Studies in economic history of South Asia seldom engage with the histories of the economic discipline; and when they do, they mainly focus on the development of the discipline in the West. Our primary interests lie at the intersections of the history of the economic discipline and India’s economic history.
In my doctoral research, I have tried to problematize these uncomplicated accounts of naïve reception with more complex (and often contradictory) histories of popularization of the discipline in colonial South Asia through school textbooks, vernacular journals, knowledge societies, and other avenues of critical scholastic engagements. Currently, I am doing research on the historical connections between economics and anthropology as fields of specialized knowledge in postcolonial India. While the former studies past activities and institutions which are usually described as ‘economic’ and ‘commercial’, the latter explores how certain ways of thinking – concepts, categories, and rationalities – have been identified as part of a discipline called political economy (later economics) in the last three centuries. When we open a dialog between these two histories, we get the opportunity to discover the logic of describing certain activities as economic and the rest as non-economic, and recognize how that distinction itself can become a topic of historical inquiries. This distinction is fundamental to the formation of the economic discourse with different specializations that evince a common agenda of production and application of specific knowledge. My research centers around these dialogic narratives of specialization of knowledge in the historical context of colonial and postcolonial South Asia.