134 – Leo Coleman

Posted by on Jul 12, 2018
134 – Leo Coleman

Dominic and Cymene react to the new CENHS podcast studio and share a tale of robot sushi misadventure. Then (15:02) we welcome Leo Coleman (Hunter College) to the program and get right into his new book, A Moral Technology: Electrification as Political Ritual in New Delhi (Cornell U Press, 2017) and its exploration of the political and moral history of electricity in India since the early 20th century. We talk about how electricity unleashes the imagination of modern urban life, mundane uses vs. grand rituals of electrified power, and, apropos of the making of the postcolonial Indian state, Leo argues we need a more subtle understanding of Gandhi’s concerns about the ethical impact of electrification. We turn from there to what extent electricity reshaped India’s public sphere in the past, how the grid became an object of political concern, and whether the neoliberal era has brought new moralities of electricity to India. That brings us to the electronic and political dimensions of India’s new energy metering, biometric and surveillance projects. We close with Leo’s fascinating essay on the impact of electricity upon Durkheim’s thinking about morality and his new research on hydropower and equality in Scotland.