Aspects of Scientific Practice/Organization Drift 27, Rm. 032 Organized Session | Special Interest Group
26 Jul 2019 09:00 AM - 11:45 AM(Europe/Amsterdam)
20190726T0900 20190726T1145 Europe/Amsterdam Science and its Local Readers in British India

This panel examines the role of print in the production and circulation of scientific knowledge in colonial South Asia. It brings together rich empirical histories of the process of selecting, translating, and publishing the sciences by indigenous elites for Indian readers in regional languages. These papers are based on printed materials in Urdu, Bengali and Hindi – three regional languages widely used across the subcontinent and often associated with distinct communities of religion and knowledge, Muslims and Hindus. Together these papers provide dense case-studies of the reception, translation and reconfiguration of scientific knowledge in a multilingual colonial context with pre-existing knowledge communities and longstanding intellectual traditions. The panel engages with an existing geography within the historiography of science in the British empire, which has London and Calcutta as its centers, by situating its inquiries in the cities of Aligarh, Allahabad and Hyderabad, and their attendant cultures of knowledge. These case-studies aim to demonstrate the cultural embeddedness of knowledge production; the interactions between categories of science and religion; and the importance of language and translation to the global circulations of scientific discourse.

Organized by Sarah QidwaiSponsored by the Forum for the History of Science in Asia

Drift 27, Rm. 032 History of Science Society 2019 meeting@hssonline.org

This panel examines the role of print in the production and circulation of scientific knowledge in colonial South Asia. It brings together rich empirical histories of the process of selecting, translating, and publishing the sciences by indigenous elites for Indian readers in regional languages. These papers are based on printed materials in Urdu, Bengali and Hindi – three regional languages widely used across the subcontinent and often associated with distinct communities of religion and knowledge, Muslims and Hindus. Together these papers provide dense case-studies of the reception, translation and reconfiguration of scientific knowledge in a multilingual colonial context with pre-existing knowledge communities and longstanding intellectual traditions. The panel engages with an existing geography within the historiography of science in the British empire, which has London and Calcutta as its centers, by situating its inquiries in the cities of Aligarh, Allahabad and Hyderabad, and their attendant cultures of knowledge. These case-studies aim to demonstrate the cultural embeddedness of knowledge production; the interactions between categories of science and religion; and the importance of language and translation to the global circulations of scientific discourse.

Organized by Sarah Qidwai
Sponsored by the Forum for the History of Science in Asia

Translating Science: Sayyid Ahmad Khan’s Scientific Discourse in PrintView Abstract
Organized Session 09:00 AM - 09:30 AM (Europe/Amsterdam) 2019/07/26 07:00:00 UTC - 2019/07/26 07:30:00 UTC
In 1848, Sayyid Ahmad Khan (1817-1898) published an article in which he defended the theory of a motionless Earth. By 1865, he had changed his position and argued that the Earth did revolve around the sun. Curiously enough, his defense of this idea is presented in his bilingual publication The Muhammadan Commentary on The Holy Bible (1865). As a historical figure, Sayyid Ahmad is frequently characterized as a forefather of Muslim nationalism in India and a reformer of both Islam and education. Throughout his life, he established several educational institutions, publications and societies. Most famous is the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College, established in 1875, now called Aligarh Muslim University. However, his attempts to popularize science in colonial India are overlooked. This paper focuses on three distinct areas where Sayyid engaged with scientific discourse in print. Bringing together the fields of the history of science and religion, print culture, and science popularization, I argue that Sayyid Ahmad was not simply translating or transmitting “Western” knowledge. In fact, he was drawing on ideas already present in India alongside new theories in his popularization efforts. The publications include the translations of The Scientific Society (est. 1864), The Commentary on the Bible and select articles from the journal Tahzib-ul-Akhlaq (A Refinement of Manners), established in 1870. Of particular interest is the role of translating concepts in Urdu. What terms were used and how were concepts translated or combined? Overall, can we as historians label Sayyid Ahmad a popularizer of science?
Presenters Sarah Qidwai
University Of Toronto
Vigyan, Scientific Readerships, and the Colonial Lives of Science Popularization in North India, ca. 1915View Abstract
Organized Session 09:30 AM - 10:00 AM (Europe/Amsterdam) 2019/07/26 07:30:00 UTC - 2019/07/26 08:00:00 UTC
This paper brings together histories of science, print, nationalism and empire through the case study of a popular science monthly established by Indian intellectuals in early twentieth century north India. In April 1915, a new monthly called Vigyan appeared in the Hindi public sphere. It was brought out by a voluntary society, the Vigyan Parishad, which had been established in 1913 in Allahabad to spread scientific knowledge among Hindi readers through the production, translation, and publication of scientific works. Vigyan was advertised as the ‘one and only illustrated scientific monthly journal in Hindi’, and carried articles on both technical and popular subjects as diverse as magnetism, evolution, electricity, as well as the need for science education in Hindi. This paper focuses on Vigyan to bring to light an important historical source for the production and circulation of scientific knowledge in print which has been equally ignored by literary historians and historians of science of South Asia. It engages with the self-description of the monthly as a ‘science periodical’ and ‘science’ in the periodical as an actors’ category to raise questions about the nature of the journal and the knowledge contained and presented within its pages. Finally, the paper reflects on the historical significance of “popularisation” in a multilingual colonial context, marked by hierarchies of knowledge, power, as well as languages; especially in an era of anticolonial nationalism and linguistic mobilization, when calls to serve the language, nation, and science were often deeply entangled.
Presenters Charu Singh
Adrian Research Fellow, Darwin College, University Of Cambridge
'Itibritto' and 'Upokarita': Tracking a Historically Conscious Narration of Chemistry in Nineteenth Century Bengali PeriodicalsView Abstract
Organized Session 10:15 AM - 10:45 AM (Europe/Amsterdam) 2019/07/26 08:15:00 UTC - 2019/07/26 08:45:00 UTC
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.
Presenters
SB
Sthira Bhattacharya
PhD Student, Centre For English Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
Commentary: Science and Its Local Readers in British IndiaView Abstract
Organized Session 10:45 AM - 11:15 AM (Europe/Amsterdam) 2019/07/26 08:45:00 UTC - 2019/07/26 09:15:00 UTC
Presenters
MM
Minakshi Menon
Max Plank Institute For The History Of Science, Berlin
University of Toronto
Adrian Research Fellow, Darwin College, University of Cambridge
PhD student, Centre for English Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
Max Plank Institute for the History of Science, Berlin
Max Plank Institute for the History of Science, Berlin
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