AIIS Digital Scholarship Grants

The American Institute of Indian Studies is pleased to announce the launch of its Digital India Learning (DIL) initiative. In 2020 it invited proposals that demonstrate a sustained use of digital methodology and resources in the exploration of a research topic focused on India. AIIS welcomed projects at all stages of development, including pilots at a preliminary stage of conception, that foster the digital production and dissemination of knowledge about India; that promote the creation and use of digital resources and media for the study of India; and that promote digital collaboration across disciplines including, and especially, between the humanities, social sciences, and STEM fields. Award funds can be used to supplement current projects supported by other grants, but the budget should clearly explain what portion of the project will be supported by the AIIS award.  Award funds may not be used exclusively for hosting a conference or workshop, but convenings that are necessary to help advance a project are allowed if the purpose is explained in the narrative. Anticipated outcomes may include but are not limited to digital material and publications, reports, teaching resources, online exhibits, digital infrastructure, and software. Projects do not need to involve travel to India. Eligible applicants included faculty, as well as non-faculty professionals at institutions of higher education in the United States. Applicants from community colleges, Minority Serving Institutions, and institutions which do not have established South Asian studies programs were especially encouraged to apply. A proposal for a project could be submitted by one principal investigator applicant or a team of two or more principal investigators in collaboration.

In November 2020 AIIS announced the award of five grants for projects to be carried out in 2021

The grant recipients are:

Jessica Barnes (Northern Arizona University) and Amar Sawhney (Miami-Dade College)

Digital explorations of inequality and development for marginalized communities in India and the United States: A Proposal for Creating Interactive Virtual Field trips in Geography and Urban Built Classes

Urban planning can remake cities to promote development and sustainability, but planners need to understand the complexities of local contexts and critically examine how their interventions impact social justice. The project directors are creating a digital resource to produce and share interactive virtual field trips (iVFTs) exploring social development in informal and marginalized urban settlements. They will create and share iVFT case studies from Indian cities as a template for additional student-created case studies to be shared online. This dynamic crowdsourced resource will offer opportunities for comparative analysis, experiential learning, and building networks between students working towards social justice around the world.



Gil Ben-Herut (University of South Florida) and Jon Keune (Michigan State University)

Bhakti Virtual Archive (BHAVA)

The project aims  to finish building a free online resource—the Bhakti Virtual Archive (BHAVA)—for enhancing the study and teaching of diverse regional bhakti traditions and their many contributions to literature, social history, arts, culture, and religion in South Asia. At BHAVA’s core will be a database of over 5,000 bibliographic references, each of which is cataloged by a curator with relevant regional/linguistic expertise using a closed vocabulary that enmeshes all references within a single search matrix. BHAVA uses a digital humanities platform to convene a cohort of scholarly experts for the purposes of researching, teaching, and learning about South Asia. Our goals are intellectual as well as digital and collaborative.

Elizabeth Lhost (Dartmouth College)

Indian Princely States Online Legal History Archive (IP-SO-LHA)

In recent years, South Asian legal history has blossomed as a field and has sparked new understandings of state-society relations, British rule, secularism and religion, gender and the family, nationalism and decolonization. Already, digital and digitized resources have enhanced scholars’ access to law reports, journals, treatises, decisions, textbooks, and other legal references that until recently were difficult to access in physical formats. The Indian Princely States Online Legal History Archive (IPSOLHA) will expand these efforts by creating an accessible, online database of legal-historical materials from the Indian Princely States that collates and compiles references now dispersed across multiple collections and repositories.  

Deepthi Murali (George Mason University)

Visualizing the Interwoven World of Eighteenth-Century South Indian Textiles 

The project will collate and analyze more than 500 images and associated metadata of South Indian textiles from publicly accessible museum collections to produce a searchable aggregated database on these textiles. The project will also publish interpretive results on patterns of use, circulation routes of textiles and merchant communities, and centers of production. Digital output will include data visualization in the form of interactive maps, visual charts, blogs, and audio recordings. This is a pilot project for a larger born-digital project on the material histories of Indian Ocean World with a focus on South Asia.


Tyler Williams (University of Chicago)

The Afsana Project

The project (afsana meaning ‘tale’ in Hindi-Urdu) is a web-based, interactive fiction game in the Hindi language modeled on the ‘choose your own adventure’ style of book. Players direct the actions of characters in a fictional narrative set in seventeenth-century Mughal India, encountering famous authors, literary works, paintings, and pieces of architecture along the way. The game provides grammar and vocabulary support as well as historical and other contextual information to help players improve their reading and comprehension skills. Year one of the project will culminate in beta testing with the help of students and faculty at multiple universities


Grantees will carry out their projects in 2021. AIIS is endeavoring to create a collaborative community among the grantees, and to this end will be convening webinars both before and after the projects are carried out so that project directors can discuss their goals, methods, and plans to present and disseminate their results.