I Could Live Here

It has been 10 wonderful days in Beijing and am taking in a nice sunny afternoon in the garden cafe before I leave for Chengdu tomorrow.  My time has been a mix of researching Chinese housing policy for the urban/rural poor and seeing all the great historical sites in the city.  My Mandarin vocabulary has now increased to about 20 words, which isn’t very good progress, but at least is getting me through shopping encounters in a more polite fashion than earlier.  The one word that I can’t seem to recall in conversation is milk (niunai), which would have come in handy every time Maria ordered 4 creams with her coffee.

Speaking of Maria, I ended up capitulating to Ma Meng’s constant introductions and met a wonderful woman to see all the sights in Beijing with.  While I was doing fine for the first 3 days traveling alone, her companionship really helped get me out into the city to see all Beijing has to offer.  She is a Swedish medical student, fast walker (very important while traveling) and loves to indulge hypothetical questions about silly scenarios, which are my favorite things to talk about.  It feels so refreshing to find connection with someone far away from the New School, where I spend most my time and where it is very difficult to date anyone due to my hybrid status.  And now that I have a taste of international travel under my belt, I’m looking forward to seeing her in Stockholm on a future journey.  It has been sad since she left to finish her travels in Xi’an and Shanghai, but I think leaving for Chengdu tomorrow and working with the Habitat office will help.

Here are some impressions and pictures of the sites I’ve visited around Beijing:

Jinshanling Great Wall

The Jinshanling Great Wall is 3.5 hours away from Beijing and a bit spendy at 300 yuan per person ($50.00), but it was the highlight of the trip so far.  Unlike closer sections of the wall which have been newly constructed or rebuilt (Badaling), the Jinshanling wall is untouched and undervisited by tourists.  It was gorgeous and also a great opportunity to talk China with Sofia, who came to Beijing after finishing her India-China Student Fellowship work in Kumming.  My favorite part of the trip is after you go up and down what seems like a dozen towers to get to the end of the section (Five-Windows tower), there are some lovely Chinese merchants ready with a cooler of cold beer.  10 yuan was quite expensive, but I probably would have paid any price 🙂

The Summer Palace

The Summer Palace made me think how lucky it must be for the rulers of some countries (past and present) that get to relax without being relentlessly attacked as asleep at the wheel by their political opponents.  It is a huge expanse of a lake, gardens and magnificent architecture.  Also learned that like many other things in Beijing, we played a role in the 19th century in destroying it with other invading forces.  Funny how things like the Civil War  and reconstruction didn’t occupy the US enough to avoid entangling ourselves in China.

Beijing Zoo

The Beijing Zoo was very large, but was a hard place to visit as the larger animals seemed to have smaller than normal habitats.  Only the monkeys above seemed to have the habitat to run, jump and play.  I felt really bad for the poor elephants especially:

I suppose American zoos aren’t much better though.  They also had pandas, but like the zoo in Washington D.C., they seemed either very sleepy and/or single-mindedly focused on eating bamboo in places hard to photograph.  I expect Chengdu will be a better place to see them at the research center.

Forbidden City

I have to admit, I didn’t care much for the Forbidden City.  Maybe I was a bit tired because it was raining all day, but it just seemed too large and empty in a way that diminished its importance and awe.  The one thing my visit to the Forbidden City made me think about though was how I really want to have a significant conversation about communism and modern China with some residents here.  A lot of the buildings in the Forbidden City, along with buildings/monuments at other locations, refer to the nation building that was done to unify China.  Although it is difficult to talk about politics in Beijing, I’d love to hear about what people think about China as a unified nation, and what role temples, religion and ancient sites have in a secular and more modern state.  I think it will be enlightening as I genuinely have no opinion on most of these questions, and am just eager to learn what people think.

Silk and Night Markets

Anyone who wants to try their hand at Fear Factor food should visit the Wangfujing Night Market and have some scorpions!  There is also delicious mainstream street food and some cheap Beijing duck for those who don’t want to shell out over 150 yuan for a sit down meal.

My favorite though was the Silk Market.  It is a 6 floor building stuffed with little shops dealing in silk, electronics, clothes and pearls.  Got some gifts for the family, but was especially excited to see that there were tailors onsite promising to make custom clothes on the cheap in one day.  It is a noisy scene, with merchant after merchant harassing or touching you to enter their store.  And once inside, one has to bargain for everything.  Sometimes the merchant prices their items 2x what they should be, but other stores go as high as 5x, hoping to win the arbitrage battle with naive tourists.  Thankfully I was with Maria, who was a force to be reckoned with at the Silk Market.  I loved seeing the stages of negotiation, where most merchants ended up calling her a mean or evil girl before selling the goods at 1/4-1/5 the asking price.  Let’s just say my tailored dress shirts would be 50 yuan more a piece if she wasn’t around.

But enough of sightseeing for now.  I’ll be spending the rest of my time here evaluating the different energy consumption of rural and urban households, to determine if sustainability measures even make much sense in China.  My initial research seems to indicate energy costs are not a significant portion of many Chinese citizens budget, which means that absent top-down mandates for energy efficiency, it could be hard to persuade people to weatherproof, insulate and do other improvements to their homes if coal provided energy is so cheap.  The good news is that with so many Chinese buying appliances for the first time, the government has a huge incentive to act, as the growth of consumption in China will quickly become unsustainable as even a wealthy China won’t be able to secure the enormous energy resources required to convert Chinese citizens into American style consumers.

2012 Student Travel/Research Grant Recipients

We are pleased to announce that the 2012 Student Travel/Research Grant Recipients have been chosen! Please see below for details.  Congratulations to all who were selected, and thank you to everyone who applied.

Alison Schuettingger is pursuing a Masters or Arts in psychology at NSSR. Alison is interested in community based holistic education and will do research on this approach through Indian research centers that teach and practice ecological sustainability. Drawing on the research of Escobar, she will explore the role that religion and traditional knowledge play in environmental sustainability and ask if sustainability is akin to native representations of nature.

Benedetta Valabrega is an undergraduate student in Design Management at Parsons.  Benedetta is interested in how India intends to deal with the incredible growth it is experiencing and how it will involve the demographic capital that has made this growth possible.  In particular, she wants to focus on how India is designing and performing what has been called “the biggest social project on the planet,” an identification scheme that plans to construct a national biometric database.  Based on her research on the experiment of this project, she will make connections and draw conclusions about I.D. systems as weapons to use control over society or to empower people and guarantee each single individual the rights he should have.

Chang-Chen Shen is a first year PhD candidate in Anthropology at the New School for Social Research.  His proposed ICI project is to study the life worlds of Chinese immigrants, both in New York City and in Fuzhou (the fist are international migrants, the latter, internal migrants, but both sets are illegal).  Shen plans to look at how these immigrants live in spaces not only considered illegal, but outside any semblance of civil society.  He will view first-hand how their experiences negotiating such illegal spaces in Fuzhou translate into migrants’ abilities to endure and live in New York City.  Chang-Chen will also investigate his hypothesis that the Chinese concept of min-jian can allow us to think differently about these spaces of “civil (il)legality”.

Miranda Ten Broeke is an undergraduate at Eugene Lang College.  A passionate dancer, Miranda started her dancing career at The Vanaver Caravan World Dance & Music Company (TVC) at the age of four.  TVC will partner with a women-run Indian NGO to build the Shakti Academy, a dance and healing-arts center for India’s gifted youth.  The ICi fellowship will allow Miranda to participate and contribute to the Academy which will provide a creative outlet for children and teens who cannot thrive in traditional school settings and have been discriminated against because of caste, sex, or means.  In addition, Miranda will teach in local schools, and learn authentic Indian and gypsy dance styles in an ongoing cultural exchange.   Miranda expects herself to draw on the connections she will make in India and b a resource for future students wishing to do the sort of work out in the world.

Nicholas Krebs is pursuing a Master degree in Urban Policy at Milano The New School for Management and Urban Policy.  He has been leading service projects with two chapters of Habitat for Humanity for the last four years in South Dakota and Washington D.C. As a student fellow he would like to do a comparative study of the sustainability efforts in Habitat Housing in China and the US by participating in a Global Village Habitat build in Quangzhou City. From this he hopes to be able to define universal sustainability standards that could be used in Habitat housing developments internationally.

Sofya Omelchenko is an undergraduate student in Global Studies at Eugene Lang College.  A native of Russia, Sofya is fascinated by authoritarian regimes such as Russia and China and how they manage to keep power while at the time adapting to the new conditions of international world order.  In particular, she is interested in the civil society relationships with the state in both countries.  She will focus her research on the environmental sector of civil society, as environmentalism is fairly apolitical in its nature, yet offers a great insight on the functioning of the civil society.

Student Travel/Research Funds 2012 Application!

ICI is excited to announce the opening of applications for the 2012 ICI Student/Travel Research Fund!

Please review the application checklist before submission. Due to the high volume of applications ICI has received in the past, ICI will not consider incomplete applications.

Four $3,000 awards are available for undergraduate or graduate students to support an independent study project, or to defray the cost of attending a New School program in India or China. The funds could be used towards expenses such as airfare, local transportation, room and board, and interpreters.

All application materials must be postmarked or emailed no later than October 14, 2011. Finalists will be notified by December 5, 2011.

• Be a degree-seeking undergraduate or graduate student in any discipline
• For undergraduates, a minimum of 12 credits completed, and for graduate students, a minimum of 9 credits completed by the end of Fall 2011, and planning to enroll in the Fall semester 2012
• Has a minimum Cumulative GPA of 3.3
• Know a New School faculty member who can supervise the project
• Prior knowledge of India and China is not necessary. MA and PhD students specializing in India and China may apply. However, priority will be given to non-specialists looking to explore and deepen their knowledge of one or both countries.

Award Requirements

Recipients of student travel/research funds are required to:
• Embark on their field visits before the end of summer 2012
• Seek advice regarding their field visit through their academic advisors. ICI has limited resources, thus will not be able to assist student with travel logistics or obtain local information
• Maintain constant contact with their faculty mentors during the entire project period
• Make a public presentation of their projects during fall semester 2012
• Submit a final written report on their projects by mid-February 2013

Good luck and ICI looks forward to reviewing your submissions!

Student Travel/Research Fund Application Form 2012

2011 Student Travel/Research Grant Recipients

We are pleased to announce that the 2011 Student Travel/Research Grant Recipients have been chosen!Please see below for details.  Congratulations to all who were selected, and thank you to everyone who applied.

Carol Wang is a PhD candidate in Anthropology at The New School for Social Research. As an ICI Student Fellow, she intends to examine the professionalization of activist methodologies with an emphasis on the role of rights documentation in the Chinese HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Jeff Bailey is a graduate student pursuing a Masters of Arts in Nonprofit Management at Milano New School of Management and Policy.  He is particularly interested in exploring the use of social entrepreneurship  in income-generation efforts by NGOs in China and the relationship between poverty reduction and environmental sustainability.

Elana Bulman is an undergraduate student at Eugene Lang College where she is majoring in Urban Studies.  As a student fellow, she will examine youth solutions to climate change in India using the “solutionary” method which focuses on developing initiatives that seek to actively create a positive future instead of taking a reactionary approach to environmental threats.

Elizabeth Catlin is an undergraduate student pursuing a Bachelors of Arts in Global Studies with a minor in gender studies at Eugene Lang College. Her purposed research project is to look at the issue of internal migration from rural to urban areas in China and how this relates to development in the country.

Bahar Tabakoglu is a PhD candidate in Sociology at the New School for Social Research.  She is working on a dissertation in which she is attempting to provide a comparative examination of Islamic labor unionism in Turkey and India.  This program will allow her to carry on her research in this field in India.

Anamaria Vrabie is a Fullbright fellow who is pursuing a Masters of Arts in International Affairs at the Graduate Program in International Affairs.  She is interested in using the opportunity afforded to her by the fellowship to research urban socio-spatial changes through looking at urban fragmentation and specialization of functions in Mumbai, Kolkata, and Ahmedabad and how correlate with the overall cultural policy in India.

Ford Foundation Fellowship: India China Knowledge and Capacity Building Initiative 2011

The deadline for this program has passed. 

Ford Foundation Fellowship: India China Knowledge and Capacity Building Initiative


The India-China Knowledge and Capacity Building Initiative (ICKCBI) links individuals and institutions in the pursuit of new scholarship, trilateral conversations, and nurtures a growing community of interest and investigation on international relations, culture, and interactions between India and China. ICKCBI’s objective is nothing short of surmounting the limitations of area studies to develop a unique trilateral vision that fosters cross-disciplinary perspectives and a collaborative approach to problem-solving.

To do this, ICKCBI, with the support of the Ford Foundation, will select fifteen exemplary scholars from the New School, Yunnan University, and the University of Calcutta to participate in a unique program. These scholars will come together in the summer of 2011 for one month in Kunming, China, and one month in Kolkata, India, to work collaboratively on research projects. With the help of institutions, professors, and business professionals in each location, student teams will investigate a topic of their choice and present their findings at an international conference at the end of the summer. Three alternate scholars from each institution will also be selected.


In order to be eligible to apply for this program, students must

– Be currently a full or part-time graduate student at the New School, Yunnan University, or the University of Kolkata.
– Have no incompletes.
– Have and maintain a GPA of 3.5 or higher.
– Write a two page personal statement declaring area of interest and motivation.
– Take the India China Interactions Course in the Spring of 2011.
– Take Research Methods before Summer 2011.
– Be open to challenges and working in a team!

Revised Timeline

Application Deadline: October 14, 2010
Applicant Interviews: November 11th-12th, 2010

Tentative Dates
India China Interactions Course: Spring 2011
Arrive in Kolkata, India: July 1-28 2011
Arrive in Kunming, China: July 28-August 27 2011
Program Ends at the end of August 2011

Fellows have the option to sign up for a 3 credit Independent Study course during the summer. Requirements for this course may differ from requirements for the Fellowship.

Application Requirements:

Please submit the following by October 14th:
– Your most recent CV
– Personal Statement of no more than 2 pages

Please direct questions and application materials towards indiachina@newschool.edu