Alexei Kojevnikov

Professor

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Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - April 2022)
The importance of being punctual: time, trust, and virtue in Britain, c.1700-1900 (2020)

This dissertation examines the history of punctuality in Britain during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Exploring punctuality as an instance of time discipline, I challenge the historical narratives which have explained the proliferation of clock-time discipline in the late eighteenth and nineteenth century as a result of the appearance of the factory system, religion, or the advent of steam-powered railways. Following the use of the word in newspapers, magazines, and books, I trace how punctuality came to refer to being “on time” within the context of the payment of debts. Contextualizing the meaning of the word I demonstrate how the discourse of punctuality since this transformation between the end of the seventeenth century and through the nineteenth century was intimately connected with questions about the trustworthiness and honesty of others.The dissertation explores how punctuality, and its absence, was problematized in discussions of commerce, domestic management, the railway journey, and in efforts to create networks of electrically coordinated clocks. In these contexts, punctuality came to symbolize everything from honesty, piety, reliability, good management, and railway safety. In examining these meanings, I argue that punctuality was a middle-class value. It was promoted by middle-class writers for middle-class readers. Being punctual demonstrated that a person, a business, a home, a railway, or even an observatory was well-managed, disciplined, and could be relied upon. Unpunctuality and irregularity raised doubts about whether a person could pay their debts, whether a clock told the right time, and whether a train would deliver you safely to your destination.

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Bhadralok physics and the making of modern science in colonial India (2013)

This study offers a cultural history of the development of quantum physics in India during the first half of the twentieth century, prior to Indian independence. The investigation focuses on the case studies of Indian physicists Satyendranath Bose (1894-1974), Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman (1888-1970) and Meghnad Saha (1893-1956). The analytical category “bhadralok physics” is introduced to explore how it became possible for a highly successful brand of modern science to develop in a country that was still under the conditions of colonial domination. The term Bhadralok refers to the then emerging group of native intelligentsia, who were identified by academic pursuits and manners and effectively transcended the existing class and caste barriers of the colonial society. Exploring the forms of life of this social group allows a better understanding of the specific character of Indian modernity that, as exemplified by the work of bhadralok physicists, combined modern science with indigenous knowledge into an original program of scientific research. Unlike the most prominent Indian scientists of the preceding generation, Bose, Saha and Raman received their academic education in India proper, rather than Europe, and can be considered the “first indigenously trained generation” of modern scientists. They achieved most significant scientific successes in the new revolutionary field of quantum physics with such internationally recognized accomplishments as the Saha ionization equation (1921), the famous Bose-Einstein statistics (1924), and the Raman Effect (1928), with the latter discovery leading to the first ever Nobel Prize awarded to a scientist from Asia. The study analyzes the responses by Indian scientists to the radical concept of the light quantum and their further development of this approach outside the purview of European authorities. The outlook of bhadralok physicists is characterized here as “cosmopolitan nationalism,” which allows us to analyze how the group pursued modern science in conjunction with, and as an instrument of Indian national liberation, and explore the role played by modern science for and within the Indian nationalist movement.

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Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2021)
Faustian bargain: how the academics in Turkey dealt with university purges, 1960s-1980s (2021)

Academic purges have been a recurrent phenomenon in the political life of the Turkish Republic. This study argues that academics, who are usually seen as primary victims of state persecution, also played important roles as instigators and willing contributors to the purges. This understanding emerges from a close examination of academic removals that took place in Turkey after the 1960 and 1980 military coups. The analysis of the views, discourses, and actions of academics reveals their complicity in the normalization of dismissals of other university members in the 1960s, which also affected the subsequent major academic purge in 1983. Some senior academics saw the Turkey’s first military coup, which took place on May 27, 1960, as an efficient and fast way to remove a political enemy. These academics, who legitimized the coup, hoped that they would increase their control over the university thanks to their support of the junta. Contrary to this expectation, young academics seized the opportunity and collaborated with the junta to eliminate decades-long inequalities at the university. They purged some of their senior colleagues and moved into the vacant positions. University officials took note of the success of scholars who initiated the previous purge. During the academic purges in 1983, senior academics such as rectors and deans attempted to redesign universities by launching an unofficial dismissal campaign. The official purge list with fewer than a hundred names unofficially expanded to over a thousand. Together, these two purges and the role academics played in them weakened universities’ resistance to purges and helped them to become a regular feature of the political life in Turkey.

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Islamic technoscience: machines, politics, and gender in Iran's cultural revolution (1980-1983) (2021)

This thesis explores the relationship between science, technology, Islam, and politics in postrevolutionary Iran. The central question of this thesis is how a group of Islamist revolutionaries utilized science and technology to consolidate power in the Islamic Republic state and neutralize other competing factions involved in the 1979 revolution. I mainly focus on the events of Iran’s Cultural Revolution in the spring of 1980, which shut down all universities for three years and gave birth to two new revolutionary institutions: a policymaking council, called the Headquarters of the Cultural Revolution (HCR) and a nation-wide network of Islamist students who overthrew university administrations, called the University Jehad (UJ). Along with other pre-existing bureaucratic organizations, these revolutionary bodies governed science and technology in postrevolutionary Iran. I argue that the institutional and ideological tensions between these new institutions and with older bureaucratic organizations exemplify the crisis of the Islamic Republic state in the early 1980s.To understand the relevance of science and technology in the state-building processes in postrevolutionary Iran, this thesis is the first to examine the history of a new form of technoscientific enterprise pursued by the HCR, called “Islamic technoscience”. Islamic technoscience is the embodiment of the revolutionary doctrines of independence, self-sufficiency, and anti-colonial science materialized in a set of small and simply-designed machines meant to protect the state’s food security, economic resilience, and employment market. These machines, along with other achievements of the Islamized universities, were celebrated and displayed at the HCR’s science fairs, on the anniversaries of the Cultural Revolution. Showcasing these material artifacts, these exhibitions featured the binary between colonial science and Islamic technoscience demonstrating the importance of politics in the design of technology. In addition, I study the social relevance of Islamic technoscience examining the relationship between gender roles and the technoscientific ambitions of the state. Through a deep reading of certain documents revealing the internal ruling relationships within the HCR and UJ, I examine the major restrictions on women’s enrolment in technical, engineering, and agricultural subjects as well as the acts of resistance against these policies by Iranian female scientists.

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Soviet and national Kyrgyzstan: local agency and state-building in Central Asia (1918-1940) (2021)

After the 1917 Revolution, the new Soviet state was trying to accommodate local nationalisms by creating opportunities for limited self-determination for non-Russian people in what would eventually become the multinational Soviet Union. The predominantly Muslim Central Asia presented a particular problem, not only due to cultural and religious contrasts, but also because the Russian Imperial rule there had most closely resembled classical colonialism. This research aims to examine the process of Soviet-style nation-building in the specific case of Kyrgyz people, a nomadic nation that by the late 1930s developed institutions of modern state, a territory with defined borders, and the system of education with its own, national written language. I will analyze the role played in this process by Soviet officials in Moscow and by a group of indigenous intellectuals. By scrutinizing complex negotiations between these key actors, my work will address two main questions: what was the specific impact of local agency and indigenous activism on the Soviet state-building project? And just how did these Kyrgyz and Moscow-based players convey their concerns and expertise in creating the "national" Kyrgyz boundaries and the alphabet? The study relies on a variety of primary sources, ranging from diaries to journal periodicals. Recent scholarly literature on Soviet nation-building in Central Asia includes investigations that focused on Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. Studies of the comparable but socially specific case of Kyrgyzstan are conspicuous by their absence. Thus, my research builds on and adds to the existing body of Central Asia-focused scholarship by presenting the birth story of the Kyrgyz nation.

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