Enculturing Innovation - Indian engagements with nanotechnology


Pankaj Sekhsaria

PhD defended at: 

Maastricht University



Enculturing Innovation: Indian engagements with nanotechnology is the outcome of an effort to understand the ‘Culture(s) of innovation’ in nanoscience and technology (NS&T) research for development in India. Conducted across five NS&T laboratories in three different Indian cities, it tries to understand the character of techno-scientific knowledge practices within the labs and their own location within the broad political, social, cultural and developmental contexts of contemporary India.
The thesis explores four different contexts, locations and realities of NS&T research and development; the four case studies that make up its empirical core are, each, threaded along one particular marker of Indian society – the context of economic and resource constraints; the existence of multiple knowledge systems; the critical shortage of potable drinking water for a large section of people and the disadvantaged status of the girl child in this society.

This empirical material is, in the vast terrain it traverses, an account of the wide repertoire of sources, resources, people, ideas, materials, instruments and knowledge systems that the labs are mobilizing in multifarious ways. It describes and interprets how people, their technical and social institutions and their combined practices influence and negotiate a particular technology in understanding it, and using it to meet the ends they seek to meet. It is an account of a ‘culture of innovation’ that links the macro with the micro, and the inside of the lab with the world outside - a world that is a much bigger influence than is generally believed.

Using the learnings from the empirical material and the diversity it points to, the thesis concludes with a set of six inter-related steps of how and why innovation is encultured. It also notes that diversities within and between laboratories are reflective of the larger socio-political-cultural milieu within which the Indian S&T system and the labs themselves are located, that multiple cultures of innovation exist in parallel, and it is important that we accept and acknowledge this multiplicity and diversity.