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CISA Announces 2008 Sardar Patel Award Winner

CISA Announces 2008 Sardar Patel Award Winner

Congratulations to Dr. Jahnavi Phalkey, recipient of the 2008 Sardar Patel Award for the best dissertation submitted at any American university on the subject of modern India.

"My thesis is a history of the beginnings of nuclear research and education in India, between 1938 and 1959, traced through the trajectories of particle accelerator building activities at three institutions"


The Sardar Patel Award was instituted in 1999 and first conferred in 2000. This annual award of $10,000, endowed by the Los Angeles-based organization known as the Friends of the Sardar Patel Association, is administered by the UCLA Center for India and South Asia. Dissertations are evaluated for their insights into the nature of modern Indian society, the grasp demonstrated by the writer over the scholarly literature, and the clarity of exposition and argument. The dissertation must have been completed at an American university in history, anthropology, sociology, literature, political science, or one of the other disciplines in the humanities, the arts, and the social sciences.

The Sardar Patel Award for 2008 is being awarded to Jahnavi Phalkey for her Georgia Institute of Technology dissertation titled Science, State-Formation and Development: The Organization of Nuclear Research In India.

Jahnavi Phalkey has studied politics and history of science at the Universities of Bombay, London and the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta. She is now visiting assistant professor at Georgia Tech-Lorraine, Metz, and working on a book manuscript, The Importance of Being Nuclear: Science and State-formation in India.

Following is an abstract of the 2008 award-winning dissertation:

Science, State-Formation and Development: The Organisation of Nuclear Research in India 1938-1959

“My thesis is a history of the beginnings of nuclear research and education in India, between 1938 and 1959, traced through the trajectories of particle accelerator building activities at three institutions: the Department of Physics, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore; the Palit Laboratory of Physics, University Science College, Calcutta, later (Saha) Institute of Nuclear Physics; and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bombay. The two main arguments in this thesis are: First, the beginnings of nuclear research in India were rooted in the “modernist imperative” of the research field. However, post-war organisation of nuclear research came to be inextricably imbricated in processes of state-formation in independent India in a manner such that failure to actively engage with the bureaucratic state implied death of a laboratory project, or constraints upon legitimately possible research. Second, state-formation, like the pursuit of nuclear research in India for the period of my study, became about India’s participation and claim upon the universal. State-formation was equally a modernist imperative. Powerful sections of the nationalist bourgeoisie in India understood “Science” and the “State” as universals in World History, and India, they were convinced, had to confirm its place in history as an equal among equals. These two arguments combined explain how nuclear research came to be established, transformed, and extended through the gradual assembly of material infrastructure to realistically enable the new country take a capable decision on the nuclear question.”