This chapter provides a socio-historical profile of the main actors of the book. The chapter also argues that these reformers, all men, embodied bivalent identities. On the one hand they belonged to an elite caste with strong links to Sanskrit learning and the social status that came with it, on the other hand they were members of a Victorian middle class. In this latter regard, I draw upon the recent work that sees ‘middle class-ness’ as something constituted through shared patterns of consumption rather than how they actually earned. I relate this consumption-orientation as the main reason that the physicians embraced so many small technological objects. At the same time, I constantly point out the importance of other, non-class elements in shaping their actions. Sectarian rivalries between Shaiva Tantrics and Vaishnavs and later political groupings around rival visions of nationalism both shape the actions of the reformists.
Keywords: middle class; caste; Indian National Congress; consumption; Calcutta; Subhas Chandra Bose
Chapter. 16596 words. Illustrated.
Subjects: History of Science and Technology
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