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Gordon McOuat - Orientalism in Science Studies? Why Should We Worry?
Time-length-icon 1h 35m
Plays-icon 46
Publish-date-icon June 6, 2012
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December 13, 2011
Dr. Gordon McOuat, University of King's College
MIT Seminar Hall, Manipal University, Manipal, India

Orientalism will forever be associated with Edward Said’s provocative 1978 book. Simultaneously catalyzing the field of post-colonial studies and polarising a generation, the project’s aim was to critically examine the encounter between so-called “Western” scholarship and “Eastern” thought, by focusing on the former in order to liberate the latter from its procrustean squeeze. Ironically, though, in its attempt to overcome binaries, Orientalism excessively fetishised them, blinding us to nuanced encounters and exchanges across those binaries. We’ve now rightly come to appreciate the porousness of “East/West” and perhaps even suspect the very idea of such a continental divide. But what about science? This paper will follow up on recent encounter literature regarding the circulation of science, focusing on two main natural philosophers/scientists who stand as bookends of the colonial and post-colonial project. James Dinwiddie (1746-1815), first professor of natural philosophy at the College of Fort William, Calcutta brought instruments and itinerant experimental philosophy to the burgeoning early 19th Century colonial enterprise in India. J.B.S Haldane (1892-1964), maverick geneticist and mathematician, embraced the newly independent India in the 20th Century as a place to fully realise a liberated biopolitical project. This paper will introduce these bookends of the colonial and post-colonial project, and offer some suggestions regarding our own narratives of nature and science, East and West.


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