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

Ankit Kumar (Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
121 Downloads (Pure)


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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)783-806
Number of pages24
JournalSocial and Cultural Geography
Issue number6
Early online date24 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • improvisation
  • development
  • energy
  • Politics
  • India
  • Solar
  • Culture
  • politics
  • metis
  • Improvisation
  • techne


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