Book : Reigning the River

Anne Rademacher, Reigning the River: Urban Ecologies and Political Transformation in Kathmandu. Durham : Duke University Press, 2011

“A major contribution to the nascent anthropology of urban environments, Reigning the River illuminates the complexities of river restoration in Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital and one of the fastest-growing cities in South Asia. In this rich ethnography, Anne M. Rademacher explores the ways that urban riverscape improvement involved multiple actors, each constructing ideals of restoration through contested histories and ideologies of belonging. She examines competing understandings of river restoration, particularly among bureaucrats in state and conservation-development agencies, cultural heritage activists, and advocates for the security of tens of thousands of rural-to-urban migrants settled along the exposed riverbed. Rademacher conducted research during a volatile period in Nepal’s political history. As clashes between Maoist revolutionaries and the government intensified, the riverscape became a site of competing claims to a capital city that increasingly functioned as a last refuge from war-related violence. In this time of intense flux, efforts to ensure, create, or imagine ecological stability intersected with aspirations for political stability. Throughout her analysis, Rademacher emphasizes ecology as an important site of dislocation, entitlement, and cultural meaning.”

See Also :

Anne M. Rademacher and K. Sivaramakrishnan, Ecologies of Urbanism in India: Metropolitan Civility and Sustainability. New York : Columbia University Press, 2013

Aditya Batra, “River Restoration is not just an ecological act. Interview with Anne M. Rademacher”, Down To Earth, April 30 2012. Available online.

Programme of upcoming Lectures (May-June 2013) at the EHESS Paris available here. 

Review: Scholars and Prophets

« The Fascination for India », La Vie des idées, 11 March 2013

Review by Jules Naudet (Translated by Rohini Rangachari)

Roland Lardinois, Scholars and Prophets. Sociology of India from France 19th-20th Centuries. New Delhi: Social Science Press, 2013

“Since the 18th century, India has been portrayed in contradictory ways. While scholarly knowledge is based on the philological study of texts, literary Orientalism expresses its fascination for a society well-known to preserve the values of order and hierarchy. For Roland Lardinois the anthropology of Louis Dumont illustrates the ambiguity of these discourses.”



Project: Context in Engineering

Rethinking Context in Engineering

Working title for the project group: Issues in Engineering Studies

Publisher: Springer

To be published in the Springer series: Philosophy of Engineering & Technology

Responsible editor and project coordinator: Steen Hyldgaard Christensen

Co-editors: Bernard Delahousse, Gary Downey, Andrew Jamison, Martin Meganck, Carl Mitcham

Approach: A combination of the approach used in: Christensen, Steen Hyldgaard, Delahousse, Bernard, Meganck, Martin (eds) (2009). Engineering in Context. Academica, Aarhus and the approach used in Gary Downey and Kasey Beddoe (eds.) (2010). What is Global Engineering For: The Making of International Educators. Morgan & Claypool Publishers.

Length of the volume: 600 pages

Short description of the Springer project: The aim of this project is to gain a better understanding of the contexts in which engineering activities are situated within the larger realm of human activities. In dealing with context it immediately becomes clear that context is an inherently dialectical concept, since contextualizing in itself is dependent on definitions of what is perceived to be the relevant boundaries regarding both the education and the practice of engineering. Contextualizing thus unfolds its inherent dialectics in the terrain between what “is” and “ought”. In this way the quest for a re-contextualizing of engineering education and practice put forward in this volume inevitably is a value-laden enterprise and therefore not without a certain degree of controversy. It is concerned with both what engineering “is” and what it “ought” to be. Ultimately a greater awareness and understanding of context should result in better preparation of engineers to render those contexts visible in their work, and consequently enable engineers to contribute to more socially robust and responsible endeavors. Engineering practices have to often been characterized by absence of self-criticism, and liberal arts practices by reverence for isolated critical virtuosity. To burst these boundaries in a collaborative effort is a main purpose of the project. Using ”context” and two simply stated but complex questions “What is engineering for? and, What are engineers for?”  as bridges the project sets out to juxtapose important cases of critical participation within engineering with sophisticated scholarly reflection on both opportunities and discontents.

Provisional structure of the volume containing 30 chapters (600 pages).


General Introduction

Section 1 (Introduction + 6 chapters): Contextualizing Engineering

Section 2 (Introduction + 6 chapters): Institutional Contexts of Engineering Education

Section 3 (Introduction + 6 chapters): Context in Engineering Curricula

Section 4 (Introduction + 6 chapters): Context in Engineering Design

Section 5 (Introduction + 6 chapters): Ethics and Values in Engineering

Author Biographies


Short description of the main content of the five sections

Section 1: Contextualizing Engineering

The issue of context in engineering is no doubt one of the most central and controversial topics in the studies of engineering and technology. On the one hand, context is an old issue if one views engineering as an activity adapting technical objects and projects to particular material and social conditions. On the other hand, it is a current issue if one considers the context to be at the heart of contemporary philosophical, historical and social reflections upon technology. Whatever the viewpoint, any attempt to characterize engineering as a core activity of the ‘technology-in-society’ must, as far as possible, choose a position on what can be termed ‘the question of context’. Section 1 is thus meant to serve as a philosophical, historical, and social reflection of the various meanings of “Context” in engineering and technology.

Section 2: Institutional Contexts of Engineering Education

Engineering education takes place at different levels, in different types of institutions embedded in different national systems of higher education. Systems of higher education are not stable entities but are exposed to structural change over time due to institutional and structural dynamics. Examples of typical structural dynamics are academic drift in engineering colleges and vocational drift in universities. Such dynamics work to transform educational systems and to blur the boundaries between the different types of institutions. The aim of this section is to investigate the historical record of a number of ideal typical institutions of engineering education in the United States, Europa, and China and the historical transformation they have gone through. As ideal typical cases The United Kingdom, France, Germany and China represent four historical reference models of higher education – the Oxbridge, the Napoleonic, the Humboldtian, and the Marxist. These reference models constitute the historical initial conditions for the shaping of engineering education and the different status and roles attributed to engineers in the four countries. In section 2 these issues will be scrutinized.

Section 3: Context in Engineering Curricula

The importance of incorporating contextual issues and developing socio-technical competencies in engineering education has been widely acknowledged in the engineering education community in Australia, Europe and the United States. High quality engineering design requires understanding of how the engineered artifact interacts with individuals, society, and  the environment, both natural and manmade. In the US, the ABET EC 2000 criteria ( for accrediting engineering programs incorporate context in two out of eleven program outcomes (a-k) under criterion 3. The two context-related outcomes to be achieved by first-cycle engineering students are (c) “an ability to design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs within realistic constraints such as economic, environmental, social, political, ethical, health and safety, manufacturability, and sustainability”, and (h) “the broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global, economic, and societal context”. In the European EUR-ACE accreditation framework (Document A1-en Final 17 November, 2005), context is incorporated as one outcome out of five under the heading “Transferable Skills”.First-cycle engineering students are expected to “demonstrate awareness of the health, safety and legal issues and responsibilities of engineering practice, the impact of engineering solutions in a societal and environmental context, and commit to professional ethics, responsibilities and norms of engineering practice”. The aim of this section is to investigate whether and if so to what extent, confronted with which obstacles and how socio-technical integration has been tackled and implemented in a number of exemplary engineering education institutions and their curricula.

Section 4: Context in Engineering Design

Engineering design may be seen as the core of engineering. In this section, we will focus on the major structural differences between science and engineering. When embarking on a com­parison of science and engineering from a general perspective, the initial problem one faces is: what to compare? It may be argued that, at a general level, scholars of modern technology of whatever philosophical bent they may be seem to agree that technology can be distinguished from science in three closely related areas: 1. Centre and purpose of activity, 2. Normative foundation, 3. Epistemo­logical breadth and complexity. As engineering design is embedded in a larger context – a “social world” – both at a micro, meso and macro level, the design process can be conceived as a social process as well. A complete design is not in the hands of a single individual. To proceed, engineers have to take into consideration legal restrictions and standards, performance requirements set by customers, they have to negotiate with others in the company etc. Different worlds intersect generating work, which is fundamentally social and process. No overriding instrumental strategy is at hand to reconcile and synthesize the diverse design interests. At the beginning of the design process the performance requirements set by the customer is the basis of the layout of performance specifications, but even these requirements are subject to change. It is impossible to uphold these specifications within an ongoing process of modification, clarification, negotiation and joint interpretation. In this way specifications, which seem clear at the outset are challenged by the very design process. The design process is thus a process of discovery to uncover ambiguities, confusions and contradictions. The aim of this section is to scrutinize engineering design methodology, knowledge components and the role of context in the engineering design process ranging from small scale design of technical devices to large scale socio-technical system design.

Section 5: Ethics and Values in Engineering

Project Start:  Beginning of May 2012

Duration: 2 years, ending 1 December 2014

Kick-off workshop at MIT 4 and 5 May 2012: a 2 days kick-off workshop will be held Friday 4 and Saturday 5 May 2012 in the Conference room at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge in the United States. This has been arranged by Larry Bucciarelli. STS at MIT has offered to host a reception for our gathering on Friday evening. Wine, beer, cheese and crackers will be supplied by the program. 10 faculty members from within MIT will be invited to attend this event. The purpose of the workshop is:

  1. to get to know each other
  2. to give a presentation of the project by the editors
  3. to present publishing editor at Springer Ties Nijssen and project facilities Springer can offer
  4. to create a team spirit
  5. to fine tune the structure of the volume
  6. to discuss in groups interpretations of section titles regarding scope and content of sections
  7. to create an overview of possible chapter titles and their distributions across the seven sections
  8. to agree on deadlines
  9. to listen to a limited number of presentations

Workshop expenditures, travel, meals and accommodation: As there would be no project funding all cost are to be funded by participants via their institutions

Project communication, template and standards (including the system of referencing) for the chapters:

  1. Web site
  2. List of e-mail addresses
  3. Template to be used in the writing of chapters.

Deadlines and milestones:

  1. Delivery of titles, abstracts and names of authors and possible co-authors for and of chapters
  2. Writing of the Preface of the volume by the editors immediately after the kick off workshop
  3. Delivery of individual author biographies for the author biography of the volume at the beginning of the project
  4. Appointment of authors and co-authors of section introductions
  5. Delivery of proofread first drafts of chapters
  6. Review of chapters
  7. Delivery of revised chapters according to the recommendations given in the reviews
  8. Proofreading and copy-editing of chapters by native English speaking participants
  9. Indexing of chapters by the authors
  10. Delivery of final versions of chapters in each section to the authors of section introductions
  11. Writing the General Introduction by the editors and the respective section introductions
  12. Submission to Springer

Target groups:

  1. Scholars of engineering studies and STS
  2. Engineering educators at all levels
  3. Instructors, researchers and practitioners in engineering
  4. Policy makers, accreditation agencies, professional engineering societies
  5. Engineering students

List of participants:

Byron Newberry, Baylor University, Texas (Byron­

Wayne Ambler, University of Colorado, Boulder (

Jen Schneider, Colorado School of Mines (

Juan Lucena, Colorado School of Mines (

Carl Mitcham, Colorado School of Mines (

Louis L. Bucciarelli, MIT (llbjr@MIT.EDU)

Bruce Seely, Michigan Technological University, United States (

Joe Pitt, Virginia Tech (

Matt Wisnioski, Virginia tech (

Gary Downey, Virginia Tech (

Michael Dyrenfurth, Purdue University (

Brent Jesiek, Purdue University (

Erik Fisher, Arizona State University (

Joe Herkert, Arizona State University (

Javier Cañavate, Technical University of Catalonia, Spain (

José Manuel Lis, Technical University of Catalonia, Spain (

Martin Meganck, KaHo, Sint-Lieven, Belgium (

Bernard Delahousse, IUT “A” Lille, France (

Steen Hyldgaard Christensen, Aarhus University, Denmark (

Michael Evan Goodsite, Aarhus University, Denmark (

Matthias Heymann, Aarhus University, Denmark (

Anders Buch, Technical University of Denmark (

Andrew Jamison, Aalborg University, Denmark (

Stig Andur Pedersen, Roskilde University Center (RUC), Denmark (

Fernand Doridot, ICAM Lille, France (doridot (

Sylvain Lavelle, ICAM Lille, France (

Christelle Didier, The Catholic University of Lille, France (

Peter Kroes, Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands (

Pieter Vermaas, Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands (

Wilhelm Bomke, Fachhochschule Regensburg, Germany (

Mike Murphy, Dublin Institute of Technology, Ireland (

William (Bill) Grimson, Dublin Institute of Technology, Ireland (

Li Bocong, The Graduate University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (

Additional authors:

If needed additional authors may be invited after the workshop in May 2012 at MIT.

Presentation: Engineers in Indian Cinema

Engineers in postcolonial India

Arundhati Virmani

Abstract of presentation in « Journée de l’Inde, Maison Méditerranéenne des Sciences de l’Homme, Aix-en Provence

28 May 2011

Since independence, projects of economic development and modernisation of Indian society attributed a legitimacy and a heightened social recognition to the engineer’s profession. Far from being a new profession, the engineer had nevertheless received a renewed social recognition as a result of British colonial policy of railway development and urban infrastructures from the end of the 18th century onwards. The present inquiry into the social responses and reception of the figure of the engineer after 1947, defined with reference to his skills and his technical knowledge in a society still strongly dominated by membership of caste or community is based on a corpus of Indian films produced since the 1950s when Nehru’s government set in motion a modernisation of the country founded on the principles of technical and practical knowledge.

A study of the cinematographic representations of the engineer in the different regional languages offers us a perception into the paths of insertion of this technical group in Indian society. Confronted with other professions such as doctors, lawyers, university professors or policemen, already well integrated in the social system, the engineer is seldom the protagonist of a fim. Hero of a national project led by elites who were products of the new meritocratic system, he is constantly obliged on the field to negotiate with prevailing working conditions and practices in order to achieve the transformation he is expected to to introduce in the urban and rural landscape of modern India. Bearer of practices expected to « revolutionize » society, he incarnatees the tensions between a knowledge imported form the West and the social values and traditions of his own caste or community. A comparison of films produced in the 1950s-1980s and the 1990s to dates highlight the shifts in the engineer’s place and rôle in Indian society and state structures. More recent films ofcourse focus on the figure of the computer engineer which highlight a new kind of tension : sought after in the international market, the engineer has abandoned the mission hitherto assigned to him of modernizing his own country. It remains to be seen if films simply mirror big social transformations or contribute to some of the key transformations in Indian society by suggesting new models of behaviour ?

Arundhati Virmani, after her PhD in history from the University of Paris I-Panthéon Sorbonne taught in Delhi University before moving to France where she taught in the University de Bordeaux. She currently teaches at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences sociales, Marseille.

Her publications include India : 1900-1947. Un Britannique au cœur du Raj (Paris, Autrement, 2001) and A National Flag for India. Rituals, Nationalism and the Politics of Sentiment (Delhi, Permanent Black, 2008)

Forthcoming Atlas historique de l’Inde (Paris, Autrement, 2012)

Emotional Pasts : Questions for Indian Political Culture (Delhi, Three Essays, 2012

Kaala Patthar [Black Stone] is a 1979 Indian drama film directed by Yash Chopra ; starring Amitabh Bachchan and Shashi Kapoor who plays an engineer incharge of the mine.

Delhi Technicological University: Alumni Conclave 2012

From Delhi Polytechnic to the Delhi Technicological University

Delhi College of Engineering, now Delhi Technologial University since 2010, is one of the premier colleges of Engineering education in India and has played unique and important role in the advancement of technical education. Established in 1941 as Delhi Polytechnic, Delhi College of Engineering has played the role of mother institution in establishing Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi, School of Planning and Architecture-Delhi, College of Pharmacy-Delhi, College of Arts Delhi, Netaji Subhas Institute of Technology-Delhi & many more institutions.

read more:







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

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




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).


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.

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