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Seminars and Colloquia

Humanities and Social Sciences

Doing Science, Being Religious : An Anthropology of ‘Science and Religion’ in India  
Fri, Mar 13, 2020,   12:00 PM to 01:00 PM at Seminar Room 24 (Main Building)

Dr. Renny Thomas
Jesus and Mary College, University of Delhi

This talk is an attempt by an anthropologist of science to understand ‘science-religion ‘in the Indian context. Based on ethnographic fieldwork among scientists in Bangalore, the lecture looks at various meanings scientists attach to religion and belief. It attempts to capture the ways in which Indian scientists defined their religious life, by claiming a distinct religious identity, distinct from the laymen/non-scientists. Here, we will see, they make a distinction by not saying that they are not believers or atheists. In fact, they have no inhibition in demonstrating their devotion by participating in various religious festivals and rituals in laboratories. Though they have no inhibition in demonstrating their religiosity, we will see that there is a clear attempt they make to differentiate their belief as scientists from the non-scientists. They, as we will see, try to be ‘rational believers.’  This talk will discuss in detail how they claim a distinct identity as scientist-believers, and about their relationship with Indian tradition and the ways in which they express it.  This talk will also discuss some of the concerns that anthropologists and historians of science, and STS scholars have when we study science and religion in the non-western contexts. Following the tradition of Science, Technology and Society Studies, I argue that laboratory ethnographies of ‘science and religion’ help us in understanding the complex relationship between science and society in India.

Renny Thomas is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology, Jesus and Mary College, University of Delhi. He received his M.Phil in Science, Technology and Society Studies, and PhD in Sociology from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi.