2021 - 22 Dissertation Award Winner

Everyday Sciences in Southwest India - Eric Gurevitch

Eric Moses Gurevitch is a historian of science focusing on medieval and early modern South Asia. He recently received a PhD jointly in the Department of South Asian Languages & Civilizations and the Committee on the Conceptual & Historical Studies of Science. Eric was an IFK Graduate Community Fellow in 2021-22. His research aims to tell a more global history of science in which unexpected voices, practices and events come to stand alongside more standard narratives. Starting in 2022, Eric will be a National Endowment for the Humanities Postdoctoral Fellow at Vanderbilt University.

Eric’s dissertation – Everyday Sciences in Southwest India – explores a set of scholarly controversies in medieval southwest India. These include disputes over the meaning of experience, the proper language with which to compose practical sciences, the nature of vision, the social construction of caste differences, and the relationship of diet to medicine. The dissertation traces these disputes among a close-knit group of scholars writing in both Sanskrit and a regional language they called “New Kannada.” Using this new vernacular register, scholars in medieval India composed texts they called “everyday sciences.” They compiled domestic recipes, solved bureaucratic mathematical problems, predicted the weather, provided instructions for locating underground water, and waxed poetic about medicine for humans as well as animals. The dissertation concludes by illustrating how this medieval scholarship was later made portable and transposed into new contexts on the eve of colonialism.