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Developing India: American Experts, Modernist Visions, and the Modalities of Progress – Prakash Kumar (Resident Scholars and Artists Lecture Series)

When Dec 08, 2015
from 11:45 AM to 01:00 PM
Where 121 Borland
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Resident Scholars and Artists Lecture Series 
Prakash Kumar
Associate Professor, Department of History and Asian Studies

Developing India: American Experts, Modernist Visions, and the Modalities of Progress

The announcement of Point Four programs by Harry Truman and the signing of an important treaty by Prime Minister Nehru and the American ambassador to India Chester Bowles in 1952 solidified a new regime of technical aid between India and the United States. This talk follows the tracks of American experts who were specifically given the charge of reviving India’s agriculture and its rural community. Building on a period of early contacts with American expertise during the colonial times, the era of modernization theory brought forth new American visions of progress to bear on the task of developing India’s agriculture and feeding its “hungry” masses. How did the plans of “technological fixes” unfold on the ground? Could the experts claim a monopoly on the process of agricultural modernization? Or was the process determinedly implicated in processes of state formation in India? What was the outcome of engagement of experts with the subalterns and the local environs? This talk will dwell on types of projects that scholars have variously characterized as “high modernist.” It will also engage debates that assume a certain genealogy of Indian agricultural history in the programs and policies sponsored under Point Four, and later by the Unites States Agency for International Development. But it will problematize the belief in the agentic capacities of experts and instead present a picture of India’s postcolonial “developments” that were variously controlled and shaped. A focus on forces unleashed by the process of state formation and on local narratives allows for contesting the claims of “rule of experts” and offers new insights into the nature of India’s developmental experience.

Light lunch at 11:45 a.m. Presentation starts promptly at 12:00 p.m.