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Making Knowledge Visible: Artisans, Craftsmen, Printmakers, and the Knowledge Sharing Practices of 19th-Century Bengal

From the book Race and Sociocultural Inclusion in Science Communication

  • Siddharth Kankaria , Anwesha Chakraborty and Argha Manna


Colonial India has a rich precedent of engaging publics with knowledge through printed publications of various formats and readerships. The advent of printing in India is often regarded as a European undertaking, and the role of Indigenous artisans, craftsmen, and printmakers in enabling the printing revolution in India is often marginalised. There is an urgent need to acknowledge and include the historical contributions of such marginalised actors to reorient the study of knowledge-sharing practices towards local communities. This chapter provides a historical account of knowledge-making and sharing practices of 19th-century colonial Bengal. It begins by briefly describing the key institutions involved in these activities, the social, cultural, and political contexts of those times, and what constituted ‘knowledge’ for different groups of people at that time. It documents the rise of the printing enterprise in colonial Bengal as a knowledge-making and sharing institution, with a special emphasis on the development of Bengali-language printing, as well as the rise of the genre of publications called Battala, which was characterised by its own visual style and accessible thematic content. The chapter comments on the role of these developments in challenging the existing power structures and social hierarchies of colonial Bengal and subsequently democratising access to knowledge in those times. It also proposes some learnings for contemporary science communication practice in terms of making knowledge-making and sharing practices more inclusive, collaborative, and reflexive. The chapter concludes by making a case for centring the marginalised within the research, practice, and teaching of science communication and broadening the scope of mainstream science communication to help move towards a more diverse, decolonised, and community-centric understanding of knowledge-making and sharing practices.


knowledge-sharing practicesprintmaking technologiescolonial Bengalmarginalised communitiesartisanal knowledge
© Bristol University Press 2023, excluding Chapter 12 © Tibisay Sankatsing Nava, Roxanne-Liana Francisca, Krista T. Oplaat, and Tadzio Bervoets
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