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Articulating STS in Contemporary Indian Contexts

Wed, August 20, 11:00am to 1:00pm, Intercontinental Hotel, Moliere

Abstract

Much recent interest in STS scholarship in India has come from within institutions of design, engineering, and other technology-based research and education. Scientists, engineers, and designers based at such institutions—once heavily critiqued for planning and implementing postcolonial state-directed technocratic modernization projects such as the construction of big dams, nuclear research, and technologies of green revolution—evince a keen interest in understanding and incorporating insights into the workings of technoscience that STS scholars have to offer. This results in a double-bind: on the one hand, this affords excellent opportunities to establish and institutionalize robust centers of STS scholarship, on the other hand, it perhaps makes more difficult to keep pressure on core questions concerning social and epistemic justice, and ways in which technoscience can be complicit in their perpetuation. Indeed, it is such a double-bind that has resulted in a primarily oppositional relationship between the domains of the state-directed technoscientific establishment on the one hand, and that of social science scholars and civil society activists on the other.

In this paper, I ask how STS scholars located in the global North might collaborate with various actors towards navigating this paradox. A key role for these STS scholars, I want to suggest is that of translators between these distinctive domains of language and practice. Translation, as Timothy Choy (2005) suggests, makes knowledge come to matter as expertise by helping it move across domains and hence gain authority. It also makes possible articulation—the discursive constitution of a contingent collectivity across difference.

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