IN THE PREFACE to his book, Alternative Sciences, Ashis Nandy observed how determined many Indian scientists and those writing about them have been to uphold the image of science as a “bloodless affair”.
One would imagine this to be a natural corollary of the valorisation of science, from the Age of Enlightenment onwards, as an activity professedly divested of human imperfection by its ability to create order through systems and laws, and by its emphasis on exactitude, rigour, empiricism, objectivity and rationalism.
The idea of science as a modernising force, symbolising the triumph of reason over irrational beliefs and practices, gave the activities of the British colonial administration in India in the 19th century—including the introduction of Western education; the production of surveys, studies and censuses; and the building of irrigation canals, railways and so on—the aura of a civilising mission.
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