Travelling theory: Western knowledge and its Indian object

Seth, Sanjay. 2011. Travelling theory: Western knowledge and its Indian object. International Studies in Sociology of Education, 21(4), pp. 263-282. ISSN 0962-0214 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

From the1830s the colonial government in India became the agency for the promotion of ‘Western education’, that is, education that sought to disseminate modern, Western, rational knowledge through modern institutions and pedagogic processes. This paper examines a historical
episode in which certain key categories of modern Western thought were pressed into service to explain a consequence of the dissemination of Western knowledge in colonial India. The episode in question was that of the alleged ‘moral crisis’ of the educated Indian, who, many argued, had been plunged into confusion and moral disarray following his exposure to Western knowledge in the schools and universities established by his British ruler. In the discourse of moral crisis, the knowledge being disseminated through Western education was simultaneously put to use in explaining an unanticipated effect of this education. How adequate was Western knowledge to explaining its own effects? More generally –for this paper is drawn from a larger study of how modern Western knowledge ‘travelled’ when transplanted to colonial India – what is the status of the knowledge we produce when we ‘apply’ the categories of
modern Western thought in order to understand or explain India?

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):


education; India; colonialism; postcolonialism; epistemology; social sciences

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Research Office > REF2014


December 2011Published

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Date Deposited:

28 Dec 2011 17:23

Last Modified:

30 Jun 2017 12:30

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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