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Kena Wani,

Kena Wani

My research examines the history of capitalist subjects in transition as they negotiate with and build new institutions, economic regimes and cultural subjectivities in the early decades of independence in the western region of India.  It follows the global itineraries of merchants, scientists, and entrepreneurs in mid twentieth century post-independence India, and tracks a series of techno-scientific experiments, institutions, and philanthropic endeavours that were carried under the aegis of the developmental state in the region of Gujarat. These projects involved a wide range of issues─ rural and agricultural improvement through televisual pedagogy, industrial reforms, labour management, formation of pedagogical institutions that would teach managerial sciences, etc. In studying how these concerns were honed in continuity with each other, I focus upon the ways in which they addressed anxieties about the classic developmental subjects of the 20th century: “the unruly labourer” and “the uneducated farmer.” In the process, I show how they concomitantly produced the classic male hero of postcolonial regimes: “the modern scientific/business visionary.” As my research courses through these various projects, from outer space technologies involving communication satellites for broadcasting developmental television to small scale industrial automation ambitions, I reveal how the simultaneous narratives of the triumphant business/scientific visionary and the actual failures of the projects on ground were co-constitutive, if not endemic to this very mode of expertise. I argue that the history of the planning state in India demands a critical understanding of the various ways in which regional business kinship networks function, the tenacity of their mercantile pasts, and their underlying logic of continual reproduction. On a broader stroke, the project focuses upon the social processes of capital accumulation, the role of the postcolonial state in such histories of capital, and the cultures of welfarism, and corporate logics of sovereignty which emerged out of them.



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Cultural History
Intellectual History

History of the Developmental State

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