Ravi Rajan

"Modernizing Nature: Continental Forestry and the Politics of Alternatives in India, 1870 - 1990."

This paper will explore the continuities between the "internal colonialisms" of Europe and the more overt imperialisms of the 19th and 20th centuries by discussing the making and unmaking of European forestry science in India. It will begin by examining the attitudes to nature and human societies implicit in Continental European forestry science, the tradition in which successive generations of Indian foresters were trained. It will then examine the transplantation of European forestry science in India in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. In doing so, the paper will apply the work of Karl Polanyi to the history of technology. It will discuss how the manner in which relations between economy, society and science were defined in the context of a modernizing Europe in 18th century compared with the manner in which they were attempted to be redefined in 19th and 20th century India under both British colonialism and post-colonial governments. It will argue that despite the obvious and overt differences between these contexts, they shared what the paper will call "knowledge-economy matrices" which defined how natural resources were to be deployed to meet the the needs of the modern state and industry. The paper will then go on to discuss the implications of these matrices for pre-modern communities, and the manner in which they related economy, nature and society. Finally, the paper will briefly explore the "Cognitive Revolutions" that have ensued in the past two decades of international environmentalism, as new "knowledge-economy matrices" have emerged, informed by new paradigms of scientific ecology and a new economics of equity in resource use.