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Why a Science and Technology Studies Perspective Is Important

‘Development’ and ‘Modernity’ in the Global South

The terms “development” and “modernity” have been used widely and diversely during the past several decades, and continue to be evoked extensively in the present time. Development is projected as the path to modernity, a unique and inevitably desirable state for all human societies. Notwithstanding their worldwide uses and academic research on them, these terms do not yet carry any clear and universally accepted meaning. Scholars, politicians, media persons, corporate leaders, civil society activists, etc, have all used these terms in diverse contexts to suit their own priorities and/or interests. In particular, modernity has been analysed in the context of art, history, the social sciences, etc. In this article, the perception of modernity has been examined at the level of the common people, in particular, the emerging middle class in the global South.

The ideological span of the many subjective and unexplained descriptions of development and modernity extends from the radical left to the neo-liberals. These diverse descriptions have been the subject of rich and extensive literature, which have acquired a deep cultural–political status. A cursory look at any newspaper or TV programme will be enough to gauge the widespread use of these terms in governance and other political processes, especially in the global South. In this article, the horizons of the global South are extended from the usual limits of ex-colonial, non-European peoples (Comaroff and Comaroff 2012) to include poor populations in industrially developed countries. This article aims at looking into the relationship between development, modernity, and the frontier knowledge of the sciences and modern technology. Advancement in scientific knowledge and modernity needs to also further, and not hinder, human dignity and security. Such intricate and interdisciplinary studies on the relationship of science and technology with humanity are being described “Science and Technology Studies” (STS) as detailed by Jasanoff et al (1995).

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