Dr. Kena Wani

Pedagogies of Development, Conceptions of Efficiency: The Rural Analogues of ‘Democratic Managerialism’

15 March 2021 – 14 September 2021

Research Description:

During the ICAS:MP fellowship, I will be further developing my research on the history of technocratic ‘rural management’ in the realm of agrarian and dairy production in the Kheda/Anand region in Gujarat and how a peculiar chapter of developmentalist governance was scripted in these regions over the decades between the 1950s and the 1980s. Tentatively titled as Pedagogies of Development, Conceptions of Efficiency: The Industrial and Rural Analogues of Modern Managerialism in Western India, c. 1950–1979, the fellowship project will follow the trajectories of a team of textile industrialists from Ahmedabad (western India), UN-funded developmental pedagogues, and Ford Foundation consultants, as they conducted experiments and programs across the rural-agrarian and urban-industrial regions of western India to establish the putative validity of managerial leadership in the first three decades of independence. It will track the discourses and practices of certain key figures who traversed the overlapping worlds of the state administrative offices on the one hand, and private businesses and industries on the other hand. In the process, the project will trace the global shifts in the post-World War II period – fraught with Cold War anxieties – which generated the emergence of managerialism as an abstract organizational norm, as opposed to bureaucracies, for forming modern/rational capitalist democracies. Further, the project aims to specifically understand how such global frameworks emerging from the world of private companies and big business were translated within the context of the developmental discourse in post-independence India, and the relationship of the then emerging field of managerial sciences with the concerns of the postcolonial state, filial networks of capital, labour productivity and industrial technologies.

The first half of the project will track certain experiments on organizational reforms that were conducted by the aforementioned Indian and global experts of managerialism in the factory sheds of Ahmedabad in western India. The second half of the project will reveal how this Ahmedabad-based global network of technological, developmental and managerial experts spilled over to the western Indian countryside and produced peculiar ‘managerialist’ reflections on the social constitution of the ‘village society’. On a broader stroke, the project will show how these rationales, networks and interventions formed the palimpsest upon which the foundational arguments for the establishment of certain key management institutions of western India – such as the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) in the 1960s and the Indian Institute of Rural Management Anand (IRMA) in the late 1970s – were posed.


Kena Wani graduated with a doctoral degree in History from Duke University in 2020. Her doctoral dissertation titled Remaking Capital: Business, Technology and Development Ambitions in Twentieth-Century Western India studied the participation of commercial and business actors within developmental endeavours shaping urban, industrial and rural worlds of western India over the colonial-postcolonial conjuncture.

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