Indian researcher and historian wins 2020 John Pickstone Prize

Dr Shinjini Das is the first Indian to win the John Pickstone Prize, awarded by the British Society for History of Science.

Dr Das is a lecturer in modern extra-European history who joined the University of East Anglia’s (UEA) School of History in 2019, the same year her book was published. Her book, Medicine in Colonial India: Family, Market and Homoeopathy, explores how colonized populaces negotiated with and reshaped western medicine. It examines the interactions between the British state, Indian nationalist cultures and indigenous commercial interests relating to public health governance in India. Combining insights from the history of colonial medicine and the cultural histories of the family in British India, the book examines the processes through which Western homoeopathy was translated and indigenised in the colony as a symbol of Indian nationalism, a specific Hindu religious worldview, an economic vision and a disciplining regimen of everyday life.

The BSHS Pickstone Prize is awarded every two years and reflects the Society's mission to promote excellence in the history of science, technology and medicine. The prize was established to honour the late historian of science Professor John Pickstone (1944-2014).

Selecting the book for this prize, the judging panel said: ‘This outstanding book uncovers the archives that tell the story about how homoeopathy was brought to Bengal in the British colonial period. It is a highly sophisticated work and its development of the concept of the vernacular potentially transforms old debates about lay and professional discourses of science. It blends questions of nationalism, regionalism, modernity and tradition with great aplomb, and develops the nexus of family and state as a site for science. Das’s research exemplifies how much the discipline has to gain from research on the global south as a means to understand the nature of our own knowledge as well as that of science.’

Dr Das is a historian of British Imperialism and Modern South Asia, with wide-ranging research and teaching interests in histories of South Asia, colonial science and medicine, and colonial Christianity. Her current research – provisionally titled Healing Heathen Lands: Christianity, Medicine, Empire – critically analyses the role of British Protestant missions and transnational humanitarianism in the making of colonial public health in India.

The authors shortlisted for this year’s Pickstone prize for best monograph in history of science, technology and medicine discuss the chosen books, along with themes and trends in history of science scholarship and the world of publishing, here: https://www.crowdcast.io/e/bshs-pickstone-book

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