American Institute of Indian Studies

AIIS 2012 Junior Fellows Conference

On January 2nd and 3rd, 2012, twelve AIIS Junior Fellows (including a bumper crop of historians and anthropologists and a political scientist; see participant list below) left their research sites, ranging from sometimes-dusty archives in Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Chennai, and Delhi, to sometimes-dusty villages in rural Jharkhand, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh, to come to the Institute’s (sometimes foggy) conference center in Gurgaon to present a roughly mid-term report on their experiences, successes, and challenges in dissertation fieldwork. In meetings spaced over two very full days, but with ample time for informal conversation (over tea, and the sumptuous meals for which the AIIS kitchen is famous), each fellow had roughly half an hour for a short presentation followed by lively discussion with other researchers and the senior scholars in attendance. In addition to AIIS officers John Echeverri-Gent (University of Virginia, Political Science), Naseem Hines (Harvard, South Asian Studies), Philip Lutgendorf (University of Iowa, Asian & Slavic Languages & Literatures), and Martha Selby (University of Texas, Asian Studies),who were in India for other work, AIIS senior fellow Will Glover (University of Michigan, History and Architecture) and former fellow Jack Hawley (Columbia University, Religious Studies) generously gave of their time to offer feedback on the excellent presentations. The Fellows were stimulated by the input and camaraderie of their peers, and happily exchanged e-mail and Facebook addresses and mobile numbers.

Participating Junior Fellows, Projects, and Institutional Affiliations:

Emilia Bachrach (University of Texas, Austin, Asian Studies), “The Living Tradition of Hagiography in the Vallabh Sect of Contemporary Gujarat,” Gujarat University, Ahmedabad

Debjani Bhattacharyya (Emory, History), “Marginal Itineraries: Spatial History of Mid-Twentieth Century Calcutta,” Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata

Uday Chandra (Yale, Political Science), “Negotiating Leviathan: Rulers, Civilizers, and Subjects in Chotanagpur, 1854-2010,” Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata

Divya Cherian (Columbia University, History), “Caste and the Politics of Locality: Statecraft, Ideology, and Hierarchy in Early Modern Marwar, ca. 1500-1818,” Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

Shefali Jha (University of Chicago, Anthropology), “Minority Politics and the Question of Identity: The Majlis-e-Ittehad ul Muslimeen of Hyderabad,” English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad

Andrew Liu (Columbia, History), “The Curious Institution of the Tea Garden: A Comparative Study of the Mobilization of Agrarian Labor in Northeast India and South China in the 19th and 20th Centuries,” Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata

Andrew McDowell (Harvard, Social Anthropology), “Propagating Prevention: Rural Rajasthani Perspectives on TB and TB Care,” University of Rajasthan, Jaipur

Atreyee Majumder (Yale, Anthropology), “Peri-Urban Citizenship: Political Aspiration and Conduct in Howrah, West Bengal,” Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata

Benjamin Siegel (Harvard, History), “Building Indian Agriculture: 1947-1971,” Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi.

Vikramaditya Thakur (Yale, Anthropology), “Unintended Mobility: Life Reconfigured after Forced Relocation in Western India,” University of Pune

Sundara Vadlamudi (University of Texas, Austin, History), “Mercantile Activities of Marakkayar Muslims in South India, Ca. 1800-1947,” Roja Muthiah Research Library, Chennai

Hollian Wint (New York University, History), “Indian Ocean Credit Networks and East African Society, ca. 1840-1914,” Gujarat University, Ahmedabad

Quotes from participants:

“A big round of thanks to everyone at AIIS for organising the JFC. I found it extremely helpful, because an event like this made me get out of the details I was embroiled in the archives and take a step back and organise my material, read and think through my material and go back and read my proposal and see how I might use the material to make the arguments I am making. It also revealed to me the gaps in the material I have collected. Finally, it was great to meet the other fellows and find out about their work and get their feedback. This event made me feel there is a community out there, since archive work can be very lonely, so the after conference discussions with other fellows were great and something I am looking forward to.” Debjani Bhattacharyya

“First of all, thank you so much for that really warm reception in Delhi. Although it was too early in my research to contribute productively to the meeting, I’m really glad I attended and had the opportunity to meet all the others and hear about their research. I think the best part of it for me was the collegiality and

the enormously productive exchange of ideas, questions and suggestions that you facilitated. The arrangements were fantastic, and I have to confess I fell in love with the building. Most impressive of all, perhaps because it was something I didn’t know AIIS was involved in at this scale, was the ethnomusicology archive and the facilities available there- made me wish I were doing research connected with it in some way. Well, perhaps I will some day! Anyway, I hope you have a great year ahead- thanks once again for arranging the conference and being such great hosts. I look forward to meeting you again soon!” Shefali Jha

“It is of course a pleasure to be able to pass on heartfelt words about a very enjoyable two days. It is too often the case that working on one’s dissertation research feels like a solitary, lonely journey. There are few nicer feelings than when that journey is punctuated by the opportunity to step back, think about and then explain one’s work. And there are fewer opportunities, still, that rival ones like the AIIS Junior Fellows conference earlier this week, when one can also hear what one’s peers own journeys look like, the challenges they are facing, and the discoveries they have made. I look forward to continuing conversations with other Junior Fellows as our work progresses and we find ourselves (fingers crossed) younger academics who are challenging each other and pushing our respective fields forward. Looking forward to seeing you again soon; thank you for all your efforts this week and at all other times!” Ben Siegel

“I would like to thank AIIS for organizing the two day conference for the Junior fellows. It couldn’t have come at a better moment since I have finished a third of my research period in India. The questions and suggestions from the other junior fellows and the senior fellows had given me new ideas, both in seeking new sources and in interpreting the information that I have already collected. Listening to other junior fellows about their research experiences and interacting with them on the sidelines certainly created lots of positive energy that we all could take back to our research venues! In addition, Dr. Vandana indicated that she can introduce me to Archaeological Survey of India staff who might help me to access the temple records in Tamil Nadu. All in all a very useful trip and experience.” Sundar Vadlamudi

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