25. A Scientific Take On The Indian National Identity: Mahalanobis’ Profiloscope

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 his 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 the 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, P.C Mahalanobis’ instrument attempted to assimilate India on the basis of national identity, in a scientific manner.