interventions to direct and segregate Indian bodies from those of the Europeans. psychoanalysis. and chemistry. If the beginning of the nineteenth century was mesmerized by tropicality.

1600 –1850 (New Delhi/New York: Oxford Univ. Muzaffar Alam. biomedicine was deeply associated with control and colonial governmentality. The neighboring disciplines of psychiatry and psychoanalysis illustrate the division of the Indian reception of biomedicine and science. California Press. the Very Idea: An Essay on Enlightenment and Enchantment. As a newspaper correspondent remarked in 15 On the perceived importance of biomedicine for European colonization of India see Mark Harrison. and the first institutional and legal measures in India paralleled British processes of institutionalizing this new science. ed. 2006. practices of exclusivity defined the boundary-drawing exercise of much scientific and professional activity. Megan Vaughan (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. though competitive. 26 Nov 2012 15:31:40 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions F O C U S .FOCUS—ISIS. Race. Indians rejected psychiatry altogether. on the place of psychoanalysis and psychology see Shruti Kapila. and Sudipta Kaviraj. this was a tradition that was incorporative in its approach to new ideas. religion. the essays by Pollock. As David Arnold has forcefully argued. facilitated the deepening and refashioning of India’s ecumenical tradition. Press.72. Literary Cultures in History: Reconstructions from South Asia (Berkeley/Los Angeles: Univ.19 By contrast. the connection between the colonial state and biomedicine created a context for cultural.231 on Mon. rather. The Event of science was not constituted simply by its ritualized contestations over disciplinary exclusivity. In short. institutional. It is a striking historical fact that the birth of psychiatry in India was coterminous with that of its British counterpart.18 This arena proved to be productive for debating the fundamental nineteenth-century question of the relationship between science and religion.168. That is. significantly.15 By contrast. 2003). in India science was no Event. they were enchanted by psychoanalysis and psychology. 19 Akeel Bilgrami. 17 Sheldon Pollock. national. and British Imperialism in India.” Critical Inquiry. Such exclusivity had few. 1999). and indeed physical resistance to the expansionist realm of colonial biopolitics. bringing these disciplines into the public discourse of modernity. the positive explanation for the acceptance of science. the specific eventuality of science in Europe was ultimately constituted by a confrontation between man and God. see esp. new world of the print media. 101 : 1 (2010) 125 were reoriented after 1857. The presence and persistence of a powerful and systematic rational tradition. and Selfhood in Late Colonial India. in that it was a rupture in the preexisting arrangements between knowledge. as opposed to biomedicine. 2007). the relations between religion and science in Europe and India were mirror images of each other. However. Religion. “Occidentalism. 32:381– 411. which was then territorialized as separate scientific disciplines in the West. the discovery of the germ theory and a more sure-footed colonial state together made the association between biomedicine and the governmental increasingly imperative. Islam and Healing: Loss and Recovery of an Indo-Muslim Medical Tradition. and authority broadly construed as the Enlightenment tradition. Environment. is related to the nature of knowledge and intellectual life in India itself. existing parallels in the Indian context. where knowledge was accumulated and aggregated rather than hived off into competing sections. 2007). intervening in their intellectual construction and also. Climates and Constitutions: Health. The emergence of science in Europe was an Event. to a categorical disenchantment with God. 16 Muzaffar Alam and Sanjay Subrahmanyam. This content downloaded by the authorized user from 192. During the colonial era. both Hindu and Muslim. 18 Seema Alavi. despite the dissenting tradition within the Enlightenment. 1600 –1900 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Whether this involved his “death” or his “exile. Conversely. ed..” in Psychiatry and Empire. Press. Indo-Persian Travels in the Age of Discoveries (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. “Freud and His Indian Friends: Psychoanalysis.16 By contrast. 2007). if any. In other words.” science had led.17 By the mid-nineteenth century this ecumenical tradition was reformulated in the public.

26 Nov 2012 15:31:40 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . however.22 While it is stating the obvious. Stages of Capital: Law. and Ritu Birla. but mainly because India has been pushed and pulled into the globalizing world of empire and capital. Bayly. defied the European terms of reference..” Bengalee. Minnesota Press. the inevitability of science did not have the same political or religious consequences outside Europe and. it was never part of the possible. “In India. 2001).72. primarily that of. though on an entirely new footing. the discoveries of modern science never had to run the gauntlet of pious prejudice. 1997). whether to be decried or celebrated. Press. 2008). A. 1989). 1900 –1945: The Making of Modern Economic Knowledge (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. conceptually.21 As opposed to the methodology of the global as a spatial rubric or as a receptacle for the spread of influence. and Market Governance in Late Colonial India (Durham. For Zizek. This is not to assert the orientalist position that has posited the inherently spiritual nature of Indian civilization in contrast to the materialism of the West. historicism emerged as a central concept. the argument here is that India gave a specific salience to the global in that the two were historically and mutually co-constitutive. the argument here is that the work of science was to reformulate religion and to bring man back into converse with God. in the first instance. 2004).126 FOCUS—ISIS. Statistics and the German State. Historians. even in the European world. A. India. Contrary to approaches advanced by Arjun Appadurai and C.168. and. The slippage between the global and the universal has proven to be notoriously difficult to disentangle. as recent works have argued. it is nevertheless pertinent to remind ourselves here that the long nineteenth century was the British imperial century. 21 This content downloaded by the authorized user from 192. The perspective here is. 101 : 1 (2010) 1907. I have chosen this perspective on the “global” not merely because perspective must come from somewhere (as opposed to everywhere and nowhere). Culture. Arjun Appadurai. be it science or political thought. “Secular Education in India. 23 Adam Tooze. indeed. 4 Jan. the global is subordinated to the question of the human.”20 The acceptance of science in India. 22 Andrew Sartori. scientifically. Yet. in India. and C. while the exile or death of God may not have been inevitable. The Sublime Object of Ideology (London: Verso. the issue of cultural difference and its reification emerged as an outcome of and operated within the historical logic of the ascendancy of universalism and an expansive capitalism. for a critique of the global from a more recent philosophical tradition. Chicago Press. Instead.C. specifically. Bayly. with India as its centerpiece. From the works of the early orientalists to latter-day nineteenth-century political and scientific writings. this historicist preoccupation was recanted in the universal framework that nourished the confidence and promise of science to transcend cultural difference. Neither the exile nor the death of God could ever be declared—that is to say. have sought to insert the global perspective as either a postnational stage in human history or as a way of circumventing the imperial order of things. Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization (Minneapolis/London: Univ. At the economic level. a small island state such as Britain “needed” India to make a continental empire— economically. thus fueling imperial competition. of course. Birth of the Modern World (London: Blackwell. Arguably. though. in fact. and anthropologists. 1907. N. Britain was made complete by India. Historicism made India into a civilization that exemplified the range of humanity. historians such as Adam Tooze have recently argued that modern economies were continental in scale and imagination. who have posited the global as a dominant historical and cultural process.231 on Mon. and from.: Duke Univ. Press.24 As I will discuss.23 To extend Tooze. much of the recent literature has taken the global as a unit of space and as a self-evident category. religion in 20 Anon. More often than not. Bengal in Global Concept History (Chicago: Univ. In other words. sociologists. 2009). 24 See Slavoj Zizek.

Troll. though. It is the set of relations between the normative or coercive and the persuasive or consensual power of science in relation to society. the figurehead of nineteenth-century Muslim reform who was himself drawn from a Delhi ashraf (gentry) family versed in astronomy.72. nor was it that science was spiritualized. More generally. 26 Nov 2012 15:31:40 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions F O C U S . colonial. The intermediate.J. 15). Sir Sayyid Khan: A Reinterpretation of Muslim Theology (Delhi: Vikas. The relatively easy and uneventful transition of astronomical knowledge between the precolonial. Psychoanalysis is the quintessential twentieth-century discipline that. This content downloaded by the authorized user from 192. is significant but by no means atypical. 1997). directly.231 on Mon. mid-nineteenth-century conjunctural period of crises forced the enchantment of all manner of relations anew and cast a long shadow well into the twentieth century. science as an authoritative body of knowledge—must be held in firm view. Dispatches from the Freud Wars (Cambridge. 1978). Examining distinct disciplines and their relationship to religion will help address the question of the politics of rationality that engulfed the world in the nineteenth century.FOCUS—ISIS. Astronomy and psychoanalysis are two disciplines at the furthest ends of the historical arch of scientific enterprise. N. n. My aim.25 While historians have been focused on the power of science. at the same time.: Harvard Univ. Press. otherwise we run the risk of collapsing the history of science into cultural history. Indian psychoanalysts and psychologists engaged early. Another Reason: Science and the Imagination of Modern India (Princeton. to the nature of social and cultural debate that such profound transformations necessarily entailed. Rather. Press. While astronomy was central to pre-European empires and knowledge systems. The effect was that psychoanalysis and psychology became hermeneutic and public sites for a deep and necessary reconnection between religion and science. and critically with these new disciplines of the mind.168. or politics that require attention from historians. the example of Sir Sayyid Ahmed Khan. less attention has been given to the complex and variegated archaeology of knowledge that mediated the presence of science in India. at one level. psychoanalysis is very much a discipline born after the hegemony of European science and empires had begun to be challenged.26 The relative abstraction of astronomical knowledge in terms of agreed mathematical theorems and common astronomical observations meant that. Mass.: Princeton Univ. The reenchantment of relations between Britain and India that was built in the context of unprecedented economic extraction was transfixed by the revision of religion and the promise of science. 101 : 1 (2010) 127 India did not emerge as a site for the reprieve or critique of science. among other things. and national epochs points both to the virtuosity of Indian intellectual life and. is not entirely to displace the normative power of science. Here. 1999). 27 C. At the other end of the spectrum. see John Forrester. THE BODY OF SCIENCE Two illustrations of scientific disciplines in the colonial period will enable us to specify the work of science in India. at Queen’s 25 Gyan Prakash. through either relativism or social constructivism. a high degree of consensus could be achieved between the Indo-Muslim gentry and the colonial practitioners who were scouring India for precisely that kind of knowledge and information in the mid-nineteenth century. religion became the site of a disenchanted rationality. 26 Kapila.27 Equally. “Freud and His Indian Friends” (cit. has had a vexed and defensive career in terms of its status as a science. The object of study—namely. culture.

was an invitation to a heated debate because of the nature of astronomy as a discipline dependent on observation in the present. this arena witnessed conflict. however. Not only were they popular. “Race Matters” (cit.128 FOCUS—ISIS. There was. on the one hand.”30 In the colonial public sphere of print. these practices were fundamentally unstructured and thus posed a challenge for liberal and reform-minded publicists and elites. This was the quotidian aspect in which marriages. at the same time these practices traversed and shared the agenda of a rational modernity. Dodson. Indeed. and adaptation of the differing means for the validation of authoritative astronomical knowledge. that the expanded world of cheap print media found its expression. but could not easily be disciplined into. on the other. n. An eclecticism of approach informed these popular reinterpretations of established debates. 10). A. then. Press. an instance of “insurgent knowledge. The orientalist aim was to classicize and freeze this knowledge in Oxbridge and London libraries. religion. samudrik. 1780 –1870 (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Insurgent practices. The main argument at stake here is not that Europe failed to experience a like fascination with such blurred disciplines as mesmerism.72. 30 Kapila. theosophy 28 Michael S. however. the claim to original and prior Indian authorship was proleptic and in turn announced a claim to a rational future. or what I have called. it was not only an ambivalent attitude to science that informed jyotish. astrology. 29 C. 26 Nov 2012 15:31:40 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . but the fact that these practices were also widely deployed to forge a relationship between the realms of spirituality (adhyatm) and science (vigyan).231 on Mon. On the contrary. Orientalism. They were insurgent precisely because that term captures the range of ideas that were related to. and indeed the anointing of kings and declarations of war and peace were understood as announcements from the heavens. In contrast to its more scholarly counterpart. spilled into domains not necessarily contained by them.168. 101 : 1 (2010) College in Benaras in the 1850s–1860s there was a relatively easy convergence between Sanskrit-trained pundits and their orientalist paymasters. reemerged as jyotish-shastra. Prior knowledge was a claim to authorship. were not ordered into particular disciplines. and. This. that shadowy and dark twin of astronomy. Bayly.29 Equally. births. contestation.28 The nature of this convergence was determined by the existence of rational and testable hypotheses. and National Culture: India. These practices interrupted and intersected all these domains but were imperatively not constitutive of them. like quicksilver. 2007). following Michel Foucault. reformist and liberal thought alike had an ambiguous if not hostile relationship to them. the established and normalizing domains of science. They could not easily be incorporated into either the domain of science or that of religious reform. they belonged to the popular politics of rationalism and the making of modern identity. Empire and Information: Intelligence Gathering and Social Communication in India. It was in this everyday arena. and an emergent Indian historicism. particularly in the second half of the nineteenth century. This content downloaded by the authorized user from 192. deaths. Such knowledges. Empire. Moreover. nor were they institutionalized. and other such practices. The latter made it possible for Indian intellectual elites to claim priority in astronomical science in India. 1996). indeed. this reconfiguration at times collided directly with elite or established disciplines. another equally potent level on which astronomical knowledge operated in the Indian world. It is in this context that astrology. Critically. 1770 –1880 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. or nation. did not merely coexist with reformist and scientific ideas but shadowed them and. and the practices that stood between science and religion.

Mesmerized: Powers of Mind in Victorian Britain (Chicago: Univ. who wanted to disassociate from them and purge modern Hinduism of such practices. Evolutionism was highly hospitable to late nineteenth-century Indian social.33 The selective mining and appropriation of the Sanskrit classical tradition in the search for “origins” of science was a peculiarly later nineteenth-century phenomenon that has been dubbed “Hindu science” by David Arnold and the play of “another reason” by Gyan Prakash. On this see Bernard Lightman. 1921). in effect. and political thought. which in Europe by this time had generally come to despise or denigrate these so-called pseudo-sciences. Indian public intellectuals generally played down or ignored the idea of natural selection.” Modern Intellectual History. It is instead that the difference remained at the level of the perspective of the intellectual and scientific elite. which chastises practices such as mesmerism and astrology. Swami Vivekanand. creating thereby a kind of Comtean Darwin. This explains the importance of the thought of Herbert Spencer for both conservatives and radicals. Spencer. astrology and other insurgent knowledges exploded within the print media. 1890 –1920. In accepting evolution. 26 Nov 2012 15:31:40 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions F O C U S . “Self. and Swaraj: Nationalist Thought and Critiques of Liberalism.168. RELIGION REDUX. THE POLITICAL LANGUAGE OF SCIENCE Between the endpoints of astronomy and psychoanalysis on the arch of the scientific enterprise lay the very wide ground of evolutionary theory. 101 : 1 (2010) 129 itself. including the iconic Vivekanand. for instance. 8th ed. The aim in seeking prior originality or earlier status was.231 on Mon. Science was to nourish and condition the transformation of religion. OR. Press. the rational temperament of science became the cornerstone for the reform of religious practices. e. religious.g. 44:109 –127. This is not to say that religion and science were not consistently opposed to each other but to emphasize the difference in the degree of relative conflict in the European as opposed to the Indian context. Spencer’s notion of organic evolution from the simple to the complex could be used to reengage religion with science and also to appropriate and domesticate science as a dimension of Indian civilization. We should not be surprised. to stake a claim to the future—a future that was to realize an Indian and national hegemony. Schematically speaking. 1998). 32 See. an agenda that was effected through vigorous propaganda in the latter half of the nineteenth century and beyond. for Vivekanand and other religious ideologues. Rather.31 It is significant that in the Indian context the dismissal and disavowal of these insurgent forms of knowledge came predominantly from leading religious reformers rather than from the emergent Indian scientific elite. (Benaras. 2007. in this sense the assumption of modern science in Indian public and domestic life was seamless and indeed Event-less compared with the raging controversies seen in nineteenth-century Europe and America. 1987). the reestablishment of astronomy.72. under scientific modernity did not kill off astrology in India or drive it underground. Hindu-dharm ke pakh mein [In Defense of Hinduism]. then. The Origins of Agnosticism: Victorian Unbelief and the Limits of Knowledge (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. To reiterate. Spencer (especially) and Darwin (often only by allusion) became central to social and political debates about civilization and nationality in the Indian context. 33 Shruti Kapila. This content downloaded by the authorized user from 192. much to the consternation of religious reformers.FOCUS—ISIS. I will briefly discuss the uses of Darwin and Spencer in Indian public debate in the late nineteenth century.32 Instead. These interpretative moves and the “turn to the classical” emerged from a deeper desire to encompass and domesticate or even “provincialize” Europe. that 31 Alison Winter.. Chicago Press.

One simple implication is that neither the divorce of God from man nor the death of God was necessary for the hegemony of science in India. 1946). 1999). This is not to say that science did not emerge as hegemonic. Orion. for the colonized intelligentsia in India these knowledge systems—Sanskrit.34 The fascination with the classical as part of a deep historicist claim is not so much about the original content and veracity of science. Tilak.37 To a considerable extent this was a world of disenchanted religions. The real problem for the absorption of evolutionism and historicism within the religious context was the abandonment of a personal savior and atonement necessitated by the theory of natural selection. 26 Nov 2012 15:31:40 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . and Jawaharlal Nehru. On the emergence of Vedanta see Brian Hatcher. and neoconservatives alike. or. Meanwhile. N. The Arctic Home of the Vedas (Poona: Kesari. and were disciplinary and exclusivist in their practices. 1903).35 Above all. It is in this context of historicism that science was understood as a new but necessary form of knowledge. G. 36 B.s-asian. www.: Princeton Univ. This content downloaded by the authorized user from 192. found it easy to accommodate the idea of God as an evolving omnipresent Being. reduced the variety of Hindu practices to a starkly simple ceremony around a single flame. were made predictive. This viewpoint focused on analogous traditions of civilizational knowledge in which Western science was not so much a threat as it was the latest entrant in a long series of forms of authoritative knowledge. “Indian Thought in the Liberal Age. G. by downplaying natural selection.J. while they fully recognized attendant issues of inequity and the loss of control. But Indians. pointing as it did to the Universal. that Vedanta emerged as the central message and form of neo-Hinduism. historicism was the modus vivendi by which a specifically Indian language of politics emerged.72.html. It is precisely in this context. This development did not lead to a simple divide between the orthodox and the reformist because radical nationalists (B. They became overtly textualized. and Western—were established as analogies in a broader historicist context. a Bunsen burner in the laboratory of religion. Tilak.ac. Bayly. Yet the liberal disavowal of cultural nativism took the form of an emphasis on the universality of the Human. Nehru’s Discovery of India was thus a celebration of this historicism that looked forward rather than backward and paved the way for the nationalist embrace of science. as it has been argued. Bayly has recently argued. 37 Kenneth Jones. or. 101 : 1 (2010) national modernity both befriended science and made it purposive as an emancipatory ideology for society and the state under Nehru. In short.36 The acceptance of science under imperial rule was easily transformed into a political consensus around science in the nationalist era. A. Arabic.130 FOCUS—ISIS. Press. encompassing liberals. radicals. 35 C. as C. rather.” Wiles Lectures (2007).168. A. historicism was deployed to great effect in cultural nativistic claims and cultural nationalism. Arya Dharma: Hindu Consciousness in Nineteenth-Century Punjab (Delhi: Manohar. the key reformist rationalist “religious” movement.uk/ wiles. 2007).cam. Provincializing Europe (Princeton. The “soft landing” that science experienced in the high noon of colonialism in India had specific consequences for the life of religion. Bourgeois Hinduism. Faith of the Modern Vedantists: Rare Discourses from Early Colonial Bengal (Oxford: Oxford Univ. in the stridently reformist Hindu canon of 34 Dipesh Chakrabarty.231 on Mon. yet my claim here is that the dominant emerging religious forms in both Islam and Hinduism became highly rational. The Discovery of India (Calcutta: Signet. Persian. 1989). Keep in mind that the Arya Samaj. Press. to take one example) employed evolutionary thought to position Hinduism within the natural and scientific unfolding of the history of mankind itself. The dominant emerging religious traditions might appear to be forms of romantic spiritualism and legatees of orientalist scholarship.

because India was “spiritual” rather than rationalist but. Indian religions became forms of disenchanted or scientific knowledge. This took the form of his ambition to create a uniquely modern scientific institution—modeled on Trinity College.Yet nationalist and postcolonial Indians followed Gandhi only up to a point. Orientalism and Race (London: Palgrave. Thus science became the mode of enchantment for an Indian modernity without banishing God. 1860 –1900 (Princeton. Thus the argument is deeply antiorientalist. Islamic Revival in British India. Sir Sayyid failed to win a social mandate for such a curriculum from his co-religionists. At the same time. Rather than science becoming a spiritualized religion or faith in India. 26 Nov 2012 15:31:40 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions F O C U S .39 CONCLUSION: POSITIONS OF POSTCOLONIALITY This essay has sought to decenter the late eighteenth century as the moment of the arrival of science in India. By contrast. the emphasis here has been to ask why.” Mod. stressing instead the rationality of the Koran. This stance has been caricatured and subsumed as his supposedly wholesale rejection of science and of modernity itself. science serviced religion by effecting a wholesale transformation of practices and dispositions. Gandhi and Nehru. To return to the earlier figure of Sir Sayyid Ahmed Khan: we know that Sir Sayyid had an overtly reformist—some would argue a “liberal”—agenda for Islam. it has been argued. On the Deoband seminary see Barbara Metcalf. as orientalists had proclaimed. made the Indian body the center of his political project of anticolonial and antistate resistance. point to the divergent receptions of biomedicine and science. Cambridge—in the agrarian heartland of northern India at Aligarh. 39 This content downloaded by the authorized user from 192. because religion itself became disenchanted. but quite tellingly. and to what effects science came to be absorbed within the Indian context. It was an element in a developmental project for the emancipation of India’s history both from political enslavement and from “backwardness” in general. While it is undeniable that science and empire were mutually co-constitutive. the best-known icons of Indian modernity.J. as we know.72. Gandhi. By the end of the nineteenth century.” During the interwar period. 4:61–76. The aim was to educate young Muslims in the dominant scholarship of Western scientific practices in the English language.FOCUS—ISIS. Nehru commandeered science in the service of the national state.231 on Mon. In fact. For a critical appraisal of Sir Sayyid see Faisal Devji. 1982). This was not. In general. effectively purged Islam’s mystical dimension. 2001). however. Press. Gandhi aimed to rupture history. the dominant Deoband school. This was the central message of his seminal tract Hind Swaraj (1909). Intellect. though the material was taught in Urdu and Arabic. Hist. Ironically. 2007.168. science was completely absorbed into the notion of an originary spiritual “big bang. the emerging and supposedly conservative ulama (jurists) of the Deoband seminary a few miles away from Aligarh had no difficulty in integrating a rigorous scientific education into their curriculum. N. Gandhi made the body into the fundamental resistance trope both against the Raj and against what he saw as the inhuman civilization of science that he believed the empire embodied. as Barbara Metcalf has shown. 101 : 1 (2010) 131 the Arya Samaj. they have remained enchanted by the promise of science. Indians have remained skeptical of the hegemony of biomedical science. rather.: Princeton Univ.. whereas Nehru remained faithful to the liberal 38 On the racial “origins” of Hinduism see Tony Ballantyne. under what conditions. rejecting in their turn Gandhi’s characterization of it as “inhuman. “Apologetic Modernity.”38 Equally.

101 : 1 (2010) historicism of the nineteenth century. Nehru’s acceptance of science was part of the continued. This content downloaded by the authorized user from 192. In more recent decades. Nehru took science as a tutelary discipline for the newly free citizenry of the Republic of India. but the Global. non-Eventful.168. 26 Nov 2012 15:31:40 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . The display of scientific prowess—whether in space missions. science in India has become a spectacular Event.231 on Mon. in secret nuclear chambers.72. however. As such. the city of Chandigarh displays the arrogance of an unapologetic national modernity.132 FOCUS—ISIS. and ever-renewable acceptance of science in India that has been going on since at least the early nineteenth century. or through the newly empowered Silicon Valley “nabobs”—is but an announcement of the competitive and confrontational epistemes and practices that now enchant not just India.