The University as a Critical Juncture: The IITs and India’s Quest for the Ideal University

Francis, Sabil

In Sabil Francis’ research project, he looks at how a certain vision of technology was given form in postcolonial India, notably through the setting up of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). Using this as a methodological tool, he looks at how certain modes of technology were accepted and others rejected in tune with the broader aims and transformations in the postcolonial state, and how this was a spatial and temporal process that continues to influence India’s developmental and technological choices. A clear line can be drawn between colonial decisions taken to adapt certain forms of technology and definitions of development, the institutionalization of these in the postcolonial state, and India’s contemporary success in a technologically mediated service industry Furthermore, the research considers the close connection with India’s contemporary IT economy and IIT alumni, who have had remarkable success abroad, especially in the United States The IITs were set up with a considerable amount of foreign aid, and, for this reason, the project also examines the process of negotiation and translation inherent in technological transfer.  Specifically, it looks at how the institutionalization of technology was a process of negotiation with indigenous alternatives, such as the Gandhian mode of development, and with those of the broader knowledge society, such as the German, British, and US models of the ideal university. Research sources include science and technology policy documents that span the colonial and postcolonial period, the Indian national archives, the archives of the IITs, Unite Nations Educational,Scientific and Cultural Organisation(UNESCO) and other archives in Paris, as well as interviews. The project is funded by the German Research Foundation Research Training Group (GK 1261): “Critical Junctures of Globalization” and will be continued in 2011. The supervisor of the PhD project is Matthias Middell.