Instrumental Lives: An Intimate Biography of an Indian Laboratory, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Instrumental Lives

An Intimate Biography of an Indian Laboratory, 1st Edition

By Pankaj Sekhsaria


126 pages | 17 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2018-12-13
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Instrumental Lives is an account of instrument making at the cutting edge of contemporary science and technology in a modern Indian scientific laboratory. For a period of roughly two-and-half decades, starting the late 1980s, a research group headed by CV Dharmadhikari in the physics department at the Savitribai Phule University, Pune, fabricated a range of scanning tunnelling and scanning force microscopes including the earliest such microscopes made in the country. Not only were these instruments made entirely in-house, research done using them was published in the world's leading peer reviewed journals, and students who made and trained on them went on to become top class scientists in premier institutions.

The book uses qualitative research methods such as open-ended interviews, historical analysis and laboratory ethnography that are standard in Science and Technology Studies (STS), to present the micro-details of this instrument making enterprise, the counter-intuitive methods employed, and the unexpected material, human and intellectual resources that were mobilised in the process. It locates scientific research and innovation within the social, political and cultural context of a laboratory's physical location and asks important questions of the dominant narratives of innovation that remain fixated on quantitative metrics of publishing, patenting and generating commerce.

The book is a story as much of the lives of instruments and their deaths as it is of the instrumentalities that make those lives possible and allow them to live on, even if with a rather precarious existence.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: Entering the lab/setting the stage 2. 19862014: Making of the STM 3. S&T in modern India – a brief history 4. Jugaad and its many worlds/avatars 5. Dharmadhikari’s microscopes and technological jugaad 6. Implications for innovation policy 7. De-centred/de-centring cultures of innovation 8. In the end…or call it an epilogue

About the Author

Pankaj Sekhsaria is Associate Professor at the Centre for Technology Alternatives for Rural Areas (C-TARA), IIT Bombay. He was until recently Senior Project Scientist at the DST-Centre for Policy Research, Department of Humanities and Social Science, IIT-Delhi. His research interests lie at the intersection of science, environment, technology and society. He has a PhD in Science and Technology Studies (STS) from the Maastricht University in the Netherlands and has written extensively on issues of environment, development and wildlife conservation in India with a special focus on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

About the Series

Routledge Focus on Modern Subjects

The volumes in this Focus series shall explore quotidian claims made on the modern – understood as idea and image, practice and procedure – as part of everyday articulations of modernity on the Indian sub-continent. Here, the category-entity of the subject refers not only to social actors who have been active participants in historical processes of modernity, but as equally implying branch of learning and area of study, topic and theme, question and matter, and issue and business. Our effort would be to address such modern subjects in a range of distinct yet overlaying ways.
Its titles would address the queries and concepts entailed in earlier explorations of the modern and recent reconsiderations of modernity by focusing on a clutch of common and critical questions. Our bid is not to indolently exorcize aggrandizing representations of modernity as the West, but to prudently track instead the play of such projections in the commonplace unraveling of the modern in India today.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General