Global Encounters, Earthly Knowledges, Worldly Selves
Focused on the colonial school in the British India as the principal site for disciplined encounters between the learning child and the terrestrial globe as a scientific instrument, this essay considers the work of Geography in transforming young Indians into colonized but enlightened subjects over the course of the 19th century, even as it is instrumental in precipitating “modern Earth” as the subject of intent study. As I follow the pedagogic travels of the globe across the subcontinent, I ask why almost the very first issue with which the native child was confronted when beginning on this novel enterprise of a geographical education was the shape of the earth. Why did the colonial teacher of any ilk feel compelled to convince the Indian child, again and repeatedly, about terrestrial sphericity? And what is this knowledge of Earth’s sphericity pitched against? Not least, I take up three life-stories marked by significant “global” encounters to show that there is no single path to the formation of a planetary consciousness centered on a modern Earth brought into view through an Enlightened encounter with its miniaturized proxy.