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Thyssen Lecture

Sumathi Ramaswamy

Imagining India in the Empire of Science

20 October 2023

(0:49 h)

Thyssen Lecture

Sumathi Ramaswamy

Imagining India in the Empire of Science

Thyssen Lecture, given 10 November 2022

How do imperial legacies shape present-day academia and knowledge production? How are the colonial past, and obligations arising from it, debated today? What role do they play in political relations within Europe, and in Europe’s relations with the non-European world? These are some of the questions we seek to address in our new 8-lecture-series in cooperation with the Fritz Thyssen Foundation on “Science, Knowledge and the Legacy of Empire”.

This podcast episode is a recording of the series’ inaugural lecture given by Sumathi Ramaswamy. Drawing inspiration from Edward Said's concept of imperialism as geographical violence, she delves into the ways in which various scientific disciplines, like geography and cartography, played a role in shaping how India was perceived and understood during the two centuries of British colonial rule – in other words, how they ‘worlded’ India. Her lecture uncovers a conflicted relationship between science on the one hand and art and imagination on the other, entwined in the process of ‘worlding’ India.”

Sumathi Ramaswamy is James B. Duke Professor of History at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA. She has published extensively on language politics, gender studies, spatial studies and the history of cartography, visual studies and the modern history of art, and more recently, digital humanities and the history of philanthropy in modern India. 

(Image (cropped): GM Sheikh, The Mappamundi Suite 2. Looking for Layla, Digital collage,gouache on inkjet, 58.5 x 70)

You can also read the text of Sumathi Ramaswamy's lecture, published as Worlding India = Das Weltmachen Indiens. Find the link to the Open Access version here