Final Public Oral Exam: Nikhil Menon

Final Public Oral Examination
Event date: 
May 23, 2017 - 1:00pm
Seminar Series: 
Final Public Oral Exam

Planned Democracy: Development, Citizenship, and the Practices of Planning in Independent India, c. 1947-1966


Gyan Prakash, adviser
Bhavani Raman
Michael Gordin
Jeremy Adelman
Partha Chatterjee, Columbia University


From 1950, the Planning Commission of India negotiated an unlikely marriage between parliamentary democracy and centralized economic planning—precisely when the Cold War pitted them as fundamentally incompatible. My research argues that India's Five Year Plans were more than a means of regulating an economy; planning was also an expansive project to shape the nature of Indian democracy and society in the aftermath of colonialism. Planning was simultaneously a technocratic exercise in directing the economy, a means of modern state building, and an attempt at state-directed social transformation. This dissertation examines India's experience with economic planning through the frames of technology and social science on the one hand, and the political projects of citizenship and nation building on the other. Establishing a planned economy required certain technologies and social-scientific capacities. India's 'democratic planning' approach, however, also necessitated governmental efforts to draw citizens into the planning project—educating them about it to build 'plan-consciousness,' and eliciting their support in implementation. Anchored in the subcontinent, my study situates India within global post-war debates about development and maps transnational flows of ideas, individuals, and institutions between India, the United States, Europe, and the Soviet Union. It situates South Asia within the Cold War, and links this experience with patterns of development in the Global South.

A copy of the dissertation will be available for review one week before the exam in the History Graduate Student Lounge: 105 Dickinson Hall.

All are welcome and encouraged to attend.

Area of Interest: 
Economic History
History of Technology
Political History
20th Century