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 itineraries of merchants, scientists, and entrepreneurs in mid-twentieth-century post-independence India, and tracks a series of techno-social 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─ agricultural improvement through televisual pedagogy, development of rural co-operatives, industrial reforms through the newly conceived sciences of behaviouralism, 'human relations' and labour psychology, formation of pedagogical institutions that would teach principles of managerialism, etc. In studying how these concerns were built and articulated in continuity with each other, I focus upon the ways in which they addressed anxieties about the archetypal 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 inherent to this very mode of intervention/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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Specialties:

Cultural History
Intellectual History
Keywords:

History of the Developmental State