Listen: A Scientific Take on the Indian National Identity Through Mahalanobis’s Profiloscope

P.C. Mahalanobis’s instrument attempted to assimilate an 'Indian' on the basis of her national identity but in a manner the statistician thought would be scientific.

In the 1930s, P.C. Mahalanobis built the ‘profiloscope’, which attempted to determine a person’s race using an instrument that was primarily a modified version of a camera. It used the facial features of the subject to determine her race, using a rudimentary version of what we now know as biometry. This now-forgotten apparatus never had an established purpose for its invention but it did raise an important question: Who is an ‘Indian’?

Amidst the backdrop of a nation that was struggling to establish its national identity, in the face of communal tension and colonial rule, Mahalanobis’ instrument attempted to assimilate India on the basis of national identity in a scientific manner.

This is the latest episode of The Intersection, a fortnightly podcast on Audiomatic. For more such podcasts visit audiomatic.in​.