Creative Dissent in India: Knowledge Swaraj and the People’s Health Movement
There is an increasing interest among STS scholars to go beyond public understanding of science to look at the role of social movements in shaping alternate science and exploring the role of scientific dissent and the reconfiguration of the relations between scientists and citizens. The increasing popularity of citizen science that seeks to reengage the public in science needs to be situated within broader social movements that have argued for more conversations on science and democracy. This paper explores the idea of scientific dissent in India within a rich and vibrant tradition of People’s Science Movement(s). We suggest that the dominance of the technoscientific elite has been countered in part through creative dissent by citizens and scientists working together in envisioning knowledge futures. Specifically, a citizen’s manifesto—Knowledge Swaraj, is examined for its potential to present a frame for science in civil society rooted around the principles of plurality, sustainability, and justice that could reclaim the citizen’s autonomy or ‘self-rule’. Through the case study of the knowledge created by the People’s Health Movement (PHM) in India from 1976–1990, we show how creative dissent has enabled multiple conversations about science, medicine, and democracy that both critique dominant state and market narratives and presents an alternative through dissenting scientists.
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