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2009 student Grant reports
summer 2009 international experience Grants Faculty
Kevin McGrath sai travel Grant Field report: Kacch, Western GuJarat
During this past Summer I spent seven weeks travelling about the Kacch District of western Gujarat studying social change. Thanks to an SAI Grant I was able to hire an all-terrain vehicle and sometimes a guide in order to visit the more outlying villages of this extremely hot and essentially desert district. I spent time among the Jain community and also the kshatriya community of the Jadeja and Sodha clans; the latter had migrated into the Kacch from Sindh in 1971 after the border dispute of that year. On several occasions I was able to attend certain temple inaugurations, which in terms of ritual and custom were remarkable and at times reminiscent of scenes from the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata. In new Bhuj, the capital town, soon to become a sprawling city in the desert, I visited several schools and slum settlements. These visits were always well-reported in the local press and in one instance, was aired on television. The rag-pickers who formed these poor communities had migrated into the region eleven years ago from Rajasthan; they are still just surviving. A Jain group which I have been working with is encouraging these folk—who possess no IDs—to send their daughters to school and to start saving at a rate of five rupees a week, in order to introduce some de-marginalisation into their lives. I also ventured into the Moti Banni region, formerly once a rich pasture land but now an area of severe desiccation; this is due to over-grazing, a falling water table, and to climate change. The central Gujarat government is keen to develop this area for its minerals, and large mines and factories are already in the area: these give impetus to further social and natural depredation. The former maldhari or herding communities of Banni are now increasingly impoverished as their land slips out of a traditional commons system into one that is intensely new-century in its appropriations. I was able to travel in far-western Kacch, a taluka that is predominantly Jath-settled although there are now gigantic mines in the vicinity. The government is keen to maintain communities in this locale as it is only miles from the frontier: there exists an odd balance of industry, camel-herding, and border-patrols. The Phakirani Jaths of this quarter are an exceptionally devout group and eschew all acquisition of property and for them, the old pedestrian and nomadic habit of life essentially recalls the journey of pilgrimage. I hope to return to this part of Kacch and to learn more about these rare and unusual people. The merging of the traditional—and this includes ancient patterns of migration—with an encroaching industrial and modernising economy, leads to unique social conditions; and in these frontier regions communal relations are deteriorating since the November attacks in Mumbai last year. On one occasion I witnessed the apprehension of two young men in a border town who were picked up by an army squad and a riot almost ensued; the phantasy of arms smuggling is rampant. On another occasion in an army training zone I was at a small temple at dusk and was able to observe young military cadets performing what can be described as a profoundly fanatical puja. Again, the scene was redolent of a Mahabharata narrative. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity which the SAI afforded me during the recent months; the materials which I was able to record will greatly help me in finishing the area study on which I am currently engaged.
2009 south asia initiative Grants
summer 2009 international experience Grants Graduate
rwitwika Bhattacharya summer internship report
Thank-you for providing me with the opportunity to further explore the field of business and human rights. With the support of your generous donation, I had the opportunity to explore the nexus of business and civil society this summer with the Institute of Business and Human Rights (http://www.institute hrb.org/) and am hopeful that I will continue working on this field during the upcoming school year and also after I graduate from the Harvard Kennedy School. My research internship in India focused on working with land acquisition issues (specifically creating a research paper on the effectiveness of the private sector to acquire land and then be able to maintain stable operations), to closely work on larger issues of tri-sectoral work: how business, government and social concerns NGOs can work together for the larger social good. As the summer progressed, I was able to realize that each of the sectors have a certain niche that they can offer in working toward social good. While partnerships are already taking place in various industries capacities, there is a lack of formal organizations that can become an umbrella for such alliances. The Institute of Business and Human Rights is a newly formed forum where industry groups join together to along with civil society organizations to better understand the potential issues that might develop with scaling on issues related to human rights. Working in this organization, gave me first hand exposure on how possible partnerships can allow social issues to be resolved much smoothly. During my internship, a conference on business and human rights issues (which I was one of the key-organizers for) in New Delhi, also permitted me the opportunity to interact and learn from experts in the field. I hope to be able to apply this knowledge during the upcoming year. At HKS, second year Public Policy students have to work on a policy issue with a ‘client’ organization. The summer internship has resulted in having the World Bank as a possible client for my policy analysis exercise. I aspire to continue exploring the topic further. I have already started discussion with a few Indian companies for a case study based on investigation of the private sector attitudes on transparency and human rights issues. I am hopeful that I will get a chance to travel to India in December and explore the topic further. Thank-you again for your financial support.
ujala dhaka social anthropoloGy
My research focuses on how Muslims in Mumbai, primarily those who traditionally belong to non-elite artisanal communities, negotiate the parameters of minority politics. In 2007-8 I conducted ethnographic fieldwork in several Muslim neighborhoods of Mumbai, namely Mahim, Bandra, Dharavi, Madanpura, Nagpada and Dongri. I tried to analyze how notions of belonging, locality and citizenship are constituted in a city that is highly segregated and ghettoized along religious and regional lines. Through a careful analysis of the specificities of Muslim minority politics in Mumbai I aim to better understand the mutually constitutive
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ujala dhaka continued
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relation between state and community. I am currently transcribing interviews that I conducted during my fieldwork and working on a draft chapter for my dissertation. I will use the SAI travel grant (2009-10) to revisit my informants in Mumbai in December 2009 and January 2010. I plan to get updates on my informants’ struggles over certain neighborhood-related issues and their negotiations with bureaucratic agencies.
namita dharia BuildinG the city: report Based on FieldWorK conducted in north east india this summer
My visit to the North East of India-- in particular Gangtok, Guwahati, and Shillong--articulated two critical problematics in the current discussions of Indian urbanism. First, that discussions of urban in India tend to focus on ‘star cities’ -- Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, and Calcutta -- ignoring virtually thousands of cities that are developing at a far faster pace than the star cities themselves. Second, the discourse on star cities speaks of them as entities of their own disconnected from the larger landscapes and networks they are situated in. Urban India is seen as a hermetic entity-- setting up a blindness towards the movements of people, ideas, and goods through them and the relationships--national, transnational, rur-urban etc that these circulations produce. My interviews this summer with architects, urban planners, and locals of the three cites, discussing changes in building activity and city planning, helped generate several specific examples which speak to the above problematics. I use Guwahati as an example to flesh these out. First, city planning in Guwahati is very much modeled upon master plans and infrastructural initiatives in cities such as Delhi. Urban development funding schemes such as the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, which currently funds several projects in North Eastern cities, also prompts a certain standardization of urban planning practices, linking North Eastern cities to other cities in India through similar modes of development and planning procedures. Second, in cities like Guwahati most large scale architectural and planning projects are outsourced to architects, planners, and consulting agencies in cities like Bombay and Delhi, linking the two cities together through the people that plan and design the built environment. Third, architects in Guwahati reference a evolutionary discourse of development in relationship to Delhi or Bombay-- “Guwahati is 20 years behind Bombay,” or “we still have to catch up with Delhi--” being common phrases used. Peripheral cities, like Guwahati, are thus permeated by the imaginaries of the metropoles. Fourth, land speculation in Bombay spurs land speculation in Guwahati and a large number of investors in Guwahati are no longer local elites but developers and investors that hold stakes in several different cities across India. The political economy of the building construction sector is again
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not restricted to a specific city but plays across several cities and rural areas together. Fifth, there is a strong circulation of people-- students, laborers, working professionals who move across various cities and rural areas-Indore, Lucknow, Mumbai, Calcutta, Bihar, Nepal, west Bengal-- linking them together. For me it is the final point that ties together the idea of building practices, citizenship, and urbanism that are my central areas of interest. Especially in terms of the specificity and materiality of experiences and roles of the variety of groups that are involved in the building and infrastructural development industry and how these might extrapolate into a commentary on the nature of urban space in India or, broadly, South Asia. A particular interview I conducted with a day laborer in Guwahati drew together not only the broader problematics of discourse of Indian urbanism that the case study of Guwahati opened up but also anchored them to the very material and real human experience of space and citizenship in urban India. Coming from Bihar Nathulal (name changed) had moved across seven different Indian cities--Mumbai, Delhi, Lucknow, Calcutta, Guwahati to name a few--in search of work, He had worked on building construction sites and road construction trying to earn a living for his family. He moved from city to city as he was unable to build his own home due to exorbitant land and housing prices living largely in slums and shacks--often building his own home as he built those of India’s elites. He spoke of his house being torn down and of the building techniques he learnt in his village, his continued struggle to find food for his family in seven different cities of India that finally brought him to Guwahati’s construction sites. Nathulal’s story resonates with the story of several migrant workers from within South Asia who traverse national and state borders, move from city to city, looking for work while simultaneously being the support system and foundation of their building construction industries. The narratives of their lives opens up a space to speak of the political economy of land and building across cites in India; the imaginings of space and citizenship that accompany these; the various micro practices of building construction and design that articulate the built environment of Indian cities. Together these extrapolate into an alternative narrative of urban India that might speak with the problematics addressed above in interrelationships to the lives and experiences of those who live it. It is this ethnographic research and the accompanying analytics it address that I hope to address in my dissertation work.
victoria Fan report to south asia initiative
In Ahmedabad, India, we have been working on developing a cluster randomized control trial to understand the effect of a public-health communication campaign delivered by community health workers on health care utilization with an NGO that offers health insurance to poor women who work in the informal sector. My role was to support the study design and preliminary data analysis. We have designed the study, which randomly assigns treatment and control to different clusters, to have sufficient power to measure an effect of the treatment. Preliminary data analysis suggests that diarrheal diseases, febrile illnesses, and hysterectomies account for a large share of this particular NGO health insurance’s costs. Further work remains to be done to analyze the preliminary data. The South Asia Initiative Fellowship was extremely helpful in supporting my living and travel expenses, which otherwise would have made this opportunity impossible. Working in the field is an essential component of training to become a public health practitioner, and I learned much about the potential as well as constraints of fieldwork. This experience has helped me make my first steps as I embark on dissertation research. I am deeply grateful for their support.
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Bridget hanna south asia initiative - Grant report on summer research
shashank Joshi 2009 summer experience Grant
Thanks for providing me with a chance to do the research I needed to pull together my prospectus! I had a wonderful trip and I learned a huge amount. My summer was divided into two parts: June I spent a month at the fabulous Landour Language School in Mussorie, Uttaranchal. I found it to be a beautiful place full of dynamic students, teachers and travelers (despite the giant spiders and monkeys!). Because of the funding I received from SAI, I was able to take a full schedule of private lessons to advance my knowledge of Hindi. I did lots of reading and writing, which was the most crucial thing, and improved my fluency tremendously. I read Namak Ki Daroga, Premchand’s lovely and incredibly difficult (for me) story, and lighter things like young adult novels in Hindi (I got through some of the Chronicles of Narnia in Hindi!). When I visited contacts in Delhi and Bhopal later in the summer they were very impressed by the way my language had improved. Also, towards the end of my time at Landour, I was lucky enough to get some oneon-one in traditional Urdu calligraphy from Habib, an incredibly talented teacher on staff at Landour. It was amazing! Thanks SAI. July – mid August July was when my pre-dissertation research really began. I spent the majority of the rest of my time in New Delhi, where I conducted archival research in the libraries and archives of environmental NGO’s across Delhi, looking specifically for formulations of how the relationship between pesticide use and health issues has been constructed over the past 30 years. The best and most useful archive by far was the archive at the Center for Science and Environment, which has a huge collection of archival materials, and an enormous library on these issues. I spent at least two weeks in their library. I also spent time in the libraries of a number of other NGOs, including ToxicsLink, the Center for Media Education – Environment Section, the Voluntary Health Association of India, and the resource center of the National Poisons Information Center, headquartered in the All India Institute of Medicine. In addition to reading and collecting documents from all of these centers, I conducted interviews with individuals working on these topics at these organizations. I also visited the Ministry of Environment, and secured access to the National Archives of India, but found the ministry to be opaque, and the national archives to be useless since their holdings have largely not been updated since the colonial period. I took two short research trips from Delhi. I went to Bhopal for a short time, where I visited the Chingari Trust, which cares for second generation children deformed by the Bhopal gas disaster (the pesticide factory that leaked in 1984), and the Sambhavna Trust Clinic, which provides free medical care to gas survivors, water contamination survivors, and their children. While there, I made contacts and did informal interviews with the heads of and some patients of these organizations. I also took a short trip to Amritsar, in the Punjab. I was invited by the Kheti Virasat Mission, which does activism against pesticides and for health in the areas most targeted by the green revolution. While there, I conducted more informal interviews with activists involved in these groups, and attended their “Trinjan: A Festival to Celebrate Women’s Traditional Knowledge & Wisdom in Punjab,” which was a vital and colorful learning experience about health and environment in the Punjab. I just delivered a paper to the conference of the Society of Medical Anthropology at Yale University this past weekend that was based in large part on my research from this summer. I’m also making good progress on my prospectus in anticipation of leaving for the field this spring or summer coming up. I couldn’t have done it without this opportunity for summer research. Thanks again, Bridget
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I was awarded the sum of $1000 for the study of the “sources of Indian foreign and security policy”. I have not yet used the funds, and intend to do so some time between March and June 2010, for travel to New Delhi and interview of various officials (outlined in the proposal). The work completed so far is primarily literature review - of modern Indian political, diplomatic and military history, as well as recent literature on Indian foreign policy from the point of view of political science. I have also contacted potential interviewees, though planning for the trip is at an early stage. Once more, I’d like to express my gratitude for the funds.
tsering Pema Lama epidemioloGy oF tB-hiv/aids co-inFection in nepal
My project focused on analyzing the trend in the Tuberculosis HIV/AIDS co-infection rates in Nepal. I worked at the South Asian Association for Regional Corporation (SAARC) Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS center located in Kathmandu, Nepal. Under the supervision of the director of the National TB Center (NTC) I first got oriented to the organization of the National Tuberculosis Program (NTP) and the collaboration between NTC and the National Centre for AIDS and STD Control (NCASC). I worked with the research team at NTC to analyze the trend in the TB HIV/AIDS co-infection data. The TB/HIV technical team from both NTC and NCASC and other major partner agencies in the national level was established only in 2006. But, HIV surveillance among TB patients has been going on since 1993 among 5 sentinel sites under the NTP and so far has completed six rounds of Sentinel Surveillance. The Surveys indicated HIV prevalence among TB patients to be 0% (1994), 0.6% (1996), 1.88% (1999), 1.39% (2000), 2.44% (2002) and 2.4% (2007). The latest survey of 2009 had yet to be completed and so was not included in the trend analysis. No significant change was seen in the trend of TB HIV/AIDS co-infection and it is evident that the TB HIV co-infection proportion has fluctuated over the years. Although small in proportion, TB HIV co-infection has been the major cause of death among people living with HIV/AIDS. During the research work, I came to realize that it is still too early to clearly understand the epidemiology of TB HIV/AIDS co-infection in Nepal as the previous survey method of looking at HIV among TB patients is being revisited in the National level. It is possible that changing the survey method by testing for TB among HIV patients can bring about a clearer picture of the TB HIV co-infection in Nepal. Thus, my initial plan of building this research topic into a master’s level thesis did not follow through. However, once more survey data are available several future projects could be possible such as understanding the role of behavioral indicators such as condom use, HIV/AIDS campaigns and education, sexual behavior, DOTS and DOTS plus intervention in bring a change in the TB HIV/AIDS co-infection rate. Understanding the social factors of TB HIV/AIDS co-infection will have more practical implications to the public. Overall, I got to engage in national public health research and understood the work behind nationwide surveys and its implication on national level health policy.
2009 south asia initiative Grants
daniel Majchrowicz south asia initiative report
suvranil Majumdar india’s reneWaBle enerGy Future-solar enerGy
Rising out of the tumultuous period of Indian history from the mid 19th century to independence in the 20th, the genre of the Urdu travelogue sought not only to introduce the great beyond to its domestic readers, but to influence developments in India as well. Taking up the mantle from Persian, the travelogue in Urdu quickly transcended its cousin in volume, range, and, most importantly, popularity. In this period, it usually materialized in the form of newspaper columns, adding editorial insight and worldly perspective to the day’s news. As Indian politics developed its demand for total sovereignty, the Urdu safarnama ran alongside, maturing its own identity, both as a genre and a political weapon. My larger project is to assess this development and explore how an increasingly popular literary form affected the politics of the day – afterall, did not many of the greatest names of the swaraj movement write their own travelogues? Perhaps it is befitting of the Urdu travelogue that manuscripts from the period in question are dispersed liberally across the swath of South Asia. Many are readily available in libraries in the US, Britain, and India, and have largely been accounted for. Collections in Pakistan, however, have largely evaded scholars until now, and the libraries of Lahore are a treasure-trove of rare manuscripts. That being so, my primary objective with the support of the South Asia Initiative is to travel to Pakistan to lay the foundation for my dissertation by indexing and acquiring copies of these rare works. But as any traveler or academic knows, even the most successful journeys can be plagued by unforeseen delays and snags. In the case of my own trip to Pakistan, my departure was beset by visa issues rather than inclement weather. Unfortunately, the process of acquiring a proper visa took far longer than expected, and by the time it was granted a summer visit to South Asia was no longer feasible. Nonetheless, the runway is now clear for me to embark upon my proposed study over winter recess. My revised itinerary sees me visiting both Pakistan and India, as originally proposed, in December and January. While this delay has been the cause of some irritation I do not consider it a setback by any means. Instead of bemoaning the delay, I transformed these months of waiting into months of preparation. Having meticulously laid all of the groundwork for my eventual arrival in Pakistan, I am sure to be able to follow through with my work quickly and efficiently. My preparatory labors have included a thorough investigation of where valuable travelogues are most likely to be found. I have also been in contact with a librarian in Pakistan who has begun to compile a list of works to which he has access. Most importantly, I have secured a formal invitation from LUMS in Lahore. This institutional affiliation will prove extremely useful in facilitating access to collections and in developing professional relationships with academic communities in Pakistan. In the 19th century, the journey from Europe to India was reckoned in months, not days, and the travelers whose works I intend to study could not even dream of reaching their destinations without investing weeks in preparation and months in the actual journey. Some things have not changed, even in the 21st century – at least in my case. Nonetheless, I am confident that my own efforts to visit Pakistan and India this December will prove to be as fruitful as those that have sailed before me.
The energy sector has been in the midst of a crisis due to the fast rising petrol and diesel prices over the Globe. Heavy reliance upon the conventional fossil fuels has resulted in an energy crisis over the globe. So the need of the hour is to build and use more non-conventional sources like Sun, Wind and Bio Mass. Indian Scenario The Indian renewable energy (RE) industry is diversified and offers strong business prospects to all companies. The RE market in India is estimated at USD 500 million and is growing at an annual rate of 15 percent. The major areas of investment are: solar energy, wind energy, small hydro projects, waste-to-energy, biomass and alternative fuel. The government has also shown a positive attitude towards the promotion of RE.The new RE policy of the Government of India (GOI) aimed at generating 10,000 MW through renewable and a nonconventional source by 2012 is also expected to further enhance the growth rate of this sector. Key factors responsible for growth in this sector include: Large demand-supply gap in energy especially electricity India has abundance of RE resources like solar, wind, bio-mass materials, urban and industrial wastes and small hydro resources Low gestation periods for setting up RE projects with quick return Favorable government policies Good number of financing options available for some RE’s like wind, hydro and solar. Increasing awareness among industry that being environmentally responsible is economically sound. In this paper, I will concentrate only on the solar energy and discuss in brief the costs and future innovations. Solar Energy India generates almost 1,748 MW power through solar energy. That is however short of India’s total demand of almost 1.3 lakh MW every year. However, companies with investments in the technology believe that the potential for solar energy is much larger than the above share. Solar technology is also a very clean energy, and since there is so much of sun that India gets it is quite possible that Indians will adopt solar in a big way. However, solar energy is one of the expensive ways to generate power. The cost of producing a single unit of solar energy from photovoltaic cells ranges from Rs 15 to Rs 30 as compared to Rs 2 to Rs 6 per unit for thermal energy. One of the other constraints to greater exploitation of solar energy is the low efficiency of photo voltaic cells. High Capital Costs Currently the capital cost to set up a photovoltaic plant that generates 1 MW electricity is almost 25 crore rupees. This is precisely the reason that makes it unattractive for commercial uses for now. Hopefully, the cost of solar technology has been declining at a rate of almost 3-4% per annum.
2009 south asia initiative Grants
2009 south asia initiative Grants
suvranil Majumdar continued
High Silicon Costs The main constituent in solar panels, silicon crystal is currently very expensive. Although the global photovoltaic (PV) production jumped from 277 MW in 2000 to 3800 MW in 2007, prices of silicon has also shot up sharply. Scope of Future Innovation Industry leaders and scientists are working together to create ways in which solar PV cells can use less silicon and lower costs. This will necessitate the need of successful innovations in producing new technologies. Most of the new technologies convert less light into electricity but use less silicon. Some of the important disruptive technologies are thin film and concentrator technology. According to G M Pillai, director general, World Institute of Sustainable Energy (WISE), another solar technology called Concentrate Solar Power (CSP) has good potential. Energy is generated using concave mirrors to focus sunlight, producing heat. There is no need for silicon and this is almost 50% cheaper. As for thin films, they use 80 timers lesser material compared to regular PV. However they convert 10% of the light they receive into electricity compared to the 20% efficiency in regular panels. The other key technologies which are expected to gain significance in the current years are copper-indiniumgallium diselenide, amorphous silicon etc. Another innovation which might gain significance in the near future is use of solar nanowires. Although the conversion factor is small (3.5%), they can be made from very cheap materials like rust. This will drastically reduce production costs. Recommendations At present, the conversion efficiencies of PV cells and the costs of making them are not very economical. However, the industry needs the support from the Government to accelerate technology developments and make it more cost effective. Government should also promote research in material sciences which is important for effective usage of solar energy. Government should provide subsidies or generous contracts to industry players committed to use solar energy. Government should also support the usage of solar power not only for commercial purposes but also for domestic purposes including the usage in buildings and parks. Industry should collaborate more with foreign players to know about the recent developments and form partnerships to promote such technologies in India. India should clearly leverage on its abundance of solar energy and can even allow foreign players to set up industries in return of cheap electricity. The solar growth story has been limited to villages .But city users in India should also be using this great energy resource. Conclusion Finally the government, private institutions and people are often too busy dealing with the problems of day to day survival to be concerned with the headache of a long range investment like solar energy. But with the current crisis and not so bright future, India must act fast and look to tap potential energy resources which is needed for sustaining her growth.
Bilal Malik 2009 summer experience Grant
The South Asia Initiative is supporting my fieldwork in Pakistan; my fieldwork spans 1 year, and I have barely begun -- so my report is fairly tentative. I will be spending 1 year till summer of 2010 doing an ethnographic case-study of a madrasa (theological college or seminary) in Punjab. I have relocated to the town where the madrasa is (Bhera) and have begun to take classes with the students and also slowly becoming familiar with the teachers and some of the students. I hope to continue becoming an organic member of the community over the next few months, so as to explore my research questions, which revolve around students’ conceptions of religion, its role in society, and their balancing of traditional and modern imperatives. Specifically, I ask: First, what are the understandings about the category of the ‘secular modern’ amongst students at the Bhera madrasa, and in what ways do these students consider this secular modern to be compatible with traditional religion? Second, through what social and cultural processes do these students acquire their understandings? I hope this brief update helps. I should have something more solid (along with photographs) in a few months’ time, perhaps in January or February.
david anthony Martinez aGrarian equality and relative status: Kinship and land ceilinGs in Bhutanese transnational laBor strateGies
I. Introduction D.A. Low (1996) argues that most programs intending to equally distribute land in developing countries during the latter half of the twentieth century failed in their goals due to a wealthy peasant class that was able to reject or co-opt the measures of agrarian reform. All of the examples Low provided directly focused on the solidarity of the wealthy peasant class. Low pointed toward a lack of understanding the forms of religious practice, kinship, and socio-political organization typically available in anthropological literature on these rural communities as the primary reason why policymakers in the capitals of the developing world failed to identify and resolve the barriers to equal distribution of land. In my interviews this summer in Queens, New York among illegal immigrant workers from Bhutan, I attempted to assess what relationships they might, if any, have with the unfolding consequences of land reform in Bhutan. My preliminary results demonstrate that there is a possible relationship between the pressures and opportunities for certain individuals of a particular stratum to decide upon working illegally in a wealthy foreign country and the politics of land reform. II. Methodological constraints Despite many contacts and long conversations, there was more reticence and discreetness on the part of the respondents than I expected. It became apparent that this was directly related to their illegal status as a few confided that they have become more careful who they talk to after a fellow Bhutanese citizen was recently arrested. Given the limited rapport and intimacy that could be developed in the time period, sensitive questions about inheritance and division of land within the family were forthcoming only on a few occasions. Most respondents would discuss their own land situation, but not put it into comparison with that of their siblings. This made it difficult at this time to assess how much land inheritance patterns are putting a direct pressure on the need to access foreign capital in order to penetrate the Bhutanese real estate market. A much longer period of time would be required to develop the trust to assess the full scope of my initial hypothesis that the desire to work in Western nations responds in part to an underlying anxiety about accessing landholdings.
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2009 south asia initiative Grants
david anthony Martinez continued
david anthony Martinez continued
III. Background I interviewed 21 respondents over a three week period, some at length as we often went out for a meal after the formal question and answer, and in some cases met to talk more than once. The majority of Bhutanese working in New York is reportedly women who work in live-in nanny positions. This is the most lucrative employment for Bhutanese labor in the United States and they readily find jobs due to their networks and reputation. Other common positions are in retail, grocery stores, and, for men, driving delivery trucks. Most respondents were not from the capital or the wealthier western region of Bhutan, but were rather from the central and eastern regions. They tended to be from rural villages and to have reportedly significant of landholdings in their natal village. None of the respondents were from families of landed poverty, but rather nearly every single one came from a wealthy peasant background, the upper strata of the lower class. In addition, most had relatives either in the lower level of the civil service or in the tourism trade. These connections were what enabled their relatives to find an invitation letter for them to attempt to reach the U.S. My first hypothesis that inheritance systems and land ceilings were leaving younger siblings in need of other means to acquire a landed status does not fully bear out. Its difficulty to say whether respondents were honest about their background given the importance they may have felt to fall into a respectable category. In fact, there was clear evidence of fabrication of backgrounds in a number of cases, itself a symptom of the type of reconstruction of identity I will mention below. Nevertheless, I believe I can fairly assume that a significant number of respondents were from wealthy peasant backgrounds and were not seeking to relieve any crippling land shortage in the family. IV. Security and identity All respondents claimed to send money home at least every 3 months. Most also reserved a significant portion for themselves, in the case of women this was often spent on an alternate rented room as a form of security and relief from the babysitting household. The community maintained an informal insurance mechanism whereby if one person fell into legal or other trouble, the rest of the community would provide cash assistance. This was not formalized into membership, as is common in Bhutan, but was maintained through networks of friends and expectations of reciprocation. Religious practice was often less a part of daily routines compared to home life in Bhutan but more emphasized as a necessary part of maintaining identity in a large, foreign city. Conversations about religious practice consistently transitioned into worries about the level of consumption to which they were becoming accustomed. The merit of assisting their families was always set against a critique of American ways of trying to buy everything. Despite maintaining community abroad, those I interviewed found that their new life brought significant opportunity and pressure to rework their identity into something that was “modern” yet still pious. VI. Aspirations and status A part of this reconstruction of identity was a re-envisioning of their social place and class in Bhutan upon their return. When asked what their plans were with their U.S. dollar income, they replied with a number of items on which to spend the cash. Most common was buildings, followed by cars, and then land. All such purchases were to take place in the capital city, Thimphu. Only two mentioned investing money in a business or expecting some future monetary return as a result of this accrued capital, with the exception of rent from buildings bought or constructed. Not one mentioned savings. It was clear that for most this was not necessarily an upward trajectory based upon the flow of capital, but rather based on an upward movement in status. One woman gave a scenario where she was driving down the street in her new SUV with sunglasses on, beautiful
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long hair, and holding a cigarette (she wouldn’t smoke it, just look as if she was) so that everyone could see she was wealthy and wish to be like her. Other respondents were more subtle but clearly emphasized their social standing and the respect gained by having some sort of investment (car or building) visible to the social milieu of the capital city. Other sentiments of helping relatives and friends were consistent, but also consistently a secondary aim. VII. Conclusions My hypothesis going forward on the basis of these results is that the majority of Bhutanese foreign labor in New York, and likely elsewhere, come from a wealthy peasant class attempting to break into the lower ranks of the elite class based in the capital, Thimphu. It is difficult to tell how much they contribute to driving up real estate prices nationally as newspaper articles have argued in the past. However, it does seem likely that they are contributing to the swiftly climbing real estate prices in the Thimphu area. The chance that status motivations may alter for socio-political reasons, or owing to the development of a second large city, suggest the possibility of a real estate bubble in the area. There remain significant questions as to whether the lack of growth potential in the productivity in rural landholdings has led the rural wealthy to seek capital in order to access some form of higher return investments in the case of buildings. I would also hypothesize that the presence of larger village landholdings enabled a minimum level of productivity in wealthy peasant families in order to free up labor to seek opportunities abroad without compromising household agricultural production. Families with minimal land and excess inheritors might also free up labor, but would be more pressed to support the immediate needs of the family through working for wealthier landowners. Further preliminary research toward my dissertation project will investigate the degree to which land ceilings affect productivity in rural Bhutan. Also, research in Bhutan will assist me in evaluating how aspirations declared while working in New York play out in reality when faced with choices on how to use newfound capital. D.A. Low (1996) argues that the wealthy class, in all successful instances of land reform legislation, has ensured that the flow of development aid to the rural sector effectively negates any loss of land that resulted from redistribution, and that those underneath the wealthy peasant class see only minimal improvements and little room for upward movement. The next step in evaluating this argument is to evaluate forms of local governance and how dominant families are formed and maintain relationships with the state, research I plan to begin next summer.
John Mathew report For the department oF the history oF science and the south asia initiative
It is with great pleasure that I provide this report to the Department of the History of Science and the South Asia Initiative of Harvard University for ongoing research during the summer of 2009. Thanks to the Hiebert Grant, I was enabled to present a paper at the first World Congress of Environmental History held at Copenhagen, Denmark and Malmo, Sweden in August, as well as to proceed to India to conduct research in Calcutta, Madras and Trivandrum. I am also grateful to the South Asia Initiative for its summer grant which permitted me to further my archival work in Delhi.
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John Mathew continued
dinyar Patel continued
My paper for the World Congress was titled, “Debating the Local with respect to Zoological Natural History in British India”, where I introduced the theoretical concept of the ‘translocate’, the long-standing colonial expatriates whose intervention and mediation of information in the region of adoption render them in a position of dual influence vis-à-vis indigenous interlocutors as well as specialists located in the European metropole. Following the conference, I returned briefly to Paris, where I had spent the academic year on a French Governmental Chateaubriand Fellowship, then for a fortnight to the United States, before leaving for India in late August where I am located currently, even as I continue my research in the subcontinent. I have already visited Calcutta, including the continuation of my long-standing archival research at the Asiatic Society, as well as make field trips in the relative vicinity to Chandernagore (the former French colony), Chinsura (the former Dutch colony), and Barrackpore (site of the Governor-General’s residence and the site of a celebrated menagerie in the early part of the 19th century, one of the subjects in my first chapter); and Delhi, where a number of documents in the Public, Revenue and Judicial sections of the Home Department have resulted in my discovery of a number of little known documents regarding animals in British India that cast light on taxonomy, veterinary medicine, agriculture and the law. The imbrication of animals in so many disparate fields indicates their importance in political and economic considerations at the time and I am very interested to see what the archives in Tamil Nadu and Kerala will reveal during the course of my research in the month of October, in advance of my departure to London for nine months of research under the aegis of the Harvard University Sheldon grant. My research in India will be invaluable in contributing to the third of my proposed five chapter dissertation, the first two of which have already been drafted. I have been fortunate on this trip in India also to present work on my research at Jadhavpur University in Calcutta as the first of the academic year’s series of talks in the Dept. of History, at the kind instance of Professor Ranjan Chakrabarti. Mr. Divyabanusing, President of the Worldwide Fund for Nature and Natural Resources, with whom I met in Delhi, was also very forthcoming on the subject of the history of wildlife legislation and I remain grateful to him. Again, I express my deep gratitude to the South Asia Initiative and Department of the History of Science for supporting my research during the summer of 2009.
early 1922. In February 1922, Gandhi called off the Noncooperation Movement, a prolonged period of antiBritish resistance, due to spiraling violence. The Bombay Presidency government began as early as December 1921 to assemble a case against Gandhi for sedition. I traced the evolution of this file as government officers provided new material for the case and fine-tuned charges. The file contained the writ officially sanctioning Gandhi’s arrest in Gujarat—the writ still has the red wax seal of the Home Department affixed to it. While in Bombay, I also delivered lectures at the K.R. Cama Oriental Institute and Mani Bhavan, the museum and library which occupies the same house that Gandhi used as his Bombay headquarters. My remaining two months were spent in Gujarat. In Ahmedabad, I enrolled in an intensive introductory Gujarati language program administered by the American Institute of Indian Studies. By the end of summer, I was able to write, read basic documents, and speak basic conversational Gujarati. Gujarati is a language that will be especially important to my research since it was the lingua franca of the Parsi community prior to the 20th century. While in Gujarat, I also engaged in many other activities related to my research. I conducted several interviews with Dr. Ratan Marshall, the first person awarded a doctorate in Gujarati literature. Dr. Marshall is now 98 years old and is a virtual encyclopedia on Parsi and Gujarati history: he provided me with many important research leads, answered several questions which had detained me for months, and helpfully provided me with some of his own Gujarati writings on history. I met with a number of other academics including Dr. Tridip Suhrud, Ms. Dina Patel, Dr. Sudarshan Iyengar, and Drs. Makrand and Shirin Mehta. Dr. Suhrud and Ms. Patel, who spearheaded efforts to call to account the revised editions of the Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi published by the NDA government, provided me with keen insights on Gandhi’s life and facilitated access to the archives at Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad. Drs. Makrand and Shirin Mehta kindly invited me to their house twice while I was in Ahmedabad in order to discuss Gujarati history; Dr. Makrand Mehta also accommodated me to the Gujarat State Archives in neighboring Gandhinagar. Dr. Sudarshan Iyengar helped organize my lecture at Gujarat Vidyapith, the Ahmedabad-based university that Gandhi founded. I am deeply grateful to the South Asia Initiative for providing me with funding for my summer language learning and research activities. I would especially like to thank the SAI’s generous donors for making financially possible an extremely engaging and productive summer in India.
dinyar Patel sai Grant report
My South Asia Initiative Grant helped fund three months of research and language training in India this summer. My initial month was spent in Bombay; afterward, I traveled to Ahmedabad where I studied Gujarati and also carried out some research tasks. I am a Ph.D. candidate in modern Indian history—my main research interests include the Indian independence movement and the Parsi Zoroastrian community. During my first two years of graduate school, I carried out research on Mahatma Gandhi’s relations with the Parsi community, investigating the lives of his Parsi allies as well as Gandhi’s views on how the Parsi community could best contribute toward the struggle for Indian independence. This was the main focus of my research in Bombay. In late May and early June I worked in two archives: the K.R. Cama Oriental Institute Library and the Maharashtra State Archives. Here, I looked through newspaper reports, journals, old books, and government files and reports. Perhaps the most interesting file I came across included documents pertaining to Mahatma Gandhi’s arrest by British Indian authorities in
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shagun sabarwal partner violence and community processes in urBan slums oF mumBai, india
My research objectives related to understanding the coping mechanisms used by women victims of domestic violence in the slums of Mumbai. Domestic violence is highly prevalent and pervasive in India and includes emotional, physical and sexual violence from husband and in-laws. As a part of this research project, I visited Bhandup area of Mumbai and was engaged in community mapping with a team of social workers from Mumbai. This involved visiting slums in this region and talking to the local people about the general occurrence of violence in the area. This allowed us to establish rapport with the local people, especially certain key informants who had been residents of the area for a considerable period of time and knew the area quite well. It took us time to establish rapport with the local people since they were not very forthcoming in the beginning. As a part of this process we also visited women in their homes and asked them general questions about episodes of violence between husbands and wives in other families. We were careful about
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shagun sabarwal continued
not asking any personal questions. Important information was given by the Aganwadi workers in that area. My initial plan had been to conduct personal interviews with women but lack of knowledge of Marathi was a big handicap. Although most women could understand Hindi they were unable to talk in Hindi. My observations throughout this process were very enlightening. This was my first experience in the field, and talking to these people enabled me to understand more deeply the context of their lives. I also felt that people were much more comfortable with the social workers than with me and I was perceived to be more of an outsider. The project that I did this summer is a part of a larger study which is still continuing therefore the findings are yet to be seen. I am still involved in the project and would help carry out the analysis of the interviews and focus group discussions once they are ready. I am really appreciative of the opportunity I got through SAI grant to visit the actual site of research. Being a doctoral student, I am frequently engaged in processes of planning, designing and analyzing studies as a part of a larger team, but the chance of actually visiting international sites is very rare for a student at my stage. I am really thankful to the SAI grant for giving me this opportunity.
Benjamin siegel sai research Grant report
sarah shehabuddin the rules oF enGaGement: Women’s riGhts and the determinants oF secularistislamist relations
My dissertation seeks to explain variation in relations between secularist women’s rights activists and Islamists in the Muslim world. Why have such activists worked together on women’s rights legislation in some countries such as Morocco and Jordan but chosen not to collaborate in contexts such as Bangladesh? The grant I received from the South Asia Initiative will allow me to interview and administer questionnaires to secularist and Islamist activists in Bangladesh. This research will supplement research I have done in Jordan in Summer 2009 and research I will do in Morocco in Spring 2010. Since my arrival in Bangladesh in mid-August, I have been building on the preliminary research I conducted in Summer 2008 thanks to a South Asia Initiative grant. I have set up interviews with secularist women’s rights and Islamist activists to test a set of hypotheses about why such activists cooperate in some contexts but not in others. These hypotheses seek to evaluate the extent to which variables such as state strength, state support, regime type, ideological orientation, socio-economic background, strategic calculation, political learning, and third parties shape the costs and benefits of cross-ideological cooperation. I will also document how the perceptions of secularists and Islamists of their own work and each other have developed and evolved over time. After I have interviewed leaders of women’s rights and Islamist organizations, I will administer written questionnaires to general members of those organizations, to capture any potential variation in views within the organizations. I hope to complete the interviews and questionnaire administration in Bangladesh by the end of January 2010 and will then submit a report of my findings to the South Asia Initiative. Thank you for your support.
This summer, with the generous support of a South Asia Initiative Research Grant, I sought to explore the key themes of my potential dissertation work on the formation of North Indian publics; most broadly, I was interested in informal urban public spaces and practices in colonial North India, and the ensuing forms of sociality, subjectivity and resistance that their colonial transformations facilitated. I identified key archives in London, Delhi, Lucknow and elsewhere, which were to serve as the primary points for beginning this exploration. In this project, I sought to find textual support by which to contextualize the informal spaces which I believed (and still believe) represent key sites for conversation, exchange, demonstrations, public newspaper readings, and placard campaigns throughout the nineteenth century. I was eager to understand the changing practices and spaces of everyday life and social exchange in North India, as well as how they informed the character of debate and communication and the nature of Indian governmentality itself. The project, I confess, proved less fruitful than I had imagined, yet out of the ashes of this research emerged a new subject of inquiry, bolstered by abundant documentation, that I believe will instead form the basis of my dissertation. Over twelve weeks, I worked in the British Library, the National Archives of India in New Delhi, and the Uttar Pradesh State Archive in Lucknow. To some degree, there are phantasmagoric traces of the project that I had hoped to undertake in each one of these archives, comprising informal petitions from street vendors and other purveyors and occupants of informal urban spaces. There is abundant evidence in indexed citations suggesting that the market was a key space for surveillance and public action, as I had suspected. Yet the sad realization emerged early in my work (expectedly in London, but less so in Delhi and Lucknow) that many of these materials simply have not survived the ravages of poor care in the archives: the petitions in which I had placed theoretical stock appear to have been jettisoned by their custodians, and while the citations themselves speak to a gristy, fascinating project, the material absence of these records confounds any effort at reconstruction. My dismay, however, was countered by a newfound excitement that began during my searches in London, and continued throughout my work in Delhi and Lucknow. In the British Library, I became aware of a surplus of documents concerning the so called “criminal tribes” of Northern India, comprising manuals, reports, letters and sundry notes. These tribes were identified as “habitually criminal” in the years leading up to the first Criminal Tribes Act of 1871, and while there is no doubt that many of their members did indeed engage in petty theft and counterfeiting, what these tribes largely shared was a status as difficult to govern subjects of empire: nomads, semi sedentarized peoples, and practitioners of swidden agriculture. My research in the months that followed identified the contours of a deeply compelling story, one that I believe to have been largely untold in the terms in which I would cast it (and told in its entirety nowhere else): the post 1871 efforts to “reform” these variously sized groups drew upon British notions of correct subjecthood, as well as concerns more rooted in material interest. Their efforts at forced sedentarization and the institution of a South African style “pass system” failed as if by design, even as the range of tribes deemed habitually and hereditarily criminal continued to expand. By 1910, the captain of the Salvation Army’s Indian outfit had sent a proposal to the government of Uttar Pradesh offering to take charge of the reformation of the criminal tribes, and after some internal debate, the government agreed. The events of the 1910s proved disastrous: the Salvation Army rounded up criminal tribe members, forcing them into work / concentration camps where their labor was farmed out to various mills and factories.
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Benjamin siegel continued
stephanie spray continued
Proposals were made by the Salvation Army to bring the incarcerated tribes’ members to forced labor in Basra for the war effort, as well as to Assam for the tea trade. (I encountered, among other things, a petition from the Salvation Army captain to go to Tokyo and Shanghai to explore the silk industry, apparently in an effort to bring the industry to India, with labor provided, conveniently, by these tribes). My research into vernacular sources revealed that late in the decade, nationalist groups such as the Arya Samaj sought to wrest hold of their own reformatory settlements, though it is unclear whether these proposals met success. The 1920s saw the decline of the criminal tribe settlements, and by the 1940s, no camps appear to have been in operation. Yet most of the newly freed tribes appeared to stay in the vicinity of the former settlements, unable to work elsewhere, and having been written entirely out of the creation of Indian citizenship and subjecthood. The story picks up most interestingly in the years immediately following Independence, when a government commission comprised of nationalist leaders sought to reassess the status of the criminal tribes. Concluding that such a designation had no place in the new nation, the government repealed the category, rendering the tribes “de-notified” instead – only to witness, several months later, the Habitual Offender Act emerge, unsurprisingly targeting the formerly-criminal tribe population. My discovery of a trove of documents related to the “criminal tribes” has led me in several exciting directions, but most compelling to me is the examination of how a colonial designation is rebirthed in new form in the independent nation, which appears to have been creating “non-citizens” as carefully as it was citizens themselves. This story feeds into several intersecting conversations on the end of the colonial encounter and the creation of the new nation state, with major implications for questions of governance, representation, citizenship and national modernity in a historical context. While not in the archives, I had the opportunity to meet with scholars at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi University, and elsewhere, preparing myself to turn his project into the foundations of my dissertation. Out of the ruins of my initial proposal, I nonetheless found this summer the makings of research that I believe to be equally compelling and more broadly impact. These findings, and the work that will bear forth from them, would not have been possible without the generous assistance of the South Asia Initiative, and I remain tremendously grateful for its trust and support.
stephanie spray 2009 summer experience Grants
Thanks to the support of South Asia Initiative Summer Research grant, I was able to spent three months in rural Nepal working on an ethnographic documentary, a hybrid audio project, and now have over 700 pages of transcriptions from Nepali, which I have translated into colloquial English. This opportunity has thoroughly prepared me for the 2009-2010 academic year as I apply for grants and compose my prospectus in preparation for my upcoming dissertation fieldwork. For my video, as yet untitled, I have over 30 hours of high definition footage, which I plan to develop into a feature-length piece as a Film Study Center fellow. Once the piece is completed, I will send it to numerous
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international film festivals as well as seek distribution with Documentary Educational Resources, which is currently distributing two of my previous works. Those two videos, Kale and Kale and Monsoon-Reflections, were also funded in part by the South Asia Initiative, which is included and recognized in the credits. In addition to the ethnographic video project, this past summer I expanded my ethnographic methodology to working in sound alone (á la anthropologist Stephen Feld). Blue Sky, White River is a creative, hybrid ethnographic audio project that will combine ambient sound with performances and radio to form a phonological, ethnographic soundscape reflecting the ambiguities and challenges of contemporary Nepal. Fortunately, the equipment for both the video and audio projects were provided by the Film Study Center at Harvard, but because of budget cuts I was unable to receive any funding from them. Thanks to funding from both SAI, a GSAS Summer Research Fellowship, and my summer research stipend from the Anthropology Department, I was able to fund all aspects of my trip—from airline tickets and living expenses on the ground to the invaluable help of my fieldwork assistant, Ram Krishna G āine, who is also a member of the Gāine caste and the primary focus of my work. In conversation with my assistant, I am also developing a hybrid video project made from numerous home videos taken from his cell phone. I plan to edit the material and am considering including it in an installation that will be part of a group show at the IceBox gallery in Philadelphia, coinciding with the American Anthropological Association’s annual conference in December. In addition to the fieldwork and media projects I had originally proposed for this past summer, I presented a paper at the International Folklore Society Conference in Kathmandu, Nepal mid-June. This conference allowed me to forge new collegial relations with Nepali scholars, such as Tulasi Diwas and Abhi Subedi. Both have agreed to remain in contact with me when I return to Nepal next year and assist me with my dissertation research. In return, I have agreed to coordinate a series of workshops in visual anthropology and the arts for the Folklore Society in Kathmandu in 2010-2011. Of greatest value to me from this past summer was the opportunity to reconnect with the Gā ine, a caste of musicians of the lowest sub-castes of “untouchables” in Nepal. I have been “working with” this community for nearly a decade and it has been my privilege to participate and be included in their lives. Given their position as beggar-musicians, it has been incumbent upon me to share my good fortune with them; much of my grant money found its way into their hands, supplementing their usual just-scraping-by, hardly-enough income. Although this is rarely mentioned in grant proposals, for it exposes us to our embarrassment regarding the inherent inequalities dividing the researcher from her “informants,” I have made this constant in our exchange, especially in those situations where giving is culturally expected: giving to the local “Mother’s Group” in G āine villages, which pools together money to form a safety net for its inhabitants, at weddings and other ceremonies, and in exchange for performances. Likewise, whenever I travel with the Gāine, I pay for their expenses on the road. I always explain that the money is not my own, but the generous gift of various centers and the university itself. Rather than feign indifference or hide this fact, I feel that the donors should know that the grant money helped Gāine families, in some small way.
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Gitanjali surendran sai summer report, 2009
Ming thompson continued
Thanks to SAI’s generous funding for this summer, I have been able to undertake research for my dissertation tentatively titled, “The Indian Discovery of Buddhism: Buddhist Revival in Bengal and North India, c18911956”. I arrived in India on 1 June. I based myself in Delhi for six weeks, exploring the National Archives Library as well the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library. At both places, I found very valuable sources for my dissertation many of which I am still reading. In particular at the Nehru Library, I was able to find a number of publications on Buddhism that dated from the early twentieth century in addition to a very large number of important caches of private papers of figures ranging from VD Savarkar to Nehru to Ashotosh Mookerji. At the National Archives, I located a number of important publications dating from the late nineteenth century. In addition, I looked at files from the Sikkim Residency and the Nepal Residency to understand how mountain figured in various imaginings of Buddhism. I found that Darjeeling emerges as a very important meeting ground for various Buddhist communities and have added it to my travel itinerary. While in Delhi, I also met with a number of academics to discuss my work and get some pointers to more sources. I was also able to develop a tentative chapter outline for my thesis which helped me to plan my research trips. At the end of July, I traveled to Calcutta to continue my work at the National Library and the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture. At the latter, I went through Swami Vivekananda’s collected works and found a number of important writings on Buddhism and Hinduism’s relationship with other religions. I also found some correspondence between one of the chief figures of my story, the Sri Lankan monk, Dharmapala, and Vivekananda which was a valuable find. I will base at least a substantial part of a chapter on that correspondence. At the National Library, I went through the Mahabodhi Society journals as well as began to look at the collections of the Indian Mirror, an influential reformist journal/newspaper dating from the late 19th century. I also read three works by Rahula Sankrityayana in Hindi. I have located numerous books and journal collections that I will look at from November onwards including the Buddhist Text Society Journal, publications by the UK based Buddhist Lodge and a number of writings in Hindi. I returned to Delhi in the middle of September to continue work on nationalist conceptions of Buddhism focusing on Nehru, Gandhi, Aurobindo and Savarkar. My work will continue. In November, I will be leaving for Calcutta for a prolonged stay to work at the National Library and other society libraries. In January, I will also be on the trail of Buddhist pilgrims visiting at least six of the sites to map local histories and find vernacular literature (in Hindi mostly). Next year, I will also be making trips to Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Chennai and Mumbai.
and down the terrain of the site before construction. He examined the trees and foliage, determined the flow of water,above and below the ground, and came to deeply understand the movement of air on the site. Using this information, he shaped his architecture to take advantage of the breezes and gusts that swept across the site. The natural ventilation techniques used in Baker’s buildings employ both winddriven and stackdriven ventilation. Winddriven ventilation is caused by pressure differences produced by wind moving around the building; in order to harness this type of ventilation, the architect must have a thorough understanding of local climate conditions. Stack-driven ventilation is driven by buoyancy, and occurs due to a differences in air density caused by humidity and temperature; stack effect, also known as chimney effect, is created through the use of architectural devices such as chimneys and strategic perforations in the building skin. Beyond simply employing techniques of natural ventilation, Baker’s buildings clearly demonstrate the natural ventilation systems at work; form and material is used to articulate and celebrate the controlled movement of air. And, as with all facets of his architecture, Baker looked for solutions not among the latest technological innovations from Europe, but in the elements of vernacular Indian architecture. His buildings employ a wide vocabulary of ventilation devices, including jali brickwork, vent structures, and chimneys. Brickwork Viewed in its entirety, Baker’s body of work demonstrates an astounding range of bricklaying techniques and configurations. Because Baker was utilizing a componentbased structural and enclosure system, as opposed to a monolithic concrete construction or a layered wood-frame construction, he was able to generate patterns that grew out of the fundamental logic of the material. The type of patterns are the result of the dimensions and physical constraints of the brick. Baker’s inspiration for these patterns clearly emerges from the long history of Indian jali, or carved screens. These lattices, typically made of sandstone or marble, were constructed by highly-trained craftsmen for use in palaces and havelis. Baker’s patterns, however, were created with a humble and local material that was quickly and cheaply erected. These brick lattice walls provide the same benefits as their elaborate predecessors: their porous surface allows air and light to flow in and out of the building while providing privacy to inhabitants and offering ornamental beauty to observers. Baker’s reasoning for these walls often focused on their costeffectiveness: “Windows are costly. One square foot of window can cost up to ten times the cost of a simple brick or stone wall it replaces...a jali or ‘honey-combed’ wall is just as effective. Far from being a lot more costly than the basic wall, if made of brick it can be less costly than the house wall.” Use of brick jali walls allows Baker’s architecture to achieve a striking integration of form, structure, ornament, and aperture, transcending the rigid boundaries of typical building practices. The wall construction is the building’s support, its decoration, and its ventilation system. The particular constraints and requirements of each of these systems determine the placement and condition of the wall; wind direction, need for rigidity, and aesthetic preferences all govern the design of a single wall. Because of this integrated approach, the patterns of Baker’s jali walls are quite
Ming thompson natural ventilation in the WorK oF laurie BaKer
Thirty years after the construction of the Centre for Development Studies, Laurie Baker walked into the office of the campus registrar, Soman Nair, and was dismayed at what he discovered there. His eyes, drawn toward the ceiling, encountered a thing that had no place in his architecture; looking at Mr. Nair, Bakerji asked, “Why do you need this ceiling fan?” Baker designed his buildings to work in harmony with the rhythms of their natural environment. One of his last clients described the eighty-eight-year old architect traipsing up
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distinct from traditional lattices. Older examples were usually implemented at room scale, and were made up of patterns that had a logic within their own boundaries, shifting in density or shape within the firm borders of the screen’s edges. Baker’s patterns, however, function at the scale of buildings. The only boundary is that of the structure itself, and the geometric pattern of solid and void works in concert with the major formal components of the building. In the case of the Women’s Dormitory at CDS, the pattern covers nearly the entire facade, blurring the divisions between floors and shifting the perceived scale of the building. As a technique of natural ventilation, these jali walls act not as an applied technology, but as an integrated approach fundamental to the building’s formal, physical, and conceptual basis. Baker recognized that the construction of a good building in this particular time and place required the breakdown of the building’s most basic element: the wall. Here, the wall is constructed of both solid and void, and acts to unite, not divide, the interior and exterior. Any visitor to the Women’s Dormitory will immediately recognize a building that it is designed to breathe through its walls, using existing wind movement on the site to create comfortable and healthy spaces within. Chimneys The chimneys of Baker’s projects are often prominent forms within the larger composition of the building. Chimneys, like roof vents, use the stack effect to draw hot air upwards, but while vents are typically planar interventions, chimneys are usually configured as volumetric forms that pierce through many levels of a building. In the Indian Coffee House, the spiral plan of the building swirls around a central chimney. The brick cylinder provides ventilation to the kitchen and bathrooms through jali techniques similar to those used on the building’s exterior. The chimney is pulled through the top of the main volume of the building and acts as punctuation to the spiraling movement of the cafe. There is little precedent in Kerala for the use of chimneys in residential and small institutional spaces. For Baker’s inspiration, we may turn to the industrial chimneys of Indian mills or brick baking ovens. These cylindical elements, however, might also be viewed as one component of Baker’s unique vocabulary of curved forms. Baker frequently noted that a circle, when compared to a rectangle, could contain equivalent area with less material used. Further, the curve in plan creates added stiffness, allowing Baker to produce towering forms out of a remarkably thin surface. Baker’s chimneys create a natural ventilation solution that can formally complement the curves found frequently in his architecture. Vents Baker’s work often features shaped roof vents that allow hot air to escape upwards. These vents appear as slits in the surface that are then protected from weather with cylindrical or gabled covers. While the jali walls allow air to move in and out of buildings at their perimeter, the vents promote natural ventilation in the middle of buildings, where it is most difficult to produce effective air circulation. These shaped vents also act to funnel light into spaces below. From my observations, it seems that Baker employed these vents more frequently late in his career, perhaps because he had, by this time, more fully developed his system of concrete and mangalore tile concrete roof slabs. None of the original buildings on the CDS campus exhibit these vents, though they can be found in the Centre’s newest structures, including the library addition. The campus of the Laurie Baker Institute provides several examples of vents well integrated into the formal vocabulary of individual buildings. In the E Building, two curved concrete slabs, turned perpendicular to one another, cover the enclosed workshop and the porch. A rectangular void has been cut into the workshop’s roof slab and protected with a gabled cover that curves upward at its edge, creating a compositional foil to the downward curve of the roof. Over the porch, a smaller triangular void is topped with a gabled cover; the strongly articulated form works to balance the formal asymmetry of the building. In the S Building, curved coverings work in harmony with the swooping roof form. On the interior,
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the vents can clearly be understood as originating from the normal to the curve; the slit radiates outward from the planar sweep of the roof. On the exterior, the sectional curvature of the roof slab is complemented by the arched forms of the vent coverings. This covered vent, far more than the jali or the chimney, is borrowed at a similar scale and form from local building tradition. In particular, the gabled vent, triang in section, has clear precedent in the vocabulary of Keralan residences. This architectural device is a major component of the strong roof forms typical of Kerala, and it is through this that we most clearly see these strange and special buildings connected to the place of their making. The Ceiling Fan In my experiences wandering through and spending time in Baker’s buildings, I found his efforts at natural ventilation to be remarkably successful. The building interiors were cool, and felt like a refuge from the heat outside. The hum of air-conditioning was nowhere to be found, as the sounds and colors of the outside world filtered in through jali walls and overhead vents. The registrar’s office, even without the fan that surprised Baker, was a remarkably cool space. With the help of perforated walls and slits at the ceiling, it was wellventilated. Thirty years after the construction of CDS, however, the people of Kerala have different expectations of climate control and interior conditions. As a society, mechanical ventilation has changed our tolerance for heat and cold. Many of Baker’s projects have been retrofitted with air conditioners and fans, and the registrar described how, after Baker’s death, they were able to make desired alterations to the new library building. Baker skillfully employed both traditional and innovative architectural devices to create well-functioning natural ventilation systems. His techniques and strategies are particularly relevant in today’s building climate, when architectural discourse is dominated by discussions of environmental sustainability. The lesson of the ceiling fan points to a challenge that architects will face in their efforts to create green buildings. As a society, we must be willing to alter our expectations for what a building is, and how it relates to its environment. Through his architecture, Bakerji sought to break down the boundary between interior and exterior, between natural and manmade, and between modernity and tradition. Nair, the campus registrar, remarked to me that Laurie Baker was the only true Gandhian in India. Baker believed that good architecture was simple, economical, and humane, and that the best materials and techniques were to be found in local tradition. Baker’s built work stands as a protest to the waves of modernism and new technology that crashed on India’s shores throughout the twentieth century. He resisted the idea that there was a single international solution to all architectural problems, and developed a style that spoke directly toward the issues of Kerala. Rather that hermetically sealing and air-conditioning his buildings, he deftly used natural forces to produce interior spaces of comfortable humidity and temperature. His attitude toward natural ventilation encapsulates his stance to all facets of architecture: nature, if handled sensitively, can provide us with all we need.
suiLin yap south asia initiative research Grant report
This past summer, I studied various strategies through which microentrepreneurs can be empowered to alleviate poverty. My field work in Bangladesh involved investigating several sites as potential research settings to collect data and assess the feasibility of conducting field experiments. Through interviews and site visits, I obtained a more nuanced understanding of the context, refined and developed research ideas, as well as gained a clearer perspective on my research agenda going forward.
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I divided my time in Bangladesh between four organizations: (1) BRAC -- one of the world’s largest NGOs whose activities comprise microfinance, health, education and income generating enterprises (e.g. handicraft and milk collection program). (2) Cellbazaar -- a cellphone and web-based Craigslist-like firm that allows users to post and search ads ranging from jobs and real estate to consumer electronics and agricultural produce. (3) Grameen -- the 2006 Nobel Prize winning microfinance institution (MFI) that has numerous sister companies in other sectors, such as telecommunications, renewable energy and healthcare. (4) Palli Karma Sahayak Foundation (PKSF) -- an umbrella organization that disseminates funding from development agencies such as the World Bank to MFIs in Bangladesh as well as organizes capacity building training for MFI officers. At each organization, I met with the leadership, middle managers, grassroots officers and customers. These conversations provided me insights into these organizations’ strategies, challenges, plans for the future, decision-making processes, operations and incentive structures, such that I could devise a research project that was both of academic interest and practical value to the partnering organizations. These meetings were also crucial for establishing trust with the respective organizations before they agreed to share their data and collaborate on research. Furthermore, I attended some microfinance weekly meetings, visited households, participated in the piloting of a survey as well as toured factories, livestock farms and plantations. Due to floods (and later a stomach infection), I was not able to visit as many villages of different income levels, geographic locations and economic activities as I had planned. That said, it was useful witnessing firsthand how the locals responded to the floods and how vulnerable they are to natural disasters. Below is a summary of my observations: Capital is not the only constraint that the impoverished face. They also lack human and social capital, such as access to technology, markets and electricity, which inhibits their productivity. This leads me to wonder whether microfinance is solely addressing a credit market failure, or whether it is also/instead solving a labor market failure. Not every villager has the financial or physical means to move to the major cities to seek job opportunities. Due to weak law enforcement and the inability to write complete contracts, personal connections are critical to secure work as employers fear shirking. I believe everyone can be entrepreneurs but risk tolerance and preferences differ; could it be that the people who are willing to take up microloans are on average less risk averse, and thus this could affect the final outcome observed? Since BRAC and Grameen have operations that offer employment, this might be a good way to observe sorting, i.e.
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whether more risk averse choose to work at BRAC and Grameen instead of taking out a microloan due to income stability of being employed. Microloan recipients may perceive these microfinance institutions not only as an additional source of capital but also an avenue to build social capital, such as acquiring market knowledge at weekly meetings when fellow group members present their loan applications, discussing personal/business matters among themselves when the loan officer is settling payments with the other members, feeling empowered when they are accountable for one source of the family’s funds and/or are nominated to be the president/secretary of the microfinance group. This peer pressure and or these less tangible benefits may be the reason why repayment rates remain high despite both Grameen and BRAC have moved from the group liability to individual liability model, where other group members are not responsible for sharing the burden if a member is unable to repay her loan. (B) I was surprised to be able to draw parallels between the social enterprises (BRAC and Grameen) with business groups and diversified conglomerates. These organizations have sister concerns/subsidiaries that include a full-fledged bank for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), a private university, a soon-to-be-publicly-listed cell phone service provider and a venture capital fund that invests in SMEs. It is also interesting to observe that similar to family businesses, the sister concerns of Grameen Bank are mostly managed by the students of the founder, Professor Yunus. Recently, these organizations are also partnering with multinationals/international organizations, such as Grameen Danone (yogurt), Grameen Veolia (water purifier) and BRAC/Vision Spring vision entrepreneurs (whom check villagers’ eye sight and earn revenue to their service/spectacles sold). This phenomena could be explained by the same argument for the prevalence of business groups in emerging markets -- institutional voids (Khanna and Palepu, 1997), i.e. institutions required for markets to function efficiently, such as information transparency, enforceable regulations and reliable judicial systems, are absent or underdeveloped. This causes market failures to occur in product, labor and capital markets. According to the loan officers, the key reason that borrowers are unable to repay their loan on time are unexpected events such as illness, sudden deaths, natural disasters and crop diseases. Due to the scarcity of amenities and safety nets, these organizations can leverage their distribution networks, internal capital and labor markets to meet the demand for medical care, agricultural technical support and micro-insurance (now in implementation phase). These organizations can exploit their reputation and brand recognition too in rolling out products and services to cater to the needs of the poor. Thus, the question that intrigues me is “what is the impact of microfinance plus programs on beneficiaries and the host institution?” Do beneficiaries that use additional services perform better because controlling for availability of such services in the area), these beneficiaries are able to smooth consumption (through health and/ or education services) and/or increase productivity or revenues (through business training, technology and/or access to markets)? On the other hand, do host institutions benefit as well through better loan repayment rates and higher client retention? Does establishing institutions that offer employment cannibalize the organization’s other activities such as decrease the take-up in microloans, or do these job-creation programs having a positive additive effect, where the organization can reach a larger group of people? It would be interesting to look in both cases whether the complementarities are higher between microfinance and business-related services or are higher between microfinance and social services. (C) In spite of the interesting similarities discussed above, I detected several differences in BRAC and Grameen’s strategies from those of profit-maximizing firms: (i) They emphasize simplicity instead of complexity as a strategy, such that it is easy to replicate and scale up their impact locally and abroad.
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(ii) They are very open to others coming to learn their methodologies, as they gain legitimacy through others emulating their model in addition to the fees and book sales they earn from these training programs. (iii) They both adopt “microfranchising” through Grameen Phone ladies that rent out phones/sell prepaid phone cards or BRAC’s e-Hut operators that offer internet and computing services; however unlike traditional franchises where the franchisor attempts to extract as much rents from his/her franchisees, these organizations put more emphasis on the franchisees’ welfare (iv) These social enterprises balance financial sustainability and social welfare (which includes employment generation), thus they argue that their resource allocation and diversification strategies are based on the needs of the poor. (D) From these meetings and field visits, I not only learned what data was available or collectible, but more importantly the limitations to the settings which I had not envisaged. For instance, Cellbazaar’s market penetration is low in the agricultural produce segment because even if farmers knew the price was much higher in the town than what the middlemen were offering them, they had no bargaining power due to them not having vehicles to transport their produce. The supply chain of Grameen Danone’s yogurt factory had to be adapted in light of the absence of reliable electricity supply and refrigeration. PKSF’s supply chain project baseline study only encompassed the treatment group which makes it difficult to convincingly quantify the effect of their intervention. Moreover, I discovered that some projects of the above organizations, which had been widely publicized due to their noble intentions, had yet to break even. A few data collection challenges that I noticed include: it is hard to obtain actual profits, and thus borrowers are often framed to be doing well if they have a large loan or have been with the organization for a long time. Nonetheless, it is questionable whether loan size and tenure are suitable indicators, as one could imagine counterarguments such as inefficient use of funds or borrowers caught in a debt trap. Another rising concern is with the influx of MFIs but no centralized information sharing mechanism, people might be able to “borrow from Peter to pay Paul” and thus distort the final market outcomes until this “bubble” pops. My field research this summer has been invaluable in providing a foundation for my future research to build on. While I continue to explore the research ideas inspired from this summer through my classes, this field work has solidified my research interests in bridging the strategy and international development literature. Thank you very much again for your kind financial support. References Khanna, T., and K. G. Palepu. “Why Focused Strategies May Be Wrong for Emerging Markets.” Harvard Business Review 75, no. 4 (July-August 1997): 41-51
I spent the whole time at the British Library. I had planned on viewing more records at different archives as well, but the British Library had such a fabulous collection that I felt it would be a better use of time to make full use of its resources. This trip changed my dissertation in one meaningful way, however. I realized by the second week of research that the final section of my dissertation (the argument about the postwar effects of the Co-Prosperity Sphere) is unconvincing. Hence going to the British Library was instrumental in providing solid footing upon which my argument can stand. Further, my London trip gave me a broader understanding of the existing materials on my topic, and has interested me in a number of thinkers and politicians of whom I was previously unaware. I also printed up a number of documents and articles that I will read as I hone my ideas in the coming months. Of course, I did not spend all my time engaged in research. I am addicted to good food, so I spent as much time as possible sampling the local cuisine in both London and parts of Europe. London food is, well, good as long as it is not British food. I am very appreciative of the South Asia Initiative’s continued support. The SAI has played an important role in making sure I produce the best research possible, and have a great time while doing so. Thank you!
summer 2009 international experience Grants underGraduate
Mette andersen india: WorKinG With mimo Finance
Jeremy yellen 2009 summer experience
This past summer I received support from the South Asia Initiative to research Burmese views of Japan’s Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere during World War II. The support I received allowed me to travel to London. My research centered on what the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere was in the minds of politically active Burmans, how they used it to support domestic initiatives, and what postwar effects it had on Burmese politics and policy.
I spent my summer in India interning with Mimo Finance, a microfinance organization providing financial services to unbanked communities in the northern states of India. It is based in Dehradun, in the state of Uttarakhand. This summer was my first experience with India, so I knew little of what to expect. Though it was difficult at times, I learned a lot and ended up having the time of my life. At Mimo, I worked primarily on three projects: Customer Satisfaction Surveys, the research and development of a microfinance product feasible in the remote mountain regions, and an ultrapoor project with people living in the slums of Dehradun. It was great to start with the Customer Satisfaction Surveys, as it gave me an opportunity to get out into the field right away. Things are never as they appear on paper and I was fortunate to get a feel for what was actually going on in the various branches. Visiting the clients and
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their families, seeing their homes and their lifestyles, and having them welcome me graciously into their homes was an incredible learning experience in itself. Unfortunately, with little knowledge of Hindi I was at a disadvantage, though I was always sent out with native speakers. This was limiting later, however, as I couldn’t go into the field on my own when the Hindi speakers were busy with other projects. I quickly learned that microfinance isn’t as beautiful as it can seem on first glance. Somehow I had secretly hoped that this would be the answer I had been looking for—a hope was to be severely disappointed. Northern India is very conservative with respect to women empowerment. Many could not leave their house. Often the money went straight from the women to their husbands and was used on liquor, while the women were left behind in debt. One widow confided to us that her husband’s death was the best thing that ever happened to her. Even my boss claimed, “Women can’t think rationally because they are too emotional.” His mentality shocked me and I grew wary of the organization itself. That isn’t to say that microfinance is completely ineffectual. Change just takes time, often maddenly so. Through my second project, I worked on the research of Self-Help Groups (SHGs) in the hill regions of Uttarakhand. We were looking at the possibility of creating market linkages, as conventional microfinance practices do not extend to these remote regions. Visiting both existing NGOs and remote villages, we went from established dairy coops to drought-stricken families existing on the bare minimum. Money-lending middlemen took advantage of the illiterate farmers and crops failed on the barren land. They asked us for money to buy livestock, and yet there was no food to find for the livestock. By the time of my departure, a sustainable solution still hadn’t been found. Furthermore, much of my time was devoted to one of Mimo’s partner organizations, Partners in Prosperity (PnP). PnP is implementing “Ultra Poor Contruction Workers Project” which aims to graduate slumdwellers to a higher livelihood and potential involvement in microfinance primarily through health camps and vocational and financial training. The project was in its initial stages, so I worked on organizing health camps, preparing teaching material, as well as meeting with potential collaborators (mainly NGOs and medical facilities), and creating official documentation and movie material of PnP’s work. On weekends and what other time off I had, I traveled as far as time would permit on local busses and overnight trains, taking me to Amritsar and the Golden Temple; tigers in Corbett National Park; hiking with pilgrims in the Himalayas; Delhi; the holy cities of Varanasi, Rishikesh, and Haridwar and their endless ghats; Bodh Gaya where Buddha saw enlightenment; British colonialism in Kolkata; the beaches of Goa; ancient temples of Khajuraho and Orchha; and of course the Taj Mahal.
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Lei’La’ Bryant sai summer FeedBacK: my summer in nepal
Nothing in my life has been as meaningful or mind-blowing as my time in Nepal. For the first time, I found myself alone in a country far different from my own, without any real knowledge of the language or of the culture. Though at times in the beginning of my adventure I found myself afraid and very alone, by the end of the trip I had grown so significantly that wading through seas of people in Kathmandu at 10 pm, alone, was as simple as walking through Harvard Square has always been. I went from an awe-stricken girl who felt at once very alone, saddened by the dirt and poverty and at the same time very exhilarated and moved by the beauty and the wonder of the place, the people, and the religions to a comfortable (and still awe-stricken) woman who could see through the poverty to its root causes, who could walk through the monsoon on the muddy streets without a care, who could still see the life and strength and happiness beating in the hearts and souls of so many in the population, and who could still be exhilarated by the beauty and the wonder of the place, the people, and the religions. My stay in Pokhara, a beautiful part of the country 7 hours northwest of Kathmandu, contributed most to my change of heart and mind. I spent a month there high in the Himalayan mountains, safe in a colorful sea of red and orange. The Pema Ts’al Sakya Monastic Institute was a beautiful Tibetan Buddhist monastery which housed 88 monks-in-training who were 6-18 years of age, as well as several senior monks and lamas, a handful of teachers, and a few Tibetan refugees who cleaned, cooked, or worked on the building of the new temple behind the monastery. Though my primary interaction was to be with the children who captured my heart and mind, the time I spent with all of the monastery’s inhabitants and visitors worked together to change my life. Furthermore, I spent a large portion of my time in the nearby Tibetan refugee camp. Though I was there to teach, I too was taught so much. The senior lamas and other teachers gave me lessons on Dharma and Buddhist philosophical principles. The refugees and monks taught me about the Free Tibet campaign, and showed me what other countries were doing to help Tibet be free from the Chinese. The people of Pokhara and a Hemja showed me how people can thrive with very few resources. The child monks who had walked across the Himalayans to escape Tibet taught me perseverance and that anything is possible. One of the most valuable lessons I learned was that I truly love to teach. I spent up to 10 hours a day teaching and storytelling and making or grading homework, and it was wonderful! The more I taught, the more excited about my work I became. I didn’t get burnt out or tired or bored; rather, I found myself looking forward to teaching as much as possible, and my last day of teaching, I was truly upset that it was over. I loved helping the children learn and grow, and seeing them smile and laugh and be proud when they learned something knew or realized they already knew more than they first believed. I loved having my classroom overflow with children listening to my fairytales, when I realize that we’ve been sharing stories almost 30 minutes into the lunch shift, and when I ask the students if they want me to postpone the story, they say “Oh no, Miss Lei’La’, we don’t need that long to eat lunch! Finish the storyyyyy!” Nothing made my heart glow more than seeing the look of excitement on the children when they won chocolate for acing their tests and knowing the answers and volunteering to read.
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I loved my time in Nepal more than anything else I’ve done yet, and I can’t wait to go back and see my little monks and friends again. Thank you so much for allowing me to participate in this program!
Mihir Chaudhary summer 2009 international experience Grant
Janalakshmi Financial Services provides small group loans to groups of five women in the greater Gurgaon area. The microfinance institution’s primary market is the migrant women in Gurgaon. With Gurgaon’s rapid, inexorable development the number of migrants in the area have burgeoned significantly over the years. These migrants assume the lower echelon occupations – they overwhelmingly serve as housemaids and servants, office building cleaners and aides and masons. With average incomes as low as two dollars a day in certain colonies, there is virtually no way for these migrants to obtain mainstream loans from giant corporate banks. This is the void that Janalakshmi has filled. With over 600 member accounts and a perfect repayment rate the organization has had outstanding initial success. But this success has been constrained by certain factors. Firstly, Janalakshmi’s market is somewhat limited in scope. Over 80% of the bank’s accounts belong to individuals from West Bengal. In this sense the financial services offered by Janalakshmi are almost monopolized by one regional group. The purpose of my internship was, through empirical analysis of census surveys, to determine why. Why aren’t groups from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar taking advantage of Janalakshmi’s financial services? While my internship report results were from surveying only one colony, I hope what I uncovered may be indicative of larger trends. I conducted data surveys in the Sukhrali housing colony. The housing colony is located in Sector 17 in Gurgaon. The housing colony has one public school – the Gyan Devi Public School – at the entrance to the colony. The government school does not charge any fees but parents sending their children to school nonetheless have to pay school-related expenses (such as books, stationery, etc). Sukhrali is open and spacious relative to other low-income housing areas. At the beginning of many areas with a series of room columns there is usually a vegetable stand and, sometimes, a small grocer. Many of the grocer shops are owned by locals who also own many of the houses on lease to Sukhrali residents. Most, if not all, the rooms in this housing compound belong to local Haryana businessmen. The rooms, for the most part, are small with one to two beds or sleeping mats. It is very common for members from the same native village and, often, individuals from the same state to live in the same housing column. I found many cases of male friends from the same village living together in the same room. Most working individuals do not start returning to their homes until after 6:00 in the evening. It is common for extended family to share a room or to live adjacent to each other. It was also clear that groups from different regions were clustered in the same area in Sukhrali. Coming into Sukhrali I expected many different things. I expected to face gender inequities. I definitely sensed some power dynamics between male and female household members. For example, upon approaching women for the survey many times the male head of the household would end up intervening and taking the survey instead. There was a high incidence of women who flat out refused to talk because their husband was not around. I felt this was because of restrictions on their freedom to associate with unfamiliar men. But I also witnessed manifestations of gender equality– one lady from a Jharkand couple was confidently independent and she seemed shocked that I would think her husband had any serious authority over her. I consistently observed a distrust of government amongst Sukhrali residents. It was obvious to me that many Sukhrali residents blamed
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the deplorable state of public utilities on their government. It is perhaps for this reason that organizations like Janalakshmi can and should work in these areas. Coming from a different background socially, culturally and linguistically there were some gaps that I could not bridge, some things I could not understand during my time at Sukhrali. But I did nonetheless become attached to the area. In going around Sukhrali I was saddened to see some of the harsher living conditions families had to cope with. But I also noticed the joy of childhood flowing through the housing columns and the gulleys. I felt the warmth of community in many a column of rooms and witnessed families living, coping, together. In these things I felt joy and hope. I understand that Sukhrali seems like a difficult market for a business like Janalakshmi – one that requires adherence to repayment and collection to remain viable. But Sukhrali definitely has its soft spots. In my internship I found that it is an ideal area to begin the campaign for the Uttar Pradesh and Bihar market – residents are only doubtful of taking out loans because they feel that no one will give them one.
Gabe daly summer 2009 international experience Grant
I would like to thank the South Asia Initative for its support of my research. With SAI’s help, I traveled to Mumbai this summer. I conducted interviews with 24 members of Mumbai’s middle class. My research focused on middle class attitudes towards and uses of debt. My interest was in the ways in which access to modern, Western financial products - like credit cards, personal loans, lay-away programs and home mortgages – has affected the development of a consumer culture among the middle class. My focus was on the urban, professional class. Most of my interview subjects were young professionals. They came from varying economic backgrounds and reported widely varying income levels. However, all selfidentified as middle class. (This will be the subject of considerable discussion in my analysis). Subjects were students, call-center workers, would-be entrepreneurs, and stockbrokers. They all lived in Mumbai and all spoke English. Most identified as Hindu. My work is not yet completed. I will be using my findings from this summer for my senior thesis. In that thesis, I am examining the development of a consumerist, debt-for-consumption ethos among the Mumbai middle class. My findings are, at this point, still preliminary. I would be happy to share my completed work with SAI at the appropriate time. Thank you again for your support.
Gillian Grossman summer 2009 international experience report
This summer, a South Asia Initiative summer internship grant enabled me to spend eight weeks in Bangalore, India, where I interned at Ujjivan, a socially oriented, for-profit microfinance company. Ujjivan focuses on providing microcredit to economically active, poor women in urban areas in addition to a number of other services necessary to break the cycle of poverty, including community health camps and financial literacy training. I interned with Ujjivan’s Distribution Team, the department responsible for overseeing all of Ujjivan’s
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field operations and customer outreach initiatives. I could not have chosen a more exciting summer to spend at the company. Founded in 2005, Ujjivan devoted major efforts this year to breaking even for the first time in a market heavily saturated by microcredit initiatives. In addition to its focus on sustainability and improving its cost-effectiveness as a company, Ujjivan also piloted a number of customer savings programs this summer while simultaneously dealing with escalating communal tensions among its Muslim customer base. All in all, I enjoyed a fascinating internship with Ujjivan. I worked on two major projects, the first of which involved an evaluation of a savings account program being piloted among Ujjivan customers. Indian Reserve Bank regulations prohibit microfinance initiatives from taking their customers’ savings directly, so microcredit initiatives in India must devise other means of helping their customers save. The program I evaluated this summer involved a system in which Ujjivan helped its customers open and operate savings accounts at Indian post offices. Highlights of this project included developing my own survey with which I interviewed Ujjivan field staff to gather information about how well the pilot was running and analyzing their responses to identify key areas in which the pilot could be improved. I was particularly excited to have the opportunity to make a final presentation to Ujjivan’s CEO and department heads regarding my evaluation of the pilot and was gratified to note that many of my findings will be taken into account as the pilot is revised this month. My other major project with Ujjivan involved a case study on an ongoing crisis among Ujjivan’s Muslim customers in Karnataka, the state in which Ujjivan’s head office is located. Across the state of Karnataka, Muslim male religious and community leaders, distressed by Muslim women’s growing financial independence due to the involvement of microfinance initiatives in their communities, had issued a fatwa prohibiting Muslim women from repaying their microcredit loans and banning microfinance activity in the community. In their efforts to resolve these issues, microfinance initiatives had involved the district and state authorities in ongoing negotiations to end the conflict in a number of communities in Karnataka. My project involved visiting several of Ujjivan’s field offices that had been afflicted by the communal tensions and interviewing Ujjivan field staff regarding their experiences working in the affected communities and their insights into the problem. I compiled a 130+ page case study that documented every development relating to the situation that had occurred since January 2009, when the trouble first began. The highlights of the internship included the opportunity to interact with field staff on a regular basis and examine the implementation and effectiveness of Ujjivan’s programs in the course of in-depth evaluations. While language barriers and the process of adjusting to a new culture posed challenges at times, my experience at Ujjivan was tremendously enriching on both a personal and professional level.
had recently been suffering from a cough, fever, or any other symptoms typical of TB. If I judged them likely to have the disease, I gave them a diagnostic test and instructed them to report to the Asha center in two days to ascertain whether it was positive. During the course of the summer, I screened approximately 350 families and found about twenty TB cases. The second component of my time with Asha was shadowing the doctor at Asha’s polyclinic, the centralized location where the NGO offered more sophisticated testing services than those found in the centers distributed throughout the slums. The doctor there explained to me early on that her primary consideration in giving recommendations was her patients’ financial constraints. She did not advise patients to seek out services far from their slums, because they rarely had the means or the time to travel; she also did her best to suggest medications available at the polyclinic, because elsewhere chemists inflated prices to the degree that antibiotics were unaffordable to the majority of slum inhabitants. The greater part of patients were women seeking prenatal care; as the doctor’s specialization was gynecology, I learned quite a lot about what to expect during each month of pregnancy and about the various potential complications before birth. I also taught English in Zakhira during my two months at Asha. Despite having had six previous English teachers, my students spoke practically no English upon my arrival; in fact, they were unable even to introduce themselves. Furthermore, I was astonished to find that my students had technically been learning English in school for several years- and they could not even say hello! Their teachers rarely came to class, and when they did, only translated the English textbooks into Hindi so that the students could answer reading comprehension questions. Since I do not speak Hindi, I at first had difficulty communicating with my students. Luckily, I could understand what they said, and quickly picked up enough classroom vocabulary to be able to teach. In spite of the language barrier, teaching English taught me the most about life in the slums; through spending time with my students, I was exposed to exactly what being poor in India means, and why education represents the only opportunity for these children to improve their standards of living.
ridhi Kashyap modernization, development and the chanGinG nature oF son preFerence in india
nina Jain south asia initiative summer report
This summer, I was given the opportunity to work with Asha, a charitable organization that delivers healthcare to the slums of India’s capital, New Delhi. During the two months that I spent with Asha, I was able to familiarize myself with Asha’s community-based approach to improving the health of its slums’ inhabitants. I conducted a tuberculosis survey in a slum named Zakhira; its residents suffered from a number of respiratory problems often confused with tuberculosis (TB) due to the pollution from the nearby railroad tracks. The screening involved walking from shanty to shanty in the slum, inquiring of the women if any family members
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I have spent three years at Harvard studying issues of human rights, social change and development from interdisciplinary perspectives, with a regional focus on South Asia. With this commitment to an interdisciplinary approach, I set out this summer to conduct research for my senior honors thesis in Social Studies on an issue of profound social concern – sex-selective fertility preferences for sons (‘son preference’) in India. The demographic imbalance of males and females that results from sex-selective fertility management, whether by female infanticide, female neglect or sex-selective abortions, has been an issue that have attracted the attention of the Indian women’s movement, human rights organizations and social scientists in fields of demography, anthropology and economics. India’s ‘missing women’ are described as a dire indicator of female disadvantage and an acute form of gender violence.
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ridhi Kashyap continued
ridhi Kashyap continued
While there are different sources of quantitative data on sex ratios in India, and numerous studies by economists and demographers that study the macro-level impact of son preference, there are relatively few mixed methods studies that unravel the complex pathways that sustain son preference. I was keen not just in situating these pathways, but through a comparative historical perspective of sex-selective fertility, attempting to understand the macro- social, political and economic forces of economic development and ‘modernization’ that have produced new pathways for sex-selective fertility preferences over the past three decades across the country. The research for my thesis consisted of semi-structured interviews in Hindi with married women in the fertility range, and in the case of joint families, interviews with mother in laws and other important female older kin in the household. I also interviewed demographers, social scientists and development specialists with experience in the subject to understand new developments and trends. The second part of my research methodology consisted of archival and library research on nineteenth century practices of female infanticide. Through this investigation I sought to understand the forces responsible for the caste-specific practices of female infanticide in the nineteenth century in India, and subsequently, the discovery and control of the practice by the British in the colonial period. While I went into the field certain that the geographical focus of my study would be in North India, I was unsure of the exact location of my fieldwork. I spent the first two weeks travelling across Delhi, Haryana and parts of Punjab, talking to NGOs and understanding their perspectives and experiences with ‘female foeticide’. Most research on son preference now, as I realised through these conversations, tends to focus on sex-selective abortion of female foetuses. I was keen to focus my fieldwork in urban areas, given the theoretical point of departure for my study, was to understand the persistence of son preference despite processes of economic development, urbanization and modernization. As a result, I conducted my fieldwork in three neighbourhoods of south and southwest Delhi. During my interviews with married women I discussed a wide-range of issues, probing topics of family planning and fertility decision-making, gender ideologies, informant’s awareness of sex-selective fertility practices such as sex-selective abortions as social phenomena, and their social networks outside the family. The historical research for the project was conducted in the Nehru Memorial Library and Archive and the library of the Center for Women’s Development Studies, both renowned libraries in Delhi, where I read historical reports on the practice of female infanticide in North India in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and secondary materials on the topic. Fieldwork in Delhi was often a challenging experience but nevertheless a fruitful one for understanding the complexities of son preference in India. Given India’s past history with forced sterilizations, and the state’s vocal family planning agenda, especially towards families of lower classes, people are not always open and comfortable with discussing their family planning ideologies, and their ideal family compositions openly. These obstacles were enormously educative for understanding the complexities of field research, and made me engage with questions of methodology in a manner that I had not previously done before. The case of gender inequality and son preference exemplifies a gap that often exists between India’s constitutional morality, or state-espoused rhetoric of ‘development’, and the country’s sociological realities. There are widespread campaigns against female foeticide and legislation banning pre-natal sex determination, all of which make it taboo to discuss sex-selective fertility management. Moreover, surveys have become so widespread in India, especially with the advent of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) and the National Sample Survey (NSS), that people have internalized what are the ‘correct’ answers that are required from these interactions.
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This posed an methodological challenge at times, and required me to spend more time than usual probing particular issues from different angles before I would get candid responses. Despite these difficulties and the accompanying frustrations, the chance to conceptualize and execute my own research plan to understand on-the-ground complexity of a compelling human rights issue in India was very empowering. This experience has made me appreciate the significance of research towards furthering human rights goals, and become more perceptive of methodological questions that interdisciplinary social scientists confront. This project has also inspired me to engage in research in the future, and I am enormously grateful to the South Asia Initiative for providing me this opportunity.
elizabeth trevino Kinsey medical exploration in madurai
This past summer, I traveled to Madurai, India, where I participated in a medical internship at Vadamalayan Hospital in association with Projects Abroad. I spent my time shadowing doctors and discussing topics ranging from Indian culture to surgery procedures and the differences between Western and Indian healthcare systems. I scrubbed into surgeries on a daily basis and observed such procedures as cardiac bypass surgeries, the removal of kidney stones, the removal of a myxoma (or tumor) from the left atrium of the heart, gallstone and gallbladder removals, and an orthopedic elbow surgery. On my very first day I observed doctors in a catheterization laboratory working earnestly to pump poison out of a victim of a cobra bite. I saw so many interesting procedures at this bustling hospital and feel that I have gained a much greater insight into the world of medicine. There is nothing quite like learning through experience. It was not only inside the walls of the hospital that I saw new and interesting things. In fact, as soon as I stepped off the plane in Chennai, I realized that I was about to embark upon a great adventure of new sights, sounds, and tastes. I spent my evenings with an incredibly warm and welcoming host-family in Madurai, with whom I still keep in touch. That first night I feasted on plain dosa and hot Indian tea, a beginner’s introduction to some of the spiciest and sweetest meals I have ever eaten. I had become addicted to my host mother’s Indian tea and coconut chutney by the end of my stay. I had the opportunity to visit the famous Meenakshi Temple and designed clothes that were made to perfection at the local tailor’s market. Some fellow Projects Abroad volunteers who were at the same homestay as I journeyed to Kollam in Kerala for a weekend trip, where we spent a relaxing afternoon coasting along the backwaters on a very comfortable houseboat. It was fabulous to be able to experience such diverse Indian destinations as Kollam, Madurai, and Chennai. On this journey across the world, I met some of the friendliest people I have ever encountered, as even strangers would smile, wave, and ask me how my day was (or rather, if I had eaten, a common greeting in Tamil Nadu). I saw the face of absolute poverty and now truly understand the dire need for healthcare workers in this world. I felt the warmth generated by the satisfaction of comforting a nervous elderly woman, a cardio-thoracic surgery candidate. While I consider this the most rewarding experience of my life, my desire to assist in a medical setting, whether through taking patients’ vitals, educating a community about HIV/AIDS, screening individuals for diseases, or changing bandages, is far from satiated. I am more enthusiastic than ever to participate in another volunteer trip abroad and provide my service in the healthcare realm. Thank you, SAI, for making possible this most eye-opening experience of my nineteen years.
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Marena Lin south asia initiative Grant report summer oF 2009
oded oren the appeal oF vipassana meditation in india
My original proposal to study the impact of science education on social mobility was based on what little I knew about India – its booming IT industry, its growing middle class, and the stratification of its society. I knew nothing about the intense social pressure to select science because the alternatives of commerce and the arts were believed to be reserved for those who were not successful in the sciences. I didn’t know that happiness could be more dependent on whether you live in a big city or a rural village than it is on income. I also knew nothing about reservations, India’s version of affirmative action, let alone the degree to which it has probably worsened the stratification and corruption in Indian government for the last 62 years. I didn’t know much when I wrote that proposal, and I knew far less about how I would deal with the complex emotions that arise from watching a man the age of my father pulling a rickshaw on foot, carrying a middle-class woman returning from the market: disgust at the system, pity for the man, and frustration at my inability to find an easy fix for him. No one person was directly to blame for the man’s condition, and it was unlikely that he would ever have an advocate. I found it impossible to narrow my interactions to my proposed study of science education and social mobility. Standardized questions fail when each unique response leads to new curiosity about how a Christian marriage can be both western-styled and arranged or why a farmer making one lakh a year has a harder life than a teacher making half that amount. While I found it difficult to stay on topic during my interviews in Hyderabad, Delhi, Kolkata, and Chennai, I did find a general consensus for my question: a career in engineering or medicine is associated with greater stability and higher income. It is what the last two or three generations of Indians have been pushed to aspire toward, but this is a consensus that ignores individual preferences and talents. Even the talented young mathematician is forced to forgo a career in mathematics to pursue engineering because stability is what the family wants, and in India, the disapproval of one’s family is enough to crush lifelong aspirations. Still, all of my interviewees attested to the better standard of living and higher relative social standing that came with careers in medicine and engineering, especially when they compared their parents’ earning potentials with their own. In the last twenty years, it has also become much easier for women to pursue these careers. Every one of my interviewees, however, agreed that education was a solution to two of India’s greatest problems – its poverty and its cyclically corrupt government. While these compose a broader answer to my original question, they fail to describe the full breadth of my experience in India, the unrivaled hospitality and generosity I encountered everywhere I traveled (even in Delhi), and a growing consciousness of a correct way to travel – not as a foreign consumer but as a fellow human being. I’m very thankful for the incredible opportunity I’ve had to get to know and be humbled by India, its dynamic culture, and its people. Even after three months, there’s so much more I want to learn, and I’ve been inspired to contribute to efforts to provide education to those unable to afford it. I look forward to returning to India next summer. Thank you.
My research aimed to highlight the reasons for the sudden appeal and interest of Indians from Hindu background in Vipassana, a Buddhist meditation. For my research, I spent one month in a Vipassana meditation center near Mumbai, Dhamma Gir, and another month in a different Vipassana center near Dharamsala, Dhamma Sikhara. I collected most of the data through interviews with fourteen committed meditators. More data came from ethnographic observations. Lastly, I was able to obtain some statistical data from the administration of the Mumbai center. I am currently working on analyzing the results, and hope to write a paper with the help of my faculty adviser during this semester, or the next one. The SAI grant did not only provide me with the means to pursue a question that I am most interested about, and to spend time in an exotic country I would have never been able to visit otherwise, but it has also allowed me to form my ideas for my upcoming thesis. I am very grateful for the opportunity given to me by the South Asian Initiative and its generous donors.
suhas rao healthcare in BanGalore, india
I had initially applied for a research grant to examine the link between micro health insurance and health outcomes in urban Bangalore. I had applied for and received an internship at Ujjivan, a microfinance institution based in Bangalore with operations all over India. Ujjivan boasted over 300,000 customers, all poor women in the slums of India, and claimed to offer thousands of its customers health insurance products that were available at extremely low premiums. Much to my dismay when I first arrived, I found out that the health insurance products had been discontinued a year earlier, and that no reliable data existed that documented usage patterns and health status of customers. However, my dismay soon turned to excitement as I was assigned to work on the replacement program for the discontinued health insurance, a healthcare management program that was being designed by Ujjivan’s strategic NGO partner, Parinaam. As this healthcare management program was being designed from scratch, I was initially working in a purely research role. I conducted a lot of research into what the existing health insurance schemes and community health schemes there were in India, as well as previous schemes that were attempted. My role consisted of putting together many case studies in order to best understand the pros and cons of different healthcare programs that had been implemented and also trying to fit together the best pieces of each healthcare program in a feasible way to put together a new healthcare program that met all the standards of the NGO I was working at. Through the analysis of various healthcare programs, we designed a preliminary
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2009 south asia initiative Grants
suhas rao continued
ashin shah continued
plan to provide primary, secondary, and tertiary care through networking with partner clinics and hospitals, as well as employ community health workers to work in the slums that we were working in to provide more direct assistance to the community. After designing this initial plan, my role shifted towards conducting more field surveys in order to try and gauge the feasibility of our original plan in our pilot areas. This involved surveying customers to try to and get a sense of the overall health status of the areas, and the clinics they frequented, as well as surveying doctors to attempt to document the availability of health resources in the area. Based on my field research, we adjusted our plans of how to implement our health insurance program significantly. We had initially hoped to roll out the primary care first before the rest of the program, along with community health workers to conduct health education workshops and encourage hygiene and sanitation for prevention purposes. However, after my field research, we came to the conclusion that primary care was fairly easily accessible for our customers and that our focus should be on an initial implementation of preventative care along with access to secondary and tertiary care at network hospitals. Micro health insurance has great potential to provide a scalable solution to lack of accessible health care; however, it requires a complex biosocial approach that integrates community participation into the standard medicalized approach to health care. This, from what I have seen, is a vast undertaking for an NGO, and can be difficult to handle at the NGO level. To leave these interventions to governmental action is also a problem in developing countries due to corruption and targeting difficulties. Given these constraints, health care for the poor remains a controversial issue, and the question of who should deliver health care remains unanswered.
statistics, constructing models for portfolio management, constrained optimization, maximization routines, and the programming environments of R and Mathematica. Nevertheless, the impact of my time in India extends beyond the specific research project I was doing—and being in a foreign country, particularly India, provided summer experiences I would never have received elsewhere. In interacting with my professor, I gained a greater understanding of the Indian economy and business world. During my time there, in early July, the Indian government released its annual fiscal budget and I was able to directly see the effect this had on businesses and the stock market, as the government then prioritized social program spending over trimming its own fiscal deficit. In my time in India, I was also able to visit other institutions of higher education, subsidiaries of Gujarat University—to get a feel for college and graduate education in that country. From my experiences and conversations with professors particularly at IIM-A, I noticed the great lag that exists between undergraduate college education in India, with regard to pedagogical ideology, against the state-run “Indian Institutes:” of Technology (IIT), and of Management (IIM). The latter two systems, receiving greater funding and attention from the government attract the brightest students with the most aptitude from all over India. Operating as Western-style universities would, they bridge the gap between the Eastern sensibilities of its professors and students, and the intent for India to compete on an international economic stage. In general, all the institutions carry an air of pre-professionalism, with lucrative careers being sought out by students left and right—education filling entirely an economic objective rather than a personal or intellectual one. Liberal arts education has no place among the brightest in India, their goals aimed at securing a highpaying IT, medical, or engineering job over paying to study the arts or humanities. This is an approach that starkly contrasts with ours here at Harvard, an insight into the differences in educational culture I was able to appreciate while interning at a graduate management school in India.
ashin shah summer 2009 Grant recipient
In the summer of 2009, I spent eight weeks, from early June to the end of July, working at the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad (IIM-A) in the western state of Gujarat in India. Working under the direction of Professor Arnab K. Laha, a professor of statistics with a research emphasis on portfolio management, I investigated problems related to the Markowitz mean-variance model, citing situations under which it fails to allocate stocks efficiently. The work to which I contributed entailed literature reviews, combing through the history of the field of portfolio management—one that is now over a half-century old in its current incarnation— to analyze the approaches taken to optimizing portfolios on the basis of return and risk threshold parameters. Additionally, I designed my own experiments in programming environments to compare the efficiencies and boundary-cases of these methods for allocation. The aforementioned Markowitz model was believed to fail in allocating stocks when portfolio stocks were heavy-tailed, or expected to yield higher-than-average extreme returns (a more skewed distribution), as the model reads these stocks as being significantly more risky than their normally-distributed counterparts and thus misallocates the portfolio. In my time working with Professor Laha, I was able to research data from the Indian Stock Exchange to fit model distributions to historical returns of stocks that were listed on the Indian markets. These model distributions served as the basis for further Monte Carlo simulations done to compare the efficiency of various portfolio optimization algorithms at protecting against portfolio erosion and maximizing returns by way of growth of portfolio wealth. In my time and through my work, I learned a great deal about financial
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Bisnhu thapa research on pension manaGement practices in nepal
This summer, I worked as a researcher and consultant at the Ministry of Finance (MOF) in Kathmandu, Nepal. As a consultant, I worked mainly on the status of pension management in Nepal. I was responsible for looking into government-run pension schemes for its civil servants, identifying the strengths and weaknesses of those plans, and suggest ways to make the plans sustainable and cost-effective. In the process, I also briefly looked into the kinds of retirement plans and pension schemes that exist in the private sector, and various countries around the world. Part of my work entailed primary research and the rest involved secondary research. The primary research entailed conducting interviews with various government officials, and people from other organizations in Kathmandu. For this, I traveled to different parts of the valley. The secondary research was mostly about carrying out internet-based research, and telephone conversations. Given the nature of the work, I did a fair amount of work from my apartment. I had an amazing time working with the Ministry of Finance, and other governmental organizations (such as the Central Bank of Nepal, Central Bureau of Statistics) in Kathmandu. The summer also gave me an opportunity to explore the city of Kathmandu. Despite my eight years of boarding school in Kathmandu, I had never explored the capital city so much. More importantly, I was met some prominent people working for the government. There were days when I would rush to catch them on the first hour to conduct interviews,
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and I would end up chatting with them for a few hours on topics that did not directly pertain to the area of my research. The summer was quite a hectic time for the Finance Ministry because of the budget announcement season. The budget for the fiscal year 2009-2010 was announced on the second week of July. However, the announcement was followed by sharp criticisms from various groups. Some of these unsatisfied groups (such as civil servants who were not satisfied with their salary increases) came up with their own agenda and surrounded the ministry, thus bringing the ministry’s work to a complete standstill for almost a week. During this period, I would go and wait in the main gate for three hours hoping to get inside, but would just be forced to return with no work done at the end. This lasted for at least four days, which was quite frustrating. Another thing that disappointed me was the lack data even in some of the most prominent governmental institutions such as the Central Bank. During the middle of the summer, I also volunteered for a summer-camp. The summer camp was organized in one of the remotest villages of Gorkha district in western Nepal. It was mainly organized for conflict-hit children of the district, and included fifteen volunteers. The experience was absolutely life-changing. Not only were we able to mingle and share our experiences with those children, who ranged from 5 years old to 15 years old, but we were also able to open up a library in that village. The excitement that one could see on the faces of the participants and the general public there was simply captivating, and deeply touching. All in all, I had a great summer. It was fun as much as it was a great research and learning experience. I could not have thought of a better way to spend the summer. I thank the South Asia Initiative for making this possible.
elizabeth towle sai Write-up
This summer, I used my South Asia Initiative Undergraduate Study Grant to conduct research for my senior social studies thesis. I spent two months living in New Delhi, India conducting a study on how the English language is taught in different types of high schools. My original intention was to do work in a government school and a private school and compare the curriculums and pedagogical techniques employed by teachers. From there I intended to analyze how those differences affected the students, including outcomes in linguistic ability, language ideology and culture. However, upon arriving in Delhi I decided that it would be better to focus my research even further and remained strictly within the wide range of private schools that can be found in the city. Ultimately I worked in two schools. Both were excellent English medium schools; however one had a study body that was comprised of first generation English learners while the other had an enrolled student population that consisted mainly of children who were fourth or fifth generation English speakers creating an interesting juxtaposition. In each school I would spend my days shadowing an English teacher and observing her classes. Then I would interview that teacher during her free periods. I was welcomed with open arms by the teachers and students in each of the schools and had a successful primary research experience. Currently I am still in the beginning stages of analysis for my thesis project. I am transcribing my many interviews, conducting archival research on the history of English in the Indian education system and reading secondary texts about teaching pedagogy, bilingualism, and identity. In March I plan to be able to successful submit a completed thesis paper to the social studies department. I am appreciative of all the people in Delhi who have helped me through the early stages of this project as well as of the South Asia Initiative for giving me the opportunity to have this experience.
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the south asia initiative CGis south s427, 1730 Cambridge street, Cambridge, Ma 02138, usa
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