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Mitra J. Sharafi
University of Wisconsin System (Madison, WI 53715-1218)
Fear of the False: Forensic Science in Colonial India, 1856–1947

Research and writing leading to publication of a book on the history of forensic science in colonial India, covering 1856-1947.

Between 1856 and 1947, a web of institutions tailored to the scientific detection of crime in South Asia was created. India’s new experts in toxicology, blood stains, handwriting analysis, and explosives were supposed to cut through the confusion produced by the perjury and forgery of “mendacious natives” to extract objective scientific truth in the service of a neutral vision of justice. In practice, however, the use of the new forensic science in the courtroom invited increasingly complicated and conflicting answers to the questions, "what is truth?" and "what is justice?" This study, which will be the first book-length history of forensic science in colonial India, reveals that a system initially structured along fault lines of racial mistrust expanded into a site for competing conceptions of truth and justice among legal, scientific, and medical professionals, both South Asian and European.

[Grant products]

Project fields:
History of Science; Legal History; South Asian History

Summer Stipends

Research Programs

$6,000 (approved)
$6,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2018 – 8/31/2018