Dispersed Radiance Abha Sur
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Dispersed Radiance Women Scientists in C. V. Raman's Laboratory Author(s): Abha Sur Reviewed work(s): Source: Meridians, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Spring, 2001), pp. 95-127 Published by: Indiana University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40338457 . Accessed: 06/02/2012 00:37Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Radiance Dispersed Women in Scientists C.V.Raman'sLaboratoryABHA SUR I cannever the me I forget wayhetreated justbecausewasa woman. -Kamala Sohonie, Biochemist But make much my too you of "equanimity," Sonya. Itissimply way my Whensuffer toutterword I not a "Threads: Luxumber^j Prison" Rosa -JaneCooper, jrom I had barely introduced project writing history womenscienon a of my tists India to Professor in AnnaMani,whenone ofhercolleaguesat the came overto us. Mani,witha quizzicalsmile RamanResearch Institute to turned hercolleagueand introduced "MeetDr. Sur.She is from me: America thinks am history."mumbled and I I incoherent but protests to no avail.She continued motivations their and questioning gendered my American amusedbymy obviousdiscomfiture. origins, thoroughly "Why do youwantto interview Mybeinga womanhad absolutely bearme? no Whatis thishooplaaboutwomen ingon whatI choseto do with life. my and science? wanted toparticipate one suchsessioninTrieste me in They as well. It mustbe getting for difficult womento do sciencethesedays. We had no suchproblems ourtime"(Mani1993). in Thedisjunction between AnnaMani'sperceptions womeninscience of in India and the livedreality the majority Indian women could of of nothavebeen moreacute.In 1913,theyearofMani's birth, literacy the ratefor womenin Indiastoodat less than1 percent. totalnumber The of womenenrolled colleges(thatis, abovegradeten)was less thanone in thousand(Louis 1986). BythetimeMani wentto collegein the1930s, and opportunities women for thingshad improvedonly marginally
[Meridians: race, feminism, transnationalism 2001, vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 95-127] 2001 byWesleyanUniversity Press. All rightsreserved. 95
to pursuesciencewere fewand farbetween.Therewas a consensus at that time that for to education womenshouldbe tailored their particularrolesas mothers homemakers.1 and at failures thelevelof However, whole systems oftenhave littleor no bearingon selective successes. Statistical no indication theexperience thosewho belie of of gives reality theprobabilities. Mani,who had risento thepost of theassistantdirector generalof India'smeteorological I was runand,at thetime spokewith her, society herown environmental after was beingneiretirement, ning enterprise ther nor facetious ironic that whensheclaimed womendidnotencounter in sciencein hertime.To be sure,Maniwas difficulties pursuing many notreferring ordinary to her to women, rather, "we"happened be a highly selective privileged and ofwomenwhoseurban, and group upper-caste, Western-educated families their access tohigher ensured individual education.2 Evenso, Mani's summary dismissal theinfluence gender of of in sciencewarrants It of greater scrutiny. is, on theone hand,typical the of successful womenscientists overtheworldand, on the all response of reflective herparticular in of circumstances thecontext Indian other, thelead offeminist critics sciencein theWest, of one society. Following couldattribute Mani's denialofthesignificance gender an internalof to ized acquiescence dominant to whichemphasizetheobjectivideologies and of ity neutrality scientific knowledge.3 conversations withAnna Mani, I However, through manyextended came to realizethat whileshe acceptedimplicitly standard the criterion forsuccess in scienceand guardedzealouslyherhard-earned recognishe awareofandwilling discussthepervasive very to but tion, was deeply discrimination womenenduredas scientists. She personalized gender seemedimplicitly differentiate to socialrelations laboratories, in between whichmimicked relations thesociety large,and thebureauof at gender craticstructures scientific technical of and whichtouted institutions, their rulesandregulations. "disavowal difference" Her of "gender-blind" thencould be read as simultaneously assertion equity an of withmen insofar evaluative as in structures sciencewereconcerned an expresand sion of identification Indianwomenin generalwho facedgender with discrimination many, notall,aspectsoftheir in if lives.In thisrespect, for sciencewas not anymoredifficult thanor qualitatively women,doing different pursuing career literature history. from a in or In thisessay,through collective a of history AnnaMani and hertwo womencolleaguesLalitha and Chandrasekhar SunandaBai- all ofthem 96 abha sur
in at students C.V. Raman's laboratory theIndianInstitute of graduate Science,Bangalorein the1940s,I exploretheenabling(and disabling) in of in aspectsofculture themaking womenscientists India. I wantto and understand how nationalism itsincumbent normsenabled cultural in into women'sentry and survival scienceand howfamily structures and class positionmediatedtheircareers.I will differentiate betweenthe nationalist and itsselective and dominant ideology appropriation modification women- whatone might received call nationalism. Women, by their inall forms nationalist of especially through participation struggles, and mass nonviolent resistance revolutionto from opposition political of own understanding nationalism aryarmedstruggle, developedtheir in I which guidedtheir participation all aspectsofIndianpolity.also want in to revisit questionofgender the identities science.I havealready indiis cated thatMani's disavowalof gendersignificance qualified,and itself needs further tiedas it is to themyth thisreading elaboration, yet to of of gender-neutral institutions, coercedwomanhood,and to types identities . affirmative gender which inevitably focus on individual Unlike standardbiographies, india ofsimilarly and triumphs, collective situated biography struggles and interactions groupsof people withsociety of vidualscan highlight in salientprocessesof cultural can thus be more effective unraveling of and the transformations.4 However, paucity bothprimary secondary of the makethetaskofwriting history sourcesand thelack of archives arduous.This let womenscientists, alone a collective history, especially AnnaMani,who with is basedon extensive conversations Professor essay not but information onlyaboutherself also about biographical provided I twoof herfemalecolleaguesin Raman's laboratory.also interviewed and of several insights background contemporaries Maniwho provided the milieuoftheperiod.5 for material understanding social and cultural in in of Myown experience thepractice sciencehelpedin largemeasure at that from Mani a retrospective timesat odds withinterviews eliciting the she had givenearlier. Nonetheless, scope of thisessay is circumrefracted and and recollections, scribedby Anna Mani's perceptions India. of in sifted through ownunderstanding scienceand society my of Sunanda the I haveembedded biographies LalithaChandrasekhar, social history women'seducaof the Bai, and AnnaManiwithin general a of indibetween allowsfor fluidity movement tioninIndia.Thisformat of nationalism, at cultural vidualsand society large,whereissues pracand cometo thefore. of and theimperatives class privileges family tices,DISPERSED RADIANCE 97
Visible Invisible Lives Careers,in It is estimated thatthereare morethana millionwomenscientists Indiatoday.6 figure impressive The is whichever one might lookatit. way The factthatone out of every is in fourscientists India today a woman seems implausible thatjust threegenerations in the1900s, given ago, there wereonlya handful womenenrolled thecollegiate of at leveland theseincluded and Jayawomenin all disciplines (See Krishnaraj 1991 wardena in womenscientists 1986).Andyet, appearneither scholarship on womennorin scholarship science.7 on Different onlyfrom not their malecolleagues, also, and perhapsmoreimportant, from their nonbut scientist the theaccepted sisters, womenscientists implicitly challenge for of frameworks historical analysis.Thus, the historians science in Indiaremain in oblivious orindifferent women'spresence thefield of, to, and their to contributions it. Thehistory philosophy scienceinIndia,until and of have recently, been One and within twobroadframeworks. exaltstradition conceptualized sees theenterprise scienceas a continuation thecolonialonslaught of of inIndia,violating and scientific traditions practices (see,e.g., indigenous Sheshadri Nandi1990,and Shiva1989).The other tradition 1994, rejects as moribund superstitious embraces and and modern scienceas a means of salvationout of the morass of economic and social stagnation modern sciencebecomesa bor(Sheshadri accounts, 1994).In boththese rowed forced a culture alientoitsmethods modes.One and activity upon laments impact colonialscienceon traditional the of Indiansociety, while theother decries persistence archaic the of Bothframecultural practices. worksimplicitly ascribea strict and to rigidity ahistoricity "tradition," whilethe"modern" seen as all encompassing, is open, and accommoBoth in theirown way denythe capacity humanagencyto of dating. and bodiesofknowledge order received in absorb,contemplate, modify totransform ownsocieties.8 surprisingly, womenscientists their Not the of India,repositories thetradition, of and inneressence of spirituality, India as women,and si