August Researcher of the Month – Dr. Dhruv Raina

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Meet Dr. Dhruv Raina from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

 

1. What is your current position/place of research?

I am Professor at the Zakir Husain Centre for Educational Studies at the School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. I teach courses on the philosophy of science, qualitative research methods, social theory of science, the history of science and science education in modern India as well as a course on the changing conceptions of the university. The doctoral students working under my supervision work on related problems.

2. Could you give us some details about your educational background?

My schooling was in the city of Bangalore, where I proceeded to get a Bachelor’s degree in the sciences, and then went on to graduate with a Master’s degree in physics from the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai. I worked for several years after that as a Fellow of the Indian Council of Philosophical Research and then as a Fellow at the National Institute of Science Technology Studies, New Delhi. During this period S. Irfan Habib and I wrote several papers on a nineteenth century Indian polymath and mathematician Master Ramchandra, and commenced our work on the process of the institutionalisation of science and technology education in late colonial India. This collection of papers was later published as Domesticating Modern Science. By the mid 1990s I became interested in the historiography of the sciences, in South Asia, the variations on the Needham question, and social theoretic underpinnings of these historiographic frames. The result was another collection of essays entitled Images and Contexts. I then went on to do a Ph.D. at the University of Göteborg, coming in from the politics of knowledge (one version of postcolonial theory) and examining late eighteenth and nineteenth constructions of the history of Indian mathematics.

3. What projects are you currently working on and what are some projects you’ve worked on in the past?

Presently, I am interested in the history of global concepts, and how they circulate – in particular I am working on a history of the concept of indigenous knowledge. In a similar vein, under the aegis of the CosmoLocal network, I have begun to explore the notion of cosmopolitanism and the manner in which it plays itself out in the history of sciences and more specifically its relationship to the historiography of sciences. My work on the historiography of mathematics shares common ground with historians of mathematics in several parts of the world, investigating not just the historiography of mathematical proof but with how we tell stories of the histories of mathematics and what shapes them. And finally, located in a department of educational studies, some of my concerns from the history of sciences extend into the history of disciplines, the transformation of the constellations of knowledge under globalization; which of course raises concerns of the ascent of interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity. In the latter case, I am closely associated with the School of Computational and Integrative Sciences of my university, in conversation with a group of econophysicists.

4. What’s one thing you particularly enjoy about working in your field?

For one, it is quite fascinating trailing the itineraries of ideas, concepts and theories and their subsequent mutations across cultural and national contexts, and to recognise the baggage we carry as we follow these itineraries.

5. How do you relate your work to the broader topic of “cosmopolitanism and the local”?

Studying the itineraries of knowledge in motion or circulation necessitates an engagement with the processes of naturalisation, domestication and appropriation at two levels, both at the level of process itself, but at the level of metatheory or interpretative frame. At the level of the interpretative frame cosmopolitanism has been subject to a pluralisation in the work of scholars who have been exploring alternative genealogies of the concept outside Enlightenment Europe. While the term may also be taken to connote the attitude to others or their knowledge forms, cosmopolitanism here is not seen in opposition to the local but an engagement with it.

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