Northwestern Events Calendar


Sarah Carson - "The Modern History of "Ancient" Indian Weather Prediction"

When: Monday, January 25, 2021
4:30 PM - 6:30 PM Central

Where: Online

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Janet Hundrieser   847.491.3525

Group: Science in Human Culture Program - Klopsteg Lecture Series

Category: Lectures & Meetings



Sarah Carson, Northwestern University


"The Modern History of "Ancient" Indian Weather Prediction"


This talk explores several twentieth-century works whose Indian authors aspired to revive the “ancient” science of jyotiṣa śāstra (Sanskrit astral science) for the purposes of weather prediction. The slokas and verses presented in these heterogenous compilations provide evidence for the importance of short- and long-term forecasting in vernacular idioms, where prediction could apply equally to future times or distant locations of desired objects and effects. The talk highlights two periods of intensive interest in studying vernacular and early Indian weather knowledges: the first during the horrific famines of the late-nineteenth and early twentieth century, and the second in the first optimistic decades of national independence (the 1950s and 1960s). Specifically, it will discuss the varied ways in which modern commentators folded together earthly and astrological weather knowledges in their scientific visions, as well as the competing pulls of regionalism and nationalism evident in their publication projects.


Sarah Carson (Ph.D. September 2019, Princeton University) is a historian of modern South Asia studying the intersections between weather reasonings, forecasting technologies, and state-society relations. Her research charts the particular history of the India Meteorological Department alongside economic, social, and atmospheric developments in the region to argue for the centrality of “nature” to the politics of imperialism and nationalism. Sarah’s related interests include astrological knowledges, global environmental science, histories of bureaucracy, and narratives of environmental change. During her time with SHC, Sarah will be expanding her dissertation “Ungovernable Winds” into a book examining the connections between weather knowledges and state power in India, and engaging questions surrounding the scientific invention of “the tropics” and the role played by weather in everyday public life. She will also begin work on her next book project, which will explore the cultures of the postcolonial earth and environmental sciences in India and Pakistan, using oral history to complement the fragmentary textual archives currently available.

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