Friday, July 24, 2020

Affected by Landslides: PhD Research in Kalimpong District

View of Kalimpong hills
Hills of Kalimpong.
Image credit: Anuj Kumar Pradhan

According to an article in the July 22nd issue of India Today, 27 people have lost their lives in landslides in Darjeeling and Kalimpong Districts. Searching for more information took me to Peter McGowran's discussion of his PhD research on the topic. This is an area about which I know little, so I enjoyed reading it (as much as one can enjoy reading about preventable deaths).

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

STS Research, COVID-19, the Global South

This is a bit belated, but I just found this discussion between editors/assistant editors at Backchannels. Gloria Baigorrotegui (Santiago), Amanda Domingues (New York), Joseph Satish Vedanayagam (Hyderabad), María Elissa Torres Carrasco (Cuenca), Olusegun Alonge (Berlin), and Xan Chacko (Meanjin/Brisbane) share their thoughts on the pandemic and scientific research.

"Silence is key to continue breathing."

Thursday, July 16, 2020

A Real Threat to Research and Safety

Any woman* considering dissertation research in India should read Audrey Truschke's recent essay** and take it seriously. As a scholar working in science studies, cultural heritage management, and architectural/landscape history, I've run up against the limits of what can be said without threat of a masculinist Hindutva retaliation. While my personal safety has never been threatened (that I know of), I have certainly done a lot of self-censoring when applying for visas, pursuing certain research topics, and publishing on certain topics. I thought long and hard before publishing my article on Ayodhya, and I had to take multiple deep breaths before publishing an article that undermines the myth of Jaipur as a Hindu city (city plan).

My dissertation research will probably never make it into book form, but that may be just as well, as interpreting Jai Singh's observatories as sites of an exclusively Hindu science is just not possible. Certainly earlier Hindu/Sanskrit texts played a role, especially early in Jai Singh's explorations, but arguably, Islamic and then European texts were more important during the era of design and construction.

I don't know what kind of risk I'd be willing to assume to see my book published. Professionally, I'm not dependent on it for promotion and advancement, so having my book pulped like Wendy Doniger's wouldn't necessarily hurt my career. But it would hurt personally, tremendously, beyond what I could express.

Knowing the problem is the first step: be aware of what's going on. Solving the problem is the second, third, fourth, and fifth step. Men, support your more vulnerable colleagues at home and in the field. Think about how networks that are so valuable to your research may be failing to help your female colleagues. If your voice is being heard, use it for change. Listen to the women with whom you work.

*Really, this warning is for everyone working in South Asian studies, but women, trans, and non-binary people are definitely more at personal risk.

**Thank you to the scholar who shared this essay via the ACSAA network this morning.

Friday, July 3, 2020

AIIS Digital Scholarshipt Grants

Reposted from the American Institute of Indian Studies:

The American Institute of Indian Studies is pleased to announce the launch of its Digital India Learning (DIL) initiative and invites proposals that demonstrate a sustained use of digital methodology and resources in the exploration of a research topic focused on India. AIIS welcomes projects at all stages of development, including pilots at a preliminary stage of conception, that foster the digital production and dissemination of knowledge about India; that promote the creation and use of digital resources and media for the study of India; and that promote digital collaboration across disciplines including, and especially, between the humanities, social sciences, and STEM fields. Award funds can be used to supplement current projects supported by other grants, but the budget should clearly explain what portion of the project will be supported by the AIIS award.  Award funds may not be used exclusively for hosting a conference or workshop, but convenings that are necessary to help advance a project are allowed if the purpose is explained in the narrative. Anticipated outcomes may include but are not limited to digital material and publications, reports, teaching resources, online exhibits, digital infrastructure, and software.

AIIS is offering two grants, each for $12,500. A proposal for a project can be submitted by one principal investigator applicant or a team of two or more principal investigators in collaboration. Projects do not need to involve travel to India. Eligible applicants include faculty, as well as non-faculty professionals at institutions of higher education in the United States. Applicants from community colleges, Minority Serving Institutions, and institutions which do not have established South Asian studies programs are especially encouraged to apply.

Applicants should submit their application in the form of a single pdf, by email to The application deadline is September 15, 2020.

When COVID-19 Impacts your PhD Fieldwork

Ru-Yin Lu was conducing Ph.D. research in Arunachal Pradesh when the pandemic made itself known. When do you decide to leave a research site? How do you decide to leave?

A brief aside: I was studying Russian at Leningrad (St. Petersburg) State University when the the U.S. shot down Iran Air Flight 655 over the Persian Gulf. It was an anxiety-ridden time for me--it was difficult to get news or hear any commentary that wasn't drenched in Cold War rhetoric. There was no easy way to contact family or friends in the U.S. I imagine those Soviet days = Stage 1 of what this scholar experienced. No easy thing.