Penn Calendar Penn A-Z School of Arts and Sciences University of Pennsylvania

Tea and Technology: The Case of Colonial India

Co-sponsored with History & Sociology of Science and Penn Libraries

John Bosco Lourdusamy
Associate Professor, Department of Humanities & Social Sciences, IIT Madras/ Chennai
Thursday, October 30, 2014 - 04:00
4:00 p.m. Conference Room Class of '55 Van Pelt Library (2nd Floor) 3420 Walnut Street Philadelphia, PA 19104

About the Speaker:
John Bosco Lourdusamy is Associate Professor, Department of Humanities and Social Science, Indian Institute of Technology Madras.  Dr. Lourdusamy earned his doctorate from the University of Oxford for his thesis on “Science and National Consciousness: A Study of the Response to Modern Science in Colonial Bengal, 1870-1930.” He was also Queen Elizabeth Visiting Scholar at the Department of History and Sociology of Science, University of Pennsylvania. He has been chosen International Scholar of the Society for the History of Technology [SHOT] for the period 2013-15. Most recently, he has been made part of the twelve-member Research Council of the Indian National Commission for History of Science, by the Indian National Science Academy (INSA), for the period 2014-16.

About the Lecture:
This lecture is centred on a recently-initiated historical research project on the introduction of technologies related to tea plantations in colonial India – an area very rarely researched upon in the realm of history of technology. It provides a summary of the distinguishing features of this set of technologies and the broad themes of the project. To start with, this set of technologies has the unusual dimension of having been produced in the west but to be used almost entirely in colonies (unlike in such cases as the railways, textiles, iron and steel). It was also one of the most difficult to be taken to the final place of use considering the location of the plantations and nature of the terrain. This made demands on other areas of technology like civil engineering (though they were not exclusively driven by demands of tea plantations alone). Within its own domain, tea was one crop, which probably had the maximum room for role of technology from the clearing of forests to the packing of the tea. This wider ensemble is also related to another peculiarity of tea in which culture (plantation) and processing (factory) processes happen within close proximity and in the same locality, unlike most other crops. The relation between labor and technology has also been important in the case of tea due to the inevitability of labour in certain processes where there is special value for manual work (even to this day). Also discussed will be the roles of individuals and associations that articulated the need, made the demands, and facilitated the flow of technology and the indigenization processes thereafter. Dr. Lourdusamy will place and analyse these processes within the broader theoretical discussions on the transfer of technology under colonialism, arguing that the colony had a far greater say in the transfer process due to certain peculiarities in the case of tea, which could account for the greater and faster rate of indigenization.

Event Flyer