In this lecture, Prof. Milind Sohoni of IIT Bombay explores knowledge, practice and culture for India as a developing country. The objective of the talk is to examine current mainstream knowledge systems and their ability to solve local issues of equity or development or global issues such as climate change. He argues that this ability is indeed limited and that it underestimates the role of culture, community and local agents and their knowledge.
He employs two threads. The first is to understand systems of personal knowledge and their evolution and the role of culture, seasons and natural history. He sees how this connects with organized or systemic programs such as Science and Social Science and its big-ticket agenda and concepts. The second thread is the question of rampant and poignant poverty in our society. He sees how various perspectives fare in the explanation of this material condition by elucidating an elementary structure of society, of ordinary households, the state, the market and the civil or cultural society. He also sees how formal or Big Knowledge treats the question of development and its pitfalls. He argues that the key is to understand and strengthen the working of agents within communities and their knowledge, or in other words, empathy, empirics and engagement. Thus, culture must play an important role in this transformation. Finally, he points out what it must imply for the role of the university as well as the training of the engineer.