UNESCO: United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization

The Organisation


Dhruv Raina

Dhruv Raina is an Associate Professor with the School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. His area of research includes the politics of scientific knowledge with special reference to the South Asian region. In particular his research focusses upon the institutionalisation of science in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as well contemporary concerns of science and social movements.
His more recent work is on the historiography of mathematical knowledge. With S.Irfan Habib he edited the chapter on Science in Twentieth South and South-East Asia for volume 7 of UNESCO's History of mankind Project. He is currently working on the impact of the Cambridge Left and the role of institutions such as UNESCO on the post-independence development of science in India.

His publications include
  • S.Irfan Habib and Dhruv Raina (Eds.), Situating the History of Sciences: Dialogues with Joseph Needham, Oxford University Press, 1999.

  • Dhruv Raina, Images and Contexts: Studies in the Historiography of Science in India, Oxford University Press, 2003.

  • Dhruv Raina and S.Irfan Habib, Domesticating Modern Science: A Social History of Science and Culture in Colonial India, Tulika Books, 2004.

    A forthcoming research paper of his that could be of interest is:
    Dhruv Raina. 2005. “Finding a Home for the History of Science in Post-Colonial India: The Influence of Needham and the Role of UNESCO [1950-1960]”, in Arun Bandopadhyaya (Ed.), Science and Society, Manohar Publications, forthcoming.
  • “Promoting International Collaboration, Organizational Structures, and Cultural Conceptions of Science and Civilizations: UNESCO’s Place in the Contemporary History of Science in India (1950-1960)”

    As mentioned elsewhere, the 1950s could well be considered the decade of the explosive growth of research institutes in the annals of science in independent India. This phenomenon was a product of the implementation of one of several elements in the strategy of decolonization formulated by Indian scientists and nationalists in the years before the attainment of independence. The process was partially conditioned by the nuclear and industrial research imperatives that in a way stimulated the expansion of big science during the 1940s and 50s. The process itself was guided by the policy instruments oriented towards the achievement of scientific and technological self-reliance, conceived as the cardinal markers of national sovereignty. The era is often considered as one of those rare instances where the Indian scientific establishment enjoyed a rather cozy relationship with the political elite and was able to enlist the latter into supporting its programmers of scientific and technological expansion in the name of social development. So much so, by the end of the 1950s, under the premiership of Nehru, a Scientific Policy Resolution was passed.
    This process was aided through the research networks established by leading Indian scientists with their colleagues in the West. The relationship between J.D. Bernal, Joseph Needham, Julian Huxley, P.M.S. Blackett, Frederic-Joliot Curie and J.B.S. Haldane with their Indian counterparts has been well documented. The important point to be noted here is that these leading scientists had deliberated upon the social relations of science, and played a significant role in shaping the environment of international collaboration, as well as the political environment of science. Thus through their collegial relations with Indian scientists they were able to influence the subsequent trajectory of the institutionalization of science in South Asia. One of the several concerns for scientists in the young independent Indian republic was to legitimate the pursuit of, and expenditure on, their activity and culturally re-situate science in the cultural and developmental programmers of modern India. In order to accomplish this task, there arose the need to institutionalize the fledgling discipline of the history of science in India.

    The realization of the multiplicity of goals that were concomitants to the institutionalization of science was assisted by UNESCO that emerged as a player on two counts. Several of the aforementioned scientists were closely involved in introducing science into the agenda of UNECO; and tailoring UNESCO’s agenda to a new cultural vision of science and civilization to which all of humanity had contributed. This process has been ably chronicled by Patrick Petitjean in several of his research papers. Secondly, UNESCO simultaneously played a pro-active role in forging ties between the worlds of science in the developed and developing countries. This meant providing fiscal, and logistic support and the development of policy instruments within UNESCO that would facilitate the realization of these goals.

    The proposed study, in the light of the above, intends to focus on the objectives mentioned below:

    Objectives of the study

    [1] The present study concretely chooses a stage in the institutionalization of science in post-colonial India, namely the decade 1950-1960 and the role UNESCO played in aiding this process.

    [2] In addition to identifying the organizational and logistic support and enabling structures that were either sponsored or supported through UNESCO initiatives, the task involves identifying the different collegial networks that operated between England, the UNESCO office in Paris, UNESCO, New Delhi and the concerned scientific community in India.

    [3] The role of Indians working in the UNESCO office in Paris with Needham needs to be explored. In particular, it would relevant to look at the deliberations of the historian of science S.N. Sen. This period of S.N. Sen’s life has not been the subject of much discussion and light needs to be thrown on the same.

    [4] A special focus will be placed on the meeting on the History of Science of South Asia sponsored by UNESCO and organized jointly with the National Institute of Science, New Delhi (later called the Indian National Science Academy) and held in 1950. Ironically, after this meeting UNESCO played a small role in supporting such activity in India and this aspect needs some exploration.
    [4.1] a related issue is that of the debates that the Indian scientist and historians later joined in the conceptualization and preparation of the history of mankind project.

    [5] The role and presence of UNESCO in the creation of new organizational facilities and its ability of mobilize leading scientists in central scientific and/or decision-making positions will be studied. For example the role, played by UNESCO in creating an elite research institution such as the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research will be investigations. Other such organizational efforts in the decade beginning 1950s will be identified.

    [6] The ability of UNESCO as an international agency functioning within the Cold War environment and able to negotiate scientific exchanges especially with a country that after Bandung had committed itself to non-aligned will throw open the concerns of the international politics of science. How did UNESCO manage to commit itself to such heterotelic internationalism within the context of the Cold War?

    Aant Elzinga. “Introduction: Modes of Internationalism”, in Aant Elzinga and Catharina Landström (Eds.), Internationalism and Science, Taylor Graham, 1996, pp. 3-20.

    Petitjean, Patrick. “Needham, Anglo-French Civilities and Ecumenical Science”, in S.Irfan Habib and Dhruv Raina (Eds.), Situating the History of Science: Dialogues with Joseph Needham, Oxford University Press: Delhi, 1999, pp. 152-197.

    Dhruv Raina and Ashok Jain. “Big Science and the University in India” , in John Krige and Dominique Pestre (Eds.), Science in the Twentieth Century, Harper Books, 1997.

    Dhruv Raina and S.Irfan Habib (Eds.), Chapter 38: “Science in Twentieth Century South and South East Asia”, History of Mankind, vol. 7, UNESCO –Routledge, forthcoming.

    Dhruv Raina, “Finding a Home for the History of Science in Post-colonial India: The Influence of Needham and the Role of UNESCO [1950-1960]” Paper presented at the Workshop of Science and Society, Calcutta, March 2005.

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