Shiju Sam Varughese
Dr. Shiju Sam Varughese is currently an assistant professor at the Centre for Studies in Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (CSSTIP) in the School of Social Sciences of Central University of Gujarat, Gandhinagar, India. His specialisation is in History and Philosophy of Science (HPS) and Science and Technology Studies (STS). His research interests include social history of knowledge, intellectual history, science and theology, political theology, public engagement with science and technology, sociology of science and technology, media and science communication and cultural studies of science and technology. He is a bilingual scholar who writes in English and Malayalam (his first language) and has several national and international research publications to his credit. He is the author of Contested Knowledge: Science, Media, and Democracy in Kerala (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2017). The book examines the symbiotic relationship between science and mass media in the context of public controversies over science in India (Kerala). He has also edited (along with Satheese Chandra Bose) the volume, Kerala Modernity: Ideas, Spaces and Practices in Transition (Hyderabad: Orient Blackswan, 2015; paperback edition: 2017).
Dr. Varughese teaches Social History of Science, Philosophy of Social Sciences, Sociology of Science and Technology and Science Communication Studies in the MPhil/PhD Programme offered by the Centre. He is currently working on Dr. B. R. Ambedkar’s thinking on knowledge, body and community from a political philosophical/theological perspective. Before joining the Central University of Gujarat, he worked as a research fellow at the Maulana Azad Chair of the National University for Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA), New Delhi (2009–10), and as programme coordinator of the Tiruvalla Ecumenical Charitable Trust (TECT), Kerala (2008–09). After receiving the basic training in life sciences, he shifted to social sciences and completed his doctoral research in 2009 from the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He was an active member and office bearer of the Student Christian Movement of India (Kerala Region) during his student days.
Technology, Caste-bodies and Labour: Thinking with Dr. B.R. Ambedkar on Inoperativity
While the perspectives of M.K. Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru on technology have gained much attention from social scientists and theologians as two oppositional perspectives, a third, and more rigorous position offered by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar is yet to be explored. Against the Nehruvian preoccupation with big technological projects and the Gandhian opposition to mechanization in favour of simple technologies which foster sustainable and self-reliant village republics, Ambedkar argues that technology can assist human salvation by freeing them from their caste-inscribed labouring bodies. The Ambedkarite critique of both Nehru and Gandhi’s views on technology points out their inattentiveness to the caste hierarchy in Indian society. Ambedkar argues that technology can liberate dalits from caste-based labour, so that the intense creative, emancipatory potentials of the human body can be explored by dalits to annihilate caste. This argument of Ambedkar helps us rethink the relationship technology, caste-body and human salvation. His argument also offers new possibilities to critically engage with the dominant Christian theological outlook on technology (‘useful arts’) as eschatological, a perspective that started developing in the ninth century CE, especially with John Scotus Eriugena’s (c. 800-877) critique of Augustinian Soteriology. By initiating a conversation between Ambedkar, Giorgio Agamben, David F. Noble and Hanna Arendt on the theological-political connections between human purpose, labour and technology, I will argue that the purposelessness of human beings (‘inoperativity’) Ambedkar proposed (similar to the recent theorisation of Giorgio Agamben) will open radical possibilities to think beyond the understanding of the relationship—which is foundational to Brahminism, Judeo-Christian theology and Capitalism alike—to reimagine a new form-of-life, which Ambedkar called as ‘associated life’. The paper will propose that Ambedkar’s initial theorisation opens up possibilities for a new political theology of technology.