'Itibritto' and 'Upokarita': Tracking a Historically Conscious Narration of Chemistry in Nineteenth Century Bengali Periodicals

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Abstract Summary
Partha Chatterjee in 'Texts of Power' emphasizes the need to track institutional practices while tracing the emergence of disciplines in colonial Bengal. In his account of the processes of hybridization of the natural sciences however, the role of popular periodicals is limited to merely translating science for the common public. In my paper I argue that instead of using the antiquated model of “dissemination” to understand the work of popular science, an examination of the textual universe of periodicals like 'Tattvabodhini Patrika' and 'Aryadarshan' reveals the ways in which choices of genre and practices of translation themselves were preparing readers to ‘read’ disciplines in particular ways. I shall study a set of writings narrating the “history of” and “usefulness of” chemistry in the early 1870s - soon after the subject was introduced in undergraduate colleges in Bengal and nearly a decade before the making of the first professional Bengali chemists. Earlier impersonal descriptions of chemical laws and substances give way during the 70s to genres and narrative voices firmly located in the present colonial context. These perceive chemistry as an expanding field rooted in a history (part world-, part nationalist-) and wielding significance in everyday lives of readers. I argue that these vernacular writers’ disputes over chemistry’s origins or their call to readers to recognize it as a “useful” science must be read as interventions into the life led by the discipline within institutional sites in the colony.
Abstract ID :
Submission Type
Organized Session
Abstract Topic
Aspects of Scientific Practice/Organization
Chronological Classification :
19th century
Self-Designated Keywords :
Chemistry, Bengali, Periodicals