Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2019
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Area and Cultural Studies
Everyday Epistemics: Vernacular Science and the Practice of Empiricism in Southwest India

This dissertation examines the emergence of vernacular sciences in medieval southwestern India, the epistemological debates carried out around them, and the early modern reception and reuse of these medieval 'worldly science' texts. The eleventh century is the first moment in which scientific texts were written in vernacular languages in South Asia, and this dissertation examines the ways in which local knowledge was theorized in that moment. Additionally, the dissertation examines the ways in which perception, experience, and the everyday were turned into problems in this context, posing questions of historical epistemology more broadly. Moving on from a description of science in context in the Western Ca¯l?ukya court in the first half of the eleventh century, the dissertation proceeds to explicate knowledge in transit by examining the reading and writing practices of scholars and scribes working in Sanskrit and Kannada in the early modern period. The dissertation examines how earlier court sciences—texts about topics such as agriculture, veterinary medicine, and astro-meteorology—were turned into information, made portable, and transposed into new contexts by scholars composing new texts in Sanskrit and Kannada. This dissertation thus aims to give a richer historical perspective on indigenous knowledge in southwestern India, a region that would become central for the spice trade and botanical research with the rise of European joint-stock trading companies. Each section of the dissertation draws on a textual archive that has not been discussed by modern scholarship, either in the history of science or in South Asia studies.