Monday workshop
Monday, November 21, 2016 (All day)

337 Cohen Hall

Medha Saxena

Empire without Wire: Experimentation and Innovation with the Wireless in the Bay of Bengal in Early Twentieth century


Colonial discourse around telecommunication during the early twentieth century reflected layers of fear and anxiety, real and imagined, for various reasons specific to a colony. The Bay of Bengal was a prime area of British concern for strategic, commercial and administrative reasons. Mercantile marine shipping, convict transportation and passenger movement made these cyclone-prone waters crucial to debates on connectivity and isolation. It provided an initial fillip for experimentation with the wireless and opened a window into the geopolitical and techno-scientific structures that conditioned its usage. Within this large context the paper will explore specifically how the language of scientific dominance over nature peppers global experiences that finally become spatially concentrated in local practices in colonies that are, in many cases, the earliest spaces of innovation. These discussions also revealed clues to whether these technologies could successfully challenge older technologies like the telegraph.