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Scientific Empire and Imperial Science: Colonialism and Irrigation Technology in the Indus Basin

David Gilmartin
The Journal of Asian Studies
Vol. 53, No. 4 (Nov., 1994), pp. 1127-1149
DOI: 10.2307/2059236
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2059236
Page Count: 23
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Scientific Empire and Imperial Science: Colonialism and Irrigation Technology in the Indus Basin
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Abstract

DAVID GILMARTIN analyzes a conflict within the British colonial administration of India. It pitted those British responsible for the development of irrigation works in the Punjab against other officials responsible for the regular administration of the same territory. The British engineers, who are represented by the "Imperial Science" in Gilmartin's title, proposed a modern hydro-irrigation system based on the conception of dominating and controlling nature. The British administrators, who represent Gilmartin's "Scientific Empire," opposed these technocratic schemes based on their carefully collected, organized, and analyzed data about the local society. The administrators, unlike the technocrats, saw domination and control of the Indian population as their main goal. Gilmartin concludes that these differences were not settled in the late nineteenth or early twentieth centuries, even though the technocratic arguments became increasingly powerful. Instead, he believes that postcolonial India has inherited these two "discourses" as part of its heritage from the British raj.

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