Abstract: Building the Modern Nation? Tata's Philanthropy and Development in India

Arun Kumar


In this paper, I discuss critically the dominant and underlying conception of modernity and nation-building that informs modern business philanthropy in postcolonial India. In so doing, I discuss the philanthropy of the Tata group, which is one of the leading Indian corporate groups with wide-ranging business interests, and which was responsible for the institution of some of the leading research and teaching institutions of science and technology, social science, and performing artsm as well as, more recently, extensive funding to address the problem of poverty and under-development. For more than a century, their philanthropy has largely been animated by the desire to contribute toward the development of India into a ''modern nation.'' However, I argue that the underlying imagination of a nation, and also what it means to be or become modern, have not remained constant or stable, unlike what the received accounts suggest. It is this shifting conception of what a modern Indian nation might be that the paper, as well as my on-going research, is invested in.