South Asia

Organized Panel Session

Techno-logics of Space and Power in South Asia

Friday, July 6
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Location: Cypress, New Building

This panel explores the historical interactions between the state, material and social technologies, and novel geographical imaginations in modern South Asia. Postcolonial historians have famously interpreted emerging technologies as monuments to modernity, tools of domination, and vehicles for ideas of nation and community. Only recently has scholarship attended to the mismatch between rhetoric and messy, material, and contingent reality using detailed historical case studies. These papers’ insights into particular technological projects to re-order space converge in specific and general ways. Across 100 years and the rupture of decolonization, state actors repeatedly sought to engage with the terrestrial world from above. In doing so, they made similar claims about superior knowledge, scientific aesthetics of precision and objectivity, and potentials for governance at a distance. Their panoptic and technocratic visions have relevance to broader philosophical debates about scientific universality, cultural specificity, and imperial legacies. These papers reveal ways in which technologies have functioned as arguments manifested as physical infrastructures, objects, images, or standardized practices. Not content with abstractions, they highlight the roles of individuals who formulated technological fantasies and others caught up in their implementation as willing or unwitting participants. Taken together, these papers demonstrate that dialectics of technology and society continually re-produced South Asia’s spatial order to address specific historical concerns: as Asian empire, nation, frontier, tropics, and zones of war and peace. Overall, the discussion sheds light on enduring questions of the synchronizing and scalar effects of technology in South Asia and the limits of state power.

Sarah A. Carson

Princeton University, United States

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Sarah A. Carson

Princeton University, United States

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Joppan George

Princeton University, United States

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Kena Wani

Duke University, United States

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Jahnavi Phalkey

Science Gallery Bengaluru, United Kingdom

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