“Statistical Citizenry: Nationalism and Science in 20th Century India."
How did the rise of nationalist statistics in India produce a rationality for the postcolonial state? What kind of postcolonial citizens did statistics envision for the new nation-state? From the 1920s, pioneered by Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis, statistics came to be established as a nationalist, academic discipline in India. This institutionalization entailed production of statistical data, its analysis, collaboration with Europeans like Pearson and Fisher, as well as outreach publications which demonstrated the importance of this discipline for the postcolonial nation. Nationalist statisticians, on the one hand, advocated using disciplinary statistics to constitute a scientifically conscious, statistical-minded public. On the other, their work demonstrated how only a certain pedagogical training could result in using and understanding statistical reasoning and data. How did this dilemma between statistics as public knowledge and as a domain of expertise shape the kind of postcolonial public that nationalist statisticians envisioned? Like other sciences, statistics offered points of intervention for state development and governance. But unlike other sciences, it lent the state and its policies a claim to transparency and objectivity through its calculative methodology and numerical findings. In other words, statistics as method not only contributed to governance but also helped legitimize the postcolonial state. By exploring the construction and implications of this dilemma of statistics as disciplinary expertise and non-specialist public reasoning, I show how statistics legitimized postcolonial governmentality, and at the same time generated the modern, rational, nationalist citizen.
This is a hybrid event. If you are planning to join the meeting via Zoom, please RSVP in advance through the following link: