Counting for the Future: The Changing Political Economy of Development in India

Thursday, January 7, 2016: 1:00 PM
Grand Hall D (Hyatt Regency Atlanta)
Debjani Bhattacharyya, Drexel University
This paper will try to trace a history of how the process of counting in the bureaucratic spheres changed in India from 1930 to 1960, and what the process of counting, rather than simply the statistical data can tell us about the nature of the colonial and the postcolonial state during this period. By using colonial statistical reports, the funding structures of the statistical projects in colonial India, the emergent economic journals and debates at the turn of the twentieth century around issues of counting, standards, sizes and samples, the Indian Statistical Institute records and documents relating to the Planning Commissions of independent India, this paper will raise the following questions: what the statistical assumptions were about the structures of economy and how they changed over the course of the 20th century? What were the “outside pressure points” upon which we can map the changing nature of statistical data gathering? How do we study these changes to understand both the national and global interpretations of “growth,” “development” and “economic crisis?” While historians have explored the developmental regime of colonial South Asia or postcolonial India separately, exploring the period from 1930-60 throws light upon the social processes behind the constructions of numerical data, categories and the nature of the state. Exploring the funding structures and debates about the categories relevant to both the production of information about economy, prices and measurements for development and economic health reveal how the independent India created a vision for parliamentary democracy based on and implemented through centralized economic planning.
Previous Presentation | Next Presentation >>