ICS-HYI Fellowship for China Studies – Apply Now


We are pleased to share some information from ICS and HYI about a new doctoral fellowship for Indian students they are offering. Applications are due by Feb 20th.

Applications are invited from Indian citizens for a multi-year doctoral fellowship in China Studies sponsored jointly by the Institute of Chinese Studies, Delhi (ICS) and the Harvard-Yenching Institute, Cambridge, Massachusetts (HYI). The Fellowship encompasses substantial support for developing language and pursuing research in India, China and Harvard. The applicants will be either already registered in a PhD programme in an Indian university or in the process of applying to a PhD programme in the social sciences or humanities including anthropology, archaeology, cultural studies, economics, geography, history, international relations, language and literature, legal history, philosophy, political sciences, religion, and sociology, and would have adopted a specific China focus in their studies.

More details about the HYI program and how to apply can be found on their website here.

Former ICI Fellow Mahendra Lama on the Fate of Darjeeling Tea


We are pleased to share a recent post from one of our former India China Fellows Mahendra Lama (2008-2010). In his latest article in the Kathmandu Post, “The Gradual Decay”, he discusses the past and current political dynamics of Darjeeling tea in India and the 1951 Tea Plantation Act.

Darjeeling tea gardens located in the core of the Eastern Himalayas are one of the oldest and most famous tea ventures in India. Darjeeling brand which adorned Harrods in England to Kinokuniya in Japan and Beijing-Frankfurt-Yangon-Chicago airports to Thamel in Kathmandu, consistently fetched the highest international price, earning millions of hard currency for India for more than 155 years. Today, this orthodox darling of connoisseurs is dithering and wavering even to survive. It is fatally sick with problems ranging from low yield to poor health of workers; steadily falling prices to fleeing management; old and fledgling tea bushes to competition from other sources including nearby districts of Nepal and falling production due to militancy among the workers. All these have not only dislocated thousands of workers but also brought about very visible social and political tensions in the region. Its decay is a classic case of mulching to death by the estate owners, governments and the trade unions.

You can read his full article here.

Journey to the Mumtaz Mahal

boyandtaj5:00 AM

The journey from New Delhi to the Mumtaz Mahal in Agra is at least five hours. With one pit-stop between those five hours, and early on in the trip, it was hard to sit in one place for that long, but the view made up for it. I’m not talking about views of great mountains and plains, I’m talking about the views of the settlements and villages that we weaved through, the great views of the real India, the living situation and lives of everyone outside the city.

Homes were made from the rubble of previous homes and homes out of straw and wood. There were plenty of them, lined up along both sides of the makeshift highway and construction as the central development project to connect Delhi to Agra took place. Homes were mixed in with markets and little stops for food, goods, and produce. Although their lives differed in the countryside, they lived just like anyone else. They found their own way of living and surviving. At first glance, one might be shocked and in awe of how such settlements thrive and survive, but looking on as the car drove by, one could sense the strength in the communities.


Everything and anything was used. Arches under bridges became shelter, homes, and businesses for food, barbers, and everything in between. The old collided with the new, there was no separation, bikes and carriages shared the road with cars and autos, animals roamed the street as freely as humans, even herds of cattle and goats stopped both sides of traffic and the honking seemed to have ceased for a moment. There was so much culture out here, in the countryside, in the rural parts of India, even more so than in the city. The city just seemed to be a concentrated version of what I saw.

What I saw on the way to the Mumtaz Mahal outweighed the beauty of the palace itself. I think that too often we forget how beautiful and simple life is that we focus too much on the artificial beauty of monuments and landmarks. You can’t compare the two as they exist in different realms of beauty, but the entire time I was at the Mumtaz Mahal, my mind was fixated on what I would see on the way back.

I’m reminded that there is so much beauty in life and simply in living.


Exploring The Sacred Art of Tibet


My ticket to New Delhi and Ladakh is booked, and I’m super excited. I will be in New Delhi for two weeks, and then will be going to Ladakh for two weeks, at the far north of India next to Tibet.

What I have been lately pondering about is the importance of actions for depicting particular ideas. It’s hard to think about ideas that are not manifested in the outer world and just live in someone’s mind. In terms of religion, is one’s beliefs manifested through prayer, performing rituals, and their actions revolving around the religious theme? If that so, what is then the role of the material dimension of religions such as relics, functional or nonfunctional objects, and sacred art?

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have a monolithic god and in the basis development of their religion is their holy text. Buddhism lacks personal or the creator God, and hence the relationship is not with the divine but with the self and the environment/others. My main question is how Buddhism’s religious groups and branches were sustained after the death of Buddha? What has been the role of sacred art in the process of spreading Buddhism? In the book “The Art of Buddhism: An Introduction to Its History and Meaning” by Denise Patry Leidy, I have been learning about tracking the architecture style, sculptures, and paintings back to when Buddhism was spread in the neighbor regions of northeastern India, from East Asia to Afghanistan and Persia.

What I do want to explore in this research, through reading books and going to the location, is to examine the role and importance of sacred art and rituals in the development and spread of Buddhism. If such things (sacred art) did not exist and came to being, would there still be such strong influence for Buddhism? Reading about the Buddhist ideas and how they actualize their ideas through performing rituals is the first step, and then by going to numerous different temples in New Delhi and Ladakh, I can feel the scale of this importance and necessity in sustaining their religious beliefs.

New School Features ICI Student Fellow Kate Wallace


We are excited to share news that one of our former ICI Student Fellows, Kate Wallace, was recently featured in a New School News piece about her work on child sex trafficking in India, which was supported in part by a Starr Foundation Student Travel and Research Grant. Here is a brief excerpt from the article:Kids1

There are myriad reasons for child disappearances, but there’s no mystery as to the primary culprits: human traffickers, criminals who deal in the trade of humans, most commonly for the purpose of sexual slavery, forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation.

Police action, coordinated at the local, national and international level, is a necessary tool in the fight against this “form of modern slavery,” as the Polaris Project has described it. Kate Wallace and Keiji Kimura (Design and Technology ’07) are taking a different approach to tackling this pressing issue, using game design to empower the children who are targets of human traffickers.

Wallace and Kimura are the creators of BeyondABC, a mobile application that teaches at-risk children in India survival skills to protect themselves against exploitation. With the support of a grant from New Challenge, The New School’s social innovation competition, as well as the nonprofit organizations Sewing New Futures and The Children’s Organization of Southeast Asia, the project is now full steam ahead.

You can read the whole New School News article here. You can read all about Kate’s travels and research in India as a Student Fellow here.

ICI Secures $722,000 Grant from Ford Foundation


The India China Institute (ICI) was recently awarded a $722,000 grant from the Ford Foundation to support the development of a new, multi-year project called the China-India Scholar-Leaders Initiative. The initiative will support up to 18 promising young scholar-leaders who are using interdisciplinary research methods to grapple with complex questions related to prosperity and inequality in India and China, and want to expand their knowledge and research capacities in this area.

The Scholar-Leaders Initiative breaks new ground with scholars in India, China and the United States,” said ICI Senior Director Ashok Gurung. “We are developing a one-of-a-kind fellowship experience focused on supporting critical, interdisciplinary approaches to studying prosperity and inequality in the world today involving both young and established scholars worldwide.

This project builds on several successful project of the India China Institute, including the India China Fellows program, the India China Knowledge and Capacity Building Initiative, and the Emerging Scholars Initiative. It also seeks to foster the emerging field of India China Studies by supporting a new generation of Scholar-Leaders who are committed to producing critical new research, teaching and course development. The initiative will build strategic partnerships among select universities and research institutes in India and China, such as Peking University and Jawaharlal Nehru University that are well positioned to sustain and advance India China studies. These efforts will be linked through the creation of new courses built around a common research and teaching agenda of Prosperity and Inequality in India and China. ICI will partner with The New School’s Global Studies program to host some of these courses, and a group of former ICI Fellows from India and China will be important partners in helping ICI to develop this new curriculum.

The initiative focuses on supporting scholars from underrepresented backgrounds (e.g., first-generation college graduates, women, ethnic minorities) and aims to ensure they have equal access and opportunities to participate in global academic networks. By focusing on the theme of prosperity and inequality in India and China, ICI aims to further advance its commitment to research, teaching, and policy engagement that advances a focus on social justice and sustainable development. ICI is well positioned to focus on the development of young scholars through the issue of prosperity and inequality. By building on this work, ICI aims to strengthen these new scholarly networks and support interdisciplinary research that can promote better critical scholarship on inequality and prosperity.

To learn more about this new initiative visit the China-India Scholar-Leaders Initiative.


Day Eleven and Day Twelve: ‘I Share Your Love’

IMG_3747 He was caught of guard — he was laughing and smiling right before this…I think we surprised him with the flash. Haaha (Peter, I know you’ll enjoy this one).

I am watching a clinic employee feed the fish in the pond downstairs as I type. Like I said, everything here is connected and holistic—parts all come together to make a whole, it is marvellous. Speaking of feeding, I have not ingest meat in 10 days, as I mentioned a few posts ago, I may return a vegetarian…one that eats seafood. Haaha.

I had a great meeting with the Directing Trustee yesterday and his advised me on an exciting idea for my final write-up. I am visiting a few local government hospitals meant for the treatment of survivors. Basically, I will be on the go all day, from one location to the other—I am doing six total. So I am thinking two per day for the next three days but we’ll see.

I will stop by the market and start collecting gifts seeing that my time in India is coming to a close. I fly off to Nepal next Saturday for another project.

I found out that Hitler imitated a Hindu religious symbol and turned it into his Aryan nation symbol?! Madness. I found that out this evening whilst shopping for gifts at a metal store. They all sorts of metal utensils in silver, copper, and brass. I also bought a few spices, tea, and raw mint that looks like ice crystals!

On our way back however, we saw a sad scene – a man on the side of the road bleeding with a crowd around him. It may have been from an accident or a fight or something else, either way, my heart ached upon viewing. Things can go from pleasant to unpleasant in a flash…guess it’s one of life’s mysteries that we may never understand.

I am coming down with a cold. I got wet in the rain a few days ago and now I have a sore throat, a slight runny nose, and I feel it coming on stronger. I am drinking a cup of tea at the moment and rubbed my chest/neck with Vick’s vapour rub, hopefully, by the morning, I’ll be feeling much better because there is lots to do.

Here are a few photos…I don’t have a camera so I get photos from others. I used to love 7Ups as a kid, hence my excitement at finding this one…”life is like lemons, squeeze the juice out”




Day Three: Morning Prayers and Bespoke Kurta

Day Three: Morning Prayers and Bespoke Kurta

 I drank caffeine last night at the soiree and was unable to sleep peacefully throughout the night—caffeine affects me, extremely. It’s four fifty-one in the morning and I cannot sleep and had an amazing idea so I leap from my bed and head straight to my laptop to jot it down. As I sit to write, the sound of prayer is vibrating through the air. Bhopal is a religiously conservative community and the visibility of it is everywhere. It is my first time hearing such potent and distinctive sounds—it’s a nice wake-up call!

Today, I will excavate information by going through the archives in the library that is dated back to the 1984 disaster. I am excited but also nervous as to what I will find—the atrocities and the injustice around this historic disaster, though, one cannot be afraid to make the implicit, explicit.

I also have plans today to go into the old market with Devender, who has become my guide and point person when I have questions. He has been at the clinic for quite some time and has access and knowledge of crucial information. In anthropology of the past, he would be considered my ‘ethnographic informer’, though, that term is dated. He is not ‘informing’ as it is typically used, rather, he is enlightening me on the history of the clinic, the history of the disaster, and how it lives in the present. He also has an extended knowledge of how the clinic works, what they do, and which personnel’s perform which task.  This afternoon, we will be going to the old market to buy fabric and return it to a local tailor to sew a few kurtas that fits me—my very own haberdasher! How charming!? It is advised we dress conservatively and preferably in traditional attire, henceforth our trip this afternoon.

As I sit at my desk reading and writing, I look out the window to the sight and sound of rain drops falling. It is my first rainfall here, and it is the rainy season so I expect many more showers of blessings. I will now take a break from my studies to enjoy the calming sound of the rain….The bounty and beauty of flowers and plants around the ground is breath-taking and it also reminds me of my grandmother’s house. There are rows and rows of hibiscus plants amongst other tropical flowers flourishing. There are aloe vera plants amongst other natural herbs that are utilized for medicine for the patients—this clinic is holistic in its practice and medical remedies. I will give a run-down of the various forms of medicine and traditional practices used here during my stay. I walked into the garden to cut myself flowers for my room, I am staying in one of the guests’ house. On my way to the garden, I noticed that patients are already lining up to seek medical attention, the clinic does not open until 8:30 am and it is now 7:30 am—amongst all this natural beauty there is suffering.

Day Two: Rickshaws, Indian Rum and Cattle, Yeehaw!

“I’m in India,” the reality sits in and not just India, but Bhopal, India. The site of the 1984 chemical disaster that lives on today. I arise from my horizontal state of lucid dreaming and into an upright posture of excitement and gratitude, with an internal thought: “What now?”

After I applied insect repellent, I decided to wander around—due to the difference in time zones, my sleep pattern is going through an alteration. As of now, I am not feeling like an ethnographer, someone who is far away from home, rather, I feel oddly at home, for now, the sights and sounds are familiar to me. I have spent time in the Caribbean and the rainforest of South America and certain things are the same world-wide, whilst others are drastically different.  Then it hits me, I am in the field—this is anthropology—this is ethnography…as I type these words, I am performing the tangible task of transcribing my field notes.



As I sit on the balcony compiling notes, the sound of prayers is vibrating through the air—Bhopal is a mixture of Islam, Hindu, and Christian teachings. Along with the sound of prayer, is the hustle and bustle of cars and mopeds honking, and the voices of a language I do not comprehend. I am sitting underneath a red brick canopy of towers and verandas and to the near distance is the luscious greens of trees and vegetation. Bhopal, as I can tell from within the compound, is a mixture of religion, culture and ethnicity—a conglomerate of humanness. It is humid, though there is a cool breeze, and all I want to do is take my shirt off but Bhopal is a conservative city and I am not fully aware of all the rules and regulations—and I have watched too many episodes of Locked Up Abroad to not take every precaution, haaha.

This morning, I met Sathyu, Aja, Tasheem, and Devender. These four are my point persons and will ensure that I have access to everything that I need to perform my tasks. There is a weekly two-hour meeting on Wednesdays and I will be introduced during the meeting, today (Wednesday). It is in Hindi, so after my short introduction, I will leave and get back to transferring my notes. Devender will be my translator and tour-guide (I found out that none of the patients speak English). Tomorrow, I will meet Shahnaaz, who will be my librarian/archive point person.

The meeting was interesting, men sat on one side and the women on the other. It is held in an open circular structure with a high cone-shaped roof/ceiling made of organic material, looks like straw but I am not sure—think Native American style. As I do not speak Hindi, sitting through the entire meeting would be unproductive.

Surprisingly, I am not jet-lagged! Oh shit, I lied—it’s kicking in. Woosah.

I attempt to take a nap but instead, after twenty minutes of cardio (skipping), I feel better. Right before I left the United States, I read an article on GQ.com about the best ways to recover from jet-lag and a gym workout post-flight is the remedy. The best piece of equipment one can travel with to ensure daily exercise is a jump/skip rope—the perfect 15 – 20 minute cardio workout, get your heart flowing and freshly oxygenated blood moving.

Devendra knocks on my door to take me to the supermarket, when we get downstairs there is a motorcycle awaiting us, to my dismay! I have not been on a motorcycle since the age of fifteen with my boyhood friend Liam Mitchell and I was filled with terror and I have since dared getting back on one. Motorcycles are everywhere on the roads of Bhopal—maybe more than people, vehicles, and or cows. Yes, cows. Life is all intertwined here in Bhopal and one cannot tell where animal, human, and machine start and or begin, it’s an urban symbiotic conglomerate. I hopped on like a pro and held on for dear life—there is no manner to traffic it seems, but I have a feeling it is organized chaos. For an outsider it may seem manic and out-of-control, however, with the ease and know-how of the locals, there seems to be rules and regulations for navigating the streets of ‘old’ Bhopal—apparently ‘new’ Bhopal is different. It has been a while since I have felt like the ‘outsider’ or the ‘foreigner’ in a place—but I am soaking it all in!

I was invited to an all-male hangout out tonight before dinner with a few colleagues. Men and women are highly segregated in daily activities in Bhopal. As I mentioned, it is very conservative and consequently religious. On the walk back to the compound Dev asks “Are you religious?” I replied, “No” and I followed up with, “Are you?” He responds “No” but that “Everyone in India is religious—either Hindu, Islam, Buddhist…” and he listed a few others. Can one then say because of this religious conservatism, many of India’s problems remain?

The soiree was fun. We talked about Barack Obama, the recent earthquakes to hit Nepal and India, Darjeeling Tea, and the contrast between New York City and Bhopal. I had a taste of a few Indian snacks, Indian rum, and Indian cigarette—it was very National Geographic Explorer meets Anthony Bourdain and I loved it!  It is funny, because I have not been on the back of a motorcycle since I was fifteen and in one day, miles away from home, I have done it twice within a four-hour period. The ritual of sitting on the floor together, crossed legged, in a circle, surrounded by the sounds of laughter, the touch of compassion, the kindness of sharing, and the look of caring warmed my heart—all of which happened during the Hindu-English dialogue. Language may be a barrier between human beings but the core values that we share remain the same, the soul speaks the same language and when the heart vibrates at the same pace, one thing is possible, a charming time! As an anthropologist, the ritual of socialising stimulated every part of my intellectual gamut; as a philosopher, what made all the difference was the words of one of the gentlemen at the soiree, he looks over to me and says, “Good food, good drink, good friends.”






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