Book: Caste, Gender and Science

Abha Sur, Dispersed Radiance: Caste, Gender, and Modern Science in India, New Delhi, Navayana, 2011

“This book is a step toward writing a socially informed history of physics in India in the first half of the twentieth century. Through a series of micro histories of physics, Abha Sur analyzes the confluence of caste, nationalism, and gender in modern science in India, and unpacks the colonial context in which science was organized. She examines the constraints of material reality and ideologies on the production of scientific knowledge, and discusses the effect of the personalities of dominant scientists on the institutions and academies they created. The bulk of the book examines the science and scientific practice of India’s two preeminent physicists in the first half of the twentieth century, C.V. Raman and Meghnad Saha. Raman and Saha were—in terms of their social station, political involvement, and cultural upbringing—diametric opposites. Raman came from an educated Tamil brahmin family steeped in classical art forms, and Saha from an uneducated rural family of modest means and underprivileged caste status in eastern Bengal. Sur also reconstructs a collective history of Raman’s women students—Lalitha Chandrasekhar, Sunanda Bai, and Anna Mani—each a scientist who did not get her due.”

Dispersed Radiance makes an important contribution to the social history of science. It provides a nuanced and critical understanding of the role and location of science in the construction of Indian modernity and in the continuation of social stratification in colonial and postcolonial contexts.”

Abha Sur teaches in the MIT Program in Women’s & Gender Studies in Massachusetts, Cambridge

Interview: Wiebe Bijker

Wiebe E. Bijker, Professor, Faculty of Arts and Culture, Universiteit Maastricht, the Netherlands, was in conversation with Pankaj Sekhsaria

about his latest book, The Paradox of Scientific Authority, and his growing engagement with India.

The New Indian Express, November 21, 2010

Book: Paradox of Scientific Authority

The Paradox of Scientific Authority
The Role of Scientific Advice in Democracies
Wiebe E. Bijker, Roland Bal and Ruud Hendriks

« Today, scientific advice is asked for (and given) on questions ranging from stem-cell research to genetically modified food. And yet it often seems that the more urgently scientific advice is solicited, the more vigorously scientific authority is questioned by policy makers, stakeholders, and citizens. This book examines a paradox: how scientific advice can be influential in society even when the status of science and scientists seems to be at a low ebb. The authors do this by means of an ethnographic study of the creation of scientific authority at one of the key sites for the interaction of science, policy, and society: the scientific advisory committee.

The Paradox of Scientific Authority offers a detailed analysis of the inner workings of the influential Health Council of the Netherlands (the equivalent of the National Academy of Science in the United States), examining its societal role as well as its internal functioning and using the findings to build a theory of scientific advising. The question of scientific authority has political as well as scholarly relevance. Democratic political institutions, largely developed in the nineteenth century, lack the institutional means to address the twenty-first century’s pervasively scientific and technological culture; and science and technology studies (S&TS) grapples with the central question of how to understand the authority of science while recognizing its socially constructed nature. »

About the Authors

Wiebe E. Bijker is Professor of Technology and Society at the University of Maastricht. He is the author of Bicycles, Bakelites, and Bulbs: Toward a Theory of Sociotechnical Change (MIT Press, 1997) and other books.

Roland Bal is Professor in and Founding Chair of the Department of Healthcare Governance of the Institute of Health Policy and Management, Rotterdam.

Ruud Hendriks is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Maastricht.

Interview: Wiebe Bijker

Genetically modified organism and nanotechnology

Wiebe E. Bijker, Professor, Faculty of Arts and Culture, Universiteit Maastricht, the Netherlands, was in conversation with R. Prasad on GMO and nanothechnology

See also




Book: Knowledge Swaraj

C. Shambu Prasad (ed.), Piloting Knowledge Swaraj: A handbook on Indian Science and Technology, Xavier Institute of Management Bhubaneswar, Orissa, March 2011. For: Knowledge In Civil Society (KICS)-Centre for World Solidarity,





1.1 Methodology of the Pilots

1.2 Piloting Knowledge Swaraj









3.1 The Case-Study and its methodology

3.1.1 Methodology adopted

3.2 Introduction: Built Environment and Reconstruction

3.3 Approaches in Reconstruction

3.3.1 Comparison of Reconstruction Approaches

3.4. Overview of three disasters: The Context

3.4.1 The Gujarat Earthquake

3.4.2 The Tsunami in Tamil Nadu

3.4.3 Bihar Kosi Floods

3.5. Policy environment & Regulatory mechanisms

3.5.1 Institutional arrangements and reconstruction approaches

3.5.2 Guidelines, Building Codes and Norms

3.5.3 Where ‘guidelines’ fail and/or are inadequate

3.6. “Whose space is it anyway?”

3.6.1 The ‘Client’ and the Commission

3.6.2 Site allocation: Relocation vs. In-situ Reconstruction

3.6.3 Habitat Planning / Settlement Design

3.6.4 Building: design, materials and technologies

3.6.5. “Fusion” approaches

3.7. People’s Initiatives: Plurality, Sustainability and Justice

3.8. Conclusions & Recommendations





4.1. Rationale for a Case Study on Water

4.2. Narrative of the three themes

4.2.1 River Valley Development – Understanding Tungabhadra from a Common Citizen’s Point of View

4.2.2 Ground Water Management – Social Regulation experiences of CWS and WASSAN

4.2.3 Lessons from Collaborative Advocacy Efforts by CSOs: Watershed development projects in Andhra Pradesh

4.3 Actors, roles and Knowledge Swaraj

4.3.1 Identifying actors

4.3.2 Sustainability

4.3.3 Plurality

4.4. Lessons and Conclusions




Interview: Roland Lardinois

Coordinator of the project, Roland Lardinois was in conversation with the Institut National des Sciences Humaines et Sociales, CNRS on The Making of Indian Engineers.

The interview was published in La Lettre de l’INSHS, 13, Septembre 2011, pp 4-6


Conference Engineering: Questionning a profession

Engineer or Engineers: Expansion or Fragmentation?

International conference : Un Ingénieur, des ingénieurs. Expansion ou fragmentation? Paris, October 6-7, 2011, Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales with the collaboration of Ingénieurs sans frontières


Aalok Khandekar, Engineering subjectivities: Global Indianness and the making of Indian engineers

Given the increasing visibility of Indian engineers in the global high-tech workforce in recent years, this paper inquires into the various conditions that support their transnational mobilities. I argue that Indian technomigration is shaped through the complex articulations of many different factors – middle class imaginations of successful careers and affluent lifestyles, immigration laws, considerations of family, and discourses of a “Global Indian” cosmopolitanism – being some of the most salient ones.

In particular, I argue that Indian technomigrants become transnationally mobile by assuming cosmopolitan “Global Indian” subjectivities – an identity construct that allows them to position themselves as global citizens who are nonetheless Indian at their core. For Indian technomigrants, “Global Indianness” is configured as the space between the binary opposition of a materialist “West” (United States) and a spiritual “India,” and is actualized through everyday practices such as those of education, employment, hospitality, and consumption. As a discursive construct, global Indianness, then, enacts a double movement – it serves to redefine engineering and allied technical professions as being Indian, while simultaneously making Indians “global”.

Based on this empirical analysis, I make four conceptual interventions. First, I foreground ways in which professional and non-professional (“technical” and “non-technical”) aspects of engineering practice are inextricably intertwined, and how these are in turn situated in local and global historical, cultural and political-economic conditions. Indian engineers, for example, prominently foreground their frustrations with a corrupt state bureaucratic machinery as key rationales for migrating to the United States and elsewhere. Such frustrations in turn shape how these engineers come to conceive of their personal and professional responsibilities, thus linking local histories to the formation of professional identities. Second, then, I draw attention to ways in which Indian engineering is constituted transnationally – seeking education and employment overseas has historically figured as an important consideration for Indian engineers, and shapes their personal and professional imaginaries in significant ways. Third, I argue for continued attention to engineers as key cultural figures. In postcolonial contexts such as those of India, especially, engineers have historically signified the promise of middle class respectability and livelihoods. Understanding engineering subjectivities, then, becomes a particularly productive window into understanding key cultural logics, as well as emerging sociocultural shifts. Lastly, I argue for continued synergies between scholarship on Engineering Studies and the interdisciplinary field of Science and Technology Studies (STS). As Engineering Studies defines itself as an autonomous area of inquiry, I suggest that it can meaningfully revitalize a focus on subject-formation among technoscientific experts writ large within STS.

This paper draws on ethnographic research conducted among Indian technomigrants – Indian engineering students and early career professionals who have migrated to the United States for education and employment-related purposes. Data for this research was collected through

Roland Lardinois, The social space of engineering colleges in India: Between the state and the market

This preliminary presentation is part of an international research programme: The Making of Indian Engineers, supported by the Centre de Sciences Humaines, New Delhi, which brings together Indian and European scholars.

According to the AICTE the number of engineering colleges in India has increased fourfold in the last ten years – from 780 colleges registered in the year 2000 to more than 3000 colleges in 2010. The number of BEngg or BTech degrees currently delivered is estimated at 350 000 per year.

However, this growth is quite unbalanced. Firstly, 60% of the seats are concentrated in the four southern states (Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu) and Maharashtra. Secondly, 73% of the seats are concentrated in five disciplines of the Information Technology (IT) only: Electronics and Communications; Computer Science; Information Technology; Electronics and Electrical; Electronics and Telecommunications.

Furthermore, engineering education is de facto privatised as 92% of the colleges are private (including few private government aided colleges) and 8% public institutions. But among these public institutions stand the most prestigious engineering colleges the Indian Institutes of Technology and the National Institutes of Technology and other institutions of similar ranking.

This presentation raises a few issues. Can we consider engineering education as a scholarly market? Who are the stakeholders involved in this market? How is the competition between colleges organized? What are their catchment areas? What are the mechanisms of regulation and control of this market? What is the role of the judiciary in the field of higher professional education? How do the colleges orient their action in this market, and how can we differentiate between these colleges? How is the social diversity organized in order to benefit all the groups of the Indian society? What is the rationale behind the working of these colleges – both inside and outside the institution? These are some of the issues that we will discuss in order to frame a survey that we intend to conduct as part of the programme The Making of Indian Engineers.

Odile Henry also contributed a paper titled: De l’ordre des ingénieurs à l’ordre des ingénieurs-conseils, de la récurrence d’un idéal professionnel (1922-1954).


Book: Engineers and Middle Classes in France

Paul Bouffartigue, Charles Gadéa, et Sophie Porchic, Cadres, classes moyennes : vers l’éclatement ? Paris, Armand Colin, 2011.
« « Banalisation  des cadres », « stress au travail », « panne de l’ascenseur social », « crise des classes moyennes » : les anxiétés sociales se focalisent sur ce vaste ensemble dans lequel une majorité de la population tend désormais à se reconnaître. Dans quelle mesure sont-elles fondées ? Reflet de tendances lourdes ou emballement  médiatique, voire rhétoriques politiques ? Une quarantaine de sociologues et de spécialistes en sciences de gestion apportent une réponse nuancée.  

Multipliant les angles d’observation, combinant de grandes enquêtes quantitatives et des enquêtes localisées, faisant place à l’étude de catégories de salariés proches des cadres, donnant une large place aux différences liées au genre et aux générations, l’ouvrage sonde l’évolution des frontières entre cadres et non cadres. Il analyse les carrières, le rapport au travail et les conditions de travail des cadres, mais aussi leur mode de vie, leurs pratiques culturelles et leurs comportements politiques. Cadres non dirigeants et professions intermédiaires, cœur des classes moyennes salariées, apparaissent à la fois éloignés sur de multiples plans et néanmoins réunis par nombre de passerelles.
Bilan des recherches empiriques et contribution au renouvellement du débat théorique sur la notion de classes moyennes, il plaide pour une analyse nuancée qui prend en compte les diverses facettes du devenir de ce monde social inscrit au cœur de la société française. « 

Contributors: T. Amossé, S. Bosc, V. Boussard, C. Brousse, M. Cartier, J. Chiche, Ph. Coulangeon, O. Cousin, I. Coutant, L. Coutrot, Y. Dalla Pria, F. Dany, F. Darbus, C. Delmas, F. Devine, S. Ghaffari, A. Grelon, G. Groux, C. Guillaume, M. Guyonvarch, N. Lapeyre, J. Laufer, G. Lazuech, N. Le Feuvre, N. Leroux, O. Masclet, F. Mispelblom Beyer, P. Moulévrier, M. Oberti, F. Palpacuer, A. Pélage, C. Peugny, T. Poullaouec, E. Préteceille, J. Rhulmann, A. Seignour, Y. Siblot, L.-A. Vallet, C. Vercher, N. Vezinat, L. Wolff.

Book Review (in French) :

Book: Engineering and Concrete Building in American History

Amy E. Slaton, Reinforced Concrete and the Modernization of American Building, 1900-1930, John Hopkins University Press, 2001.

« Examining the proliferation of reinforced-concrete construction in the United States after 1900, historian Amy E. Slaton considers how scientific approaches and occupations displaced traditionally skilled labor. The technology of concrete buildings little studied by historians of engineering, architecture, or industry offers a remarkable case study in the modernization of American production.
The use of concrete brought to construction the new procedures and priorities of mass production. These included a comprehensive application of science to commercial enterprise and vast redistributions of skills, opportunities, credit, and risk in the workplace. Reinforced concrete also changed the American landscape as building buyers embraced the architectural uniformity and simplicity to which the technology was best suited.
Based on a wealth of data that includes university curricula, laboratory and company records, organizational proceedings, blueprints, and promotional materials as well as a rich body of physical evidence such as tools, instruments, building materials, and surviving reinforced-concrete buildings, this book tests the thesis that modern mass production in the United States came about not simply in answer to manufacturers’ search for profits, but as a result of a complex of occupational and cultural agendas. »

Book: Engineering and Race in US

Amy E. Slaton, Race, Rigor, and Selectivity in US Engineering. The History of an Occupational Color Line, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2010.

« Despite the educational and professional advances made by minorities in recent decades, African Americans remain woefully underrepresented in the fields of science, technology, mathematics, and engineering. Even at its peak, in 2000, African American representation in engineering careers reached only 5.7 percent, while blacks made up 15 percent of the U.S. population. Some forty-five years after the Civil Rights Act sought to eliminate racial differences in education and employment, what do we make of an occupational pattern that perpetually follows the lines of race?

Race, Rigor, and Selectivity in U.S. Engineering pursues this question and its ramifications through historical case studies. Focusing on engineering programs in three settings—in Maryland, Illinois, and Texas, from the 1940s through the 1990s—Amy E. Slaton examines efforts to expand black opportunities in engineering as well as obstacles to those reforms. Her study reveals aspects of admissions criteria and curricular emphases that work against proportionate black involvement in many engineering programs. Slaton exposes the negative impact of conservative ideologies in engineering, and of specific institutional processes—ideas and practices that are as limiting for the field of engineering as they are for the goal of greater racial parity in the profession. »

Preliminary Workshop on Indian Engineers, New Delhi, 21-22 February 2011

A preliminary workshop on The Making of Indian Engineers project was held at India Habitat Centre, Delhi, on 21st-22nd February 2011, under the auspices of the Centre de Sciences Humaines. Nineteen scholars from both India and abroad attended the workshop (IIIT-Bangalore, IIIM Gwalior, IIT-Chennai, IIT-Mumbai, IIT-Delhi, Delhi Technological University, MIDS Chennai, Centre for Women’s Development Studies, Delhi, Centre for the Study of Developing Society, Delhi, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, Institut d’administration des entreprises, Paris, University of Paris-Dauphine, University of Saint-Quentin en Yvelines, and Fondation Thiers, Paris). The workshop was organized as a brain-storming session on the history and sociology of the engineering professions in India. Three broad areas of research were covered: first, the history of the profession under the colonial regime and the development of engineering education since Independence; second, the sociology of Engineering Colleges and their student population (social mobility, choice of profession, professional expectations, etc.); third, engineers as professionals (definitions of the groups, workplace, careers, political and civic engagement, ways of life, etc.). The main aim of the workshop was to prepare a collective research proposal to be submitted to the Indian European Network Research Programme and the French Agence Nationale de la Recherche for funding.