History of Science & Technology in Global Development
Originally from El Paso, Texas on the U.S.-Mexico border, I am a historian of science and technology in the context of international development. I think and write about how states and corporations create tools to measure, manage, and manipulate human populations and the natural world.
My current book project examines the reallocation of South Asia's agricultural resources following Partition in 1947 and nutritional health and population planning initiatives launched by independent India and Pakistan. To that end, I track the rising influence of American philanthropies, such as the Ford and Rockefeller foundations, and international organizations, like the World Bank, the FAO, and the WHO, in reshaping South Asia's economy and fashioning new, lasting notions of demographic change and economic development.
Contrasting with existing scholarship on the changes that swept the world food economy in the mid-twentieth century, my work uncovers the linkages between late colonial and post-independence understandings of famine, population growth, and economic development in South Asia. I propose a broader framing of the global Green Revolution of the 1960s, examining the resonance of eugenic theories within population control efforts and new ideas concerning the measurable — seemingly predictable — relation between human populations, economic outcomes, and the environment.
My work also explores how economists, physicians, and agricultural scientists worked to estimate population growth rates and quantify food production capacity in the run up to the record grain yield increases of the Green Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. Using archival sources in South Asia, Europe, and the United States, I investigate economic, medical, and scientific inquiries that addressed hunger in the context of the struggle against British colonialism during the 1930s and 1940s and Cold War anxieties over global population growth and technology diffusion during the 1950s and 1960s.
The Partition of British India in 1947 triggered a huge refugee crisis in India. In addition, low agricultural yields and high population growth fueled food insecurity. The memories of the Bengal Famine of 1943 were still fresh and the Indian Government aimed to prevent further famines. How did international cooperation and the collaborative development of new technologies power India's Green Revolution? What were the negative externalities? What lessons can be drawn from the experience, particularly in light of the global Coronavirus Pandemic?
Democratic governments need digital tools and personal data to combat the crisis, but too much sharing can be dangerous to individuals. How can they strike the right balance? We propose that the Covid19 crisis underscores the urgent need for a global digital rights framework that protects how the vast data collected during the pandemic will be employed by governments and corporations for years to come.
The coronavirus crisis puts our daily lives, our work, our social relations under pressure. It also undermines the idea of democracy and freedom: who would have thought that walking in the streets could become, overnight, prohibited, punishable by fine? In a matter of days, habits and beliefs that were once thought to be deeply ingrained were overturned. What does these radically changed circumstances hold for expectations of digital privacy in Europe today?
Are fake news and the misuse of personal data just unintended consequences of a new technology or the product of misguided business models? We argue that tech investors have an ethical imperative to head off potential harms to democracy early on. We focus on the case of Facebook and the road to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, proposing that early investors help construct internal governance systems that evolve with tech startups, guarding against ethical blunders.
Built from the ground up by three thousand Sikh and Hindu refugees in the aftermath of the Partition of India in 1947, the town of Nilokheri in East Punjab emerged as an unlikely centre of agricultural education and scientific exchange. With support from the Ford Foundation, Indian and American scientists and development planners worked through the 1950s to transform the refugee township into a model of technological innovation and community development.
Through the 1950s in South Asia, development experts associated with American philanthropic organizations and new international agencies took an active role in transforming the divided Punjab. Following partition in 1947, World Bank worked to adjudicate the Indus River Basin dispute between India and Pakistan over the division of the region’s hydrological and agricultural resources, using technological investment as an incentive for cooperation.
University of Texas at Austin
University of Oxford
Ph.D., History (2017)
Harvard University’s Raphael Morrison Dorman Memorial Postdoctoral Fellowship (2018–19)
Yale International Security Studies Brady-Johnson Predoctoral Fellowship (2016–17)
The University of Texas at Austin Graduate School Continuing Fellowship (2015–16)
Fulbright-Nehru Doctoral Research Fellowship — hosted by Delhi University, Department of History (2014–15)
Institute of Historical Research/University of London Mellon Pre-Dissertation Fellowship (2014)
National History Center of the American Historical Association International Decolonization Seminar (2014)
Rockefeller Archive Center Grant-in-Aid (2014)
The University of Texas at Austin British Studies Program, Churchill Scholarship (2012–14)
Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Academic Year Fellowship in Hindi (2012–13)
FLAS Summer Fellowship in Hindi at the University of Wisconsin – Madison (2012)
The University of Texas at Austin Graduate School Recruitment Fellowship (2011–12)
University of Edinburgh Tweedie Fellowship for graduate fieldwork in South Asia (2008)
English-Speaking Union Scholarship for graduate study in the Britain (2007–09)
Rhodes Scholarship Finalist, District 8 (2006)