Between metis and techne: politics, possibilities and limits of improvisation

Ankit Kumar (Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Geographers, especially those working in developing country contexts have often encountered improvisation because it plays a critical social and cultural role. Engaging with James Scott's (1998) conceptualisation of metis – contextual, practical and flexible skills and knowledge – and techne – universal technical knowledge – this paper furthers the geographical scholarship on the politics of improvisation.
The paper makes three main contributions. First, using metis and techne, it provides a new conceptual repertoire for making sense of improvisation. The paper places improvisation at the nexus of metis and techne. Second, it pushes the understanding of the morality of improvisation by attending to the role of relationships of power in morally and materially legitimising improvisations. Third, although states and experts celebrate and actively engage with improvisation, this paper demonstrates that they also create limits and boundaries for improvisation. These limits demonstrate a contradiction in experts’ actions.
This paper is based on a nine months ethnographic research on two energy projects carried out in 2012-13 in five villages in Bihar, an eastern state of India. It used participant observations, home tours, interviews and group discussions.
LanguageEnglish
JournalSocial and Cultural Geography
DOIs
StateE-pub ahead of print - 24 Jul 2019

Fingerprint

spontaneity
morality
politics
village
developing world
energy
expert
project
participant observation
group discussion
developing country
India

Keywords

  • improvisation
  • development
  • energy
  • Politics
  • India
  • Solar
  • Culture

Cite this

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abstract = "Geographers, especially those working in developing country contexts have often encountered improvisation because it plays a critical social and cultural role. Engaging with James Scott's (1998) conceptualisation of metis – contextual, practical and flexible skills and knowledge – and techne – universal technical knowledge – this paper furthers the geographical scholarship on the politics of improvisation. The paper makes three main contributions. First, using metis and techne, it provides a new conceptual repertoire for making sense of improvisation. The paper places improvisation at the nexus of metis and techne. Second, it pushes the understanding of the morality of improvisation by attending to the role of relationships of power in morally and materially legitimising improvisations. Third, although states and experts celebrate and actively engage with improvisation, this paper demonstrates that they also create limits and boundaries for improvisation. These limits demonstrate a contradiction in experts’ actions.This paper is based on a nine months ethnographic research on two energy projects carried out in 2012-13 in five villages in Bihar, an eastern state of India. It used participant observations, home tours, interviews and group discussions.",
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Between metis and techne : politics, possibilities and limits of improvisation. / Kumar, Ankit (Corresponding author).

In: Social and Cultural Geography, 24.07.2019.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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