Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

Science of giants: China and India in the twentieth century

  • JAHNAVI PHALKEY (a1) and TONG LAM (a2)

Abstract

How might one tell the histories of China and India – two countries that have come to be seen as twenty-first-century giants? How might one tell of how they look to the world and to each other? In this issue we juxtapose, connect and compare the two. Ours is an attempt at a historiography of twentieth-century modernity in China and India beyond the encouragement of Euro-American historiography. We seize this opportunity provided by the contemporary engagement and concern with the two countries to reinterpret the narratives of their twentieth-century transformation, which are far from settled at the moment. We bring historical knowledge to speak usefully to the excitement, anxiety and aspiration around science and technology in China and India. We bring the same to speak meaningfully to the cynicism, admonition and expectations that the world has of them. We use China and India as a method of exploring new historiographical questions of science. We are invested in extending the relevance of studying China and India to the world at large through connections, references and juxtaposition, and by raising questions that, on the one hand, expose the limits of the Euro-American experience and, on the other, open up the intellectual and historiographical space for narratives and theoretical frameworks that are not tied to geopolitical significance. This paper sets out these issues and introduces the papers of the collection.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Science of giants: China and India in the twentieth century
      Available formats
      ×

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Science of giants: China and India in the twentieth century
      Available formats
      ×

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Science of giants: China and India in the twentieth century
      Available formats
      ×

Copyright

This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the same Creative Commons licence is included and the original work is properly cited. The written permission of Cambridge University Press must be obtained for commercial re-use.

References

Hide All

1 Goody, Jack, ‘Asia and Europe’, History and Anthropology (2015) 26, pp. 263307, 263.

2 For a more up-to-date analysis of how China and Europe contributed to the rise of capitalism see Kenneth Pomeranz, The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001.

3 Pankaj Mishra, From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt against the West and the Remaking of Asia, London: Penguin, 2003. Ramachandra Guha, Makers of Modern Asia, Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 2014.

4 Among others see ‘Science in India’, special in Nature, 13 May 2015, at www.nature.com/news/india-1.17456. The Chinese research paradigm: addressing global science issues’, sponsored supplement of Science (19 December 2014) 346(6216). The Royal Society, Knowledge, Networks, and Nation: Global Scientific Collaboration in the Twenty First Century, London: Royal Society, 2011, available at https://royalsociety.org/~/media/Royal_Society_Content/policy/publications/2011/4294976134.pdf. All accessed 4 June 2016.

5 Focus: science and modern China’, Isis (2007) 98(3), pp. 517596; and Focus: science, history, and modern India’, Isis (2013) 104(2), pp. 330380. The journal carried a region-focused section: Focus: global currents in national histories of science: the “global turn” and the history of science in Latin America’, Isis (2013) 104(4), pp. 773817. See also China, India, and the United States, special issue of Technology in Society (2008) 30(3–4).

6 ‘Schrödinger’s panda’, The Economist, 4 June 2016, at www.economist.com/news/science-andtechnology/21699898-fraud-bureaucracy-and-obsession-quantity-over-quality-still-hold-chinese, accessed 4 June 2016.

7 ‘The screen revolution’, The Economist, 13 March 2016, at www.economist.com/news/business/21573551-meet-next-generation-indian-technology-firmsand-obstacles-they-face-screen, accessed 4 June 2016.

8 ‘How can poor countries afford space programmes?’, The Economist, 4 November 2013, at www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2013/11/economist-explains-0, accessed 4 June 2016.

9 Wang Hui, The Politics of Imagining Asia (ed. Theodore Huters), Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011. See also Kuan-hsing Chen, Asia as Method: Toward Deimperialization, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010; and Anderson, Warwick, ‘Asia as method in science and technology studies’, East Asian Science, Technology and Society: An International Journal (2012) 6, pp. 445451.

10 Prasenjit Duara, Rescuing History from the Nation: Questioning Narratives of Modern China, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1995.

11 Siegel, Micol, ‘Beyond compare: comparative method after the transnational turn’, Radical History Review (Winter 2005) 91, pp. 6290; Sabra, Abdelhamid Ibrahim, ‘Situating Arabic science: locality versus essence’, Isis (1996) 87, pp. 654670. See also the discussion of comparative studies in Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty, ‘Rethinking comparativism’, New Literary History (2009) 40, pp. 609626.

12 Bin Wong, China Transformed: Historical Change and the Limits of European Experience, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2000.

13 Ross Bassett, The Technological Indian, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016; Bassett, MIT-trained swadeshis: MIT and Indian nationalism, 1880–1947’, Osiris (2009) 24, pp. 212230; Zuoyue Wang, ‘The Cold War and the reshaping of transnational science in China’, in Naomi Oreskes and John Krige (eds.), Science and Technology in the Global Cold War, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2014, pp. 343–370; and Devesh Kapur, Diaspora, Development, and Democracy: The Domestic Impact of International Migration from India, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010.

14 Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000.

15 For a discussion of how early twentieth-century China was a laboratory of modernity see Tong Lam, A Passion for Facts: Social Surveys and the Construction of the Chinese Nation-State, 1900–1949, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011. See also Helen Tilley, Africa as a Living Laboratory: Empire, Development, and the Problem of Scientific Knowledge, 1870–1950, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2011.

16 John Krige, ‘Concluding remarks’, in Oreskes and Krige, op. cit. (15), pp. 431–441, 431.

17 Timothy Mitchell, ‘Society, economy and the state effect,’ in George Steinmetz (ed.), State/Culture: State-Formation after the Cultural Turn, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999, pp. 76–97.

18 Bruno Latour, Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers through Society, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987.

19 George Perkovich, ‘The measure of India: what makes greatness?’, in Seminar: The Monthly Symposium, at www.india-seminar.com/2003/529/529 george perkovich.htm, accessed 4 June 2016.

The papers in the issue are a product of collaboration and conversation over four years generously funded by the Indian European Advanced Research Network, Nantes. The first workshop was funded by York University and the Situating Science Strategic Knowledge Cluster, Canada. We acknowledge the generous intellectual support we have received from Jon Agar, Raghavendra Gadagkar, Ludmilla Jordanova, Samuel Jube, Sunil Khilnani, John Krige, Bill Leslie, Bernard Lightman, Joachim Nettelbeck, Srinath Raghavan, Dominic Sachsenmaier, Tansen Sen, Grace Yen Shen, Wang Hui, Jon Wilson and Roland Wittje. Finally, we thank the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin where we (Lam and Phalkey) were fellows in 2013–2014.

We would like to thank the following institutions for hosting our workshops: Department of Humanities, Bethune College, York University, Canada (2011); India Institute, King's College London, UK (2012); Tsinghua Institute for Advanced Study in Humanities and Social Sciences, Beijing, China (2013); and finally the Centre for Contemporary Studies, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India (2015). Many thanks to Pauline Boudant, Bitasta Das, Matthieu Forlodou and Nilanjan Sarkar for their support in keeping the project together.

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed