Accepted Paper:

The circulation of race research technologies and the transformation of "race": an analysis of anthropologist Irawati Karvé`s (1905-1970) techno-scientific praxis in and between Germany and India  


Thiago Barbosa (Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient / Freie Universität Berlin )

Paper short abstract:

"Race" has been techno-scientifically transformed through circulations in time and space across the globe. Through a perspective of postcolonial science studies, I analyze Indian anthropologist Irawati Karvé's racialized knowledge production praxis (1927-1970) in and between Germany and India.

Paper long abstract:

This paper looks at how this knowledge about "race" has been techno-scientifically (trans)formed, with special focus on technologies used in anthropological race research.

I analyze the work of anthropologist Irawati Karvé (1905-1970), shedding light not only on her techno-scientific praxis in Germany and India, but also on (the trajectory of) her research objects and technology. In the late 1920s, Karvé researched at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics (KWI-A) in Berlin, where she developed a research on "racial difference". By then, she developed a set of methods based on statistics and anthropometric measurements and researched on 150 human skulls, most of which were obtained in colonial settings. From 1931 to 1970, Karvé played a key role in the adaption of racialized knowledge and race research technologies about to different settings in India, becoming notably known for her anthropometric studies of subcastes and "tribes" in India.

Thus, through the perspective of postcolonial science studies, I analyze Karvé's research praxis and its situatedness, focusing on her trajectory, the trajectory of her first research objects (the human skulls) and the technologies used in her praxis. I bring to the foreground the political and social entanglements of such scientific praxis, with special attention to the role of such scientific technology in its articulation to racialized knowledge and racial discourses. Hence, the paper contributes to a critical understanding of role of technology in the global circulation and transformation of racialized knowledge on human diversity and difference.

Panel WIM-GF05
Technology, movement, and the cultural production of meaning