Outline of a world map

Provost's Global Faculty Awards

2023-24 Delhi Recipients

Academic Events

Energy History and Environmental Crisis

PIs: Dipesh Chakrabarty, Elizabeth Chatterjee, Department of History

India today is facing an unprecedented array of environmental challenges, from climate vulnerability to rapidly depleting groundwater reserves. The country’s energy sector lies at the heart of many of these problems. Coal-fired power plants still produce the largest share of the country’s electricity and carbon emissions, even as the country makes major strides forward in renewable energy. While most analyses focus on the twenty-first century symptoms of this crisis, understanding the powerful forces that lock carbon dependency in place requires analyzing the longer history of India’s key energy institutions and infrastructures. We propose to host a one-day workshop on “Energy History and Environmental Crisis” at the University of Chicago’s Center in Delhi in late autumn 2023, bringing together environmental historians and contemporary policy analysts to explore these deeper historical roots. Ultimately, a select subset of these papers will feed into a broader edited volume, Fossil Capitalism in the Global South, surveying the history and politics of energy developments across the postcolonial world.

Exploring Partnerships on Novel Battery Technologies Towards a More Sustainable Energy Supply

PI: Shrayesh Patel, Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering

As India moves away from fossil fuels and increases utilization of renewable energy, batteries will have a vital role to play in enabling this transition. Here, we propose leverage our strength in battery research in the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) and our partner institution at Argonne National Lab (ANL) to initiate a new strategic collaboration with major Indian universities and research institutes. Prof. Satishchandra Ogale, Director, Research Institute for Sustainable Energy (RISE), TCG-CREST, Kolkata, India will be our partner in India to help facilitate the interactions for the workshop to be held at UChicago Delhi. Through this workshop, we hope to initiate projects in collaboration with Indian scientists and engineers that build upon battery research and development that are of mutual interest. Lastly, we would also like to connect better to the top IITs in India and make engineering and science students aware of the opportunities that the PME has to offer.

Global Capitalisms

PIs: Kaushik Sunder Rajan, Department of Anthropology; Lisa Wedeen, Department of Political Science

Partner Organization(s): Forum on Contemporary Theory, Baroda

This is a proposal to co-organize a conference in Alleppey, Kerala, by the Chicago Center for Contemporary Theory (3CT), University of Chicago, in collaboration with the Forum on Contemporary Theory, Baroda, on the theme of “Global Capitalisms”. The conference will be held December 18-20, 2023. The theorization of capitalism has been fundamental to understanding the relationships between economy, society, and politics, at least since the eighteenth century. We aim to revisit and reinvigorate this theoretical project at a world-historical conjuncture that marked by multiple crises of capitalism, the emergence of Southern economies such as India’s as major global players, and the challenges these present for contemporary politics. Topics covered in the conference will include: the relationship between capitalism and affect; financialization and its global manifestations and implications; histories of mercantile culture and empire and their enduring postcolonial residues; urbanization; the reconstitution of class; relations between capitalism and kinship, including in relation to histories of migration and diaspora; corporatism and racialized monopoly capitalism; practices of global extractive enterprise; and old and new forms of international solidarity-making such as the rise and fall of leftist political movements. Collaborating with the Forum, which has been a key venue for critical theory conversations in India for over three decades, will allow generative cross-fertilizations between Chicago and India-based scholars. We will additionally invite scholars of global capitalism from Europe, Africa, South America and the Middle East to provide a truly global scope to the conversations. We will use this as an opportunity to exchange research, but also have reading groups, film screenings, and discussions on developing curricula around the topic.

Joint Workshop on Spectrum and Telecommunications Policy and Technology for Future Wireless Systems

PIs: Monisha Ghosh, Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering; Joshua Macey, Law School

Partner Organization(s): Indian Institute of Technology, University of Queensland, IIT Delhi Academy of Research, Telecommunications Standards Development Society

US and India have recently signed an implementation agreement to collaborate closely on several critical technologies, including advanced wireless [1]. In order to strengthen relationships between the two countries, we propose conducting a 1.5 day workshop on the subject of “Spectrum and Telecommunications Policy and Technology for Future Wireless Systems”, bringing together a multi-disciplinary team of expert technologists, researchers, policy experts and industry stakeholders from both countries to discuss future needs of broadband connectivity. The primary desired outcomes are (i) to exchange expertise on spectrum policy and technology directions in both countries to develop the next generation of wireless systems, both cellular and Wi-Fi, (ii) build collaborations between UChicago researchers, Indian academics and industry and prepare for future joint research funding calls, and (iii) examine how emerging technologies from both countries can address the common problem of bridging the digital divide. This event will leverage the enormous surge of interest and activity in India and the US in deploying 5G today and preparing for 6G in the future. We propose that the workshop be held at the UChicago Delhi Center. Approximately three participants from the University of Chicago will travel to Delhi for the workshop. We anticipate ~ 25 Indian participants, representing stakeholders in wireless and telecommunications from government, industry and academia. We plan to conduct this workshop in co-ordination with the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi and the Telecom Standards Development Society of India (TSDSI). In addition we plan to involve the Indian Government’s Center for Development of Telematics (CDOT), several other IITs and the Indian Institute of Science. PI Ghosh has strong on-going connections with these organizations and is on the CDOT advisory board. Our Indian co-organizers and points of contact will be Professor Rajeev Shorey (IIT Delhi) and Ms. Pamela Kumar (Director General, TSDSI).

Novel Strategies for Hemorrhage Control: The Hybrid Operating Room in India and the United States

PIs: Jennifer Cone, Priya Prakash, Department of Surgery; Osman Ahmed, Divya Kumar, Department of Radiology

Partner Organization(s): Jai Prakash Narayan Apex Trauma Center

Hemorrhage control remains a global priority for patients that have sustained trauma.  Last year, our group obtained a pilot Provost Global Faculty grant to establish a relationship with Jai Prakash Narayan Apex Trauma Center (JPNATC), which is the busiest trauma center in India.  We held a 2 day workshop with our Indian colleagues to mutually understand the trauma systems in India and the United States and better understand challenges and strengths in starting trauma programs in under-resourced or novel environments.  One area of interest for both groups, which included Trauma Surgeons as well as Interventional Radiologists, was the development of a hybrid operating room, which enables both Surgeons and Interventionalists to simultaneously work on patients.  The JPNATC team was able to secure funding and institutional support for this progressive initiative at their hospital.  We seek to hold a follow-up workshop to better understand the implementation and use of the hybrid operating room.  We plan on applying this knowledge towards the creation of a hybrid operating room at University of Chicago.  We will continue to partner with JPNATC to study patient outcomes and training protocols with this innovative approach to hemorrhage control.

Supporting South Asian Youth: New Directions in Well-Being

PIs: Seeba Anam, Royce Lee, Tina Drossos, Department of Psychiatry

Partner Organization(s): King Edward Memorial Hospital Research Center, University of Illinois at Chicago

This proposal aims to host a phase two conference at the University of Chicago Center in Delhi highlighting the findings of the PGFA funded study conducted during the pandemic era, elicit feedback via a summit uniting University of Chicago faculty with South Asian interdisciplinary experts in mental health, and seek to expand collaborative partnerships for future research and training endeavors. This proposal aims to disseminate findings of our needs assessment study focused on challenges and resiliency factors related to adolescent mental health in the context of COVID-19. The data will be shared with a wider audience, with the goals of advancing bidirectional knowledge and obtaining feedback from local clinical, public health, academic, and policy experts to better inform an understanding of the mental health landscape and shape future directions to promote mental health in South Asian families. Lastly, the conference will serve as a summit to convene faculty from University of Chicago with leaders from South Asian peer academic institutions, public health experts, health focused community organizations, and key government officials for a series of round table discussions to identify future directions and potential collaborative partners focused on mental health domains of clinical practice, research, and education and training.

Translating for America, Reading the World

PI: Jason Grunebaum, Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations

"Translating for America, Reading the World" will be a four-day summit held at the UChicago Center in Delhi that will bring together publishers from the US and India, practicing literary translators, and students of literary translation from Ashoka University with the goal of making South Asian literature in translation more visible in the western Anglosphere.

Publishers from the US and India who share a common interest in works of literary translation will take part in a roundtable that will map current barriers to access to US Markets for works of SA literature in translation, discuss case studies of what has worked, what has failed, and why.

UChicago translation faculty and distinguished UChicago alum will lead small translation workshops with Ashoka University students, drawing particular attention to the different needs of Anglophone audiences outside the Subcontinent. Students will craft book pitches with input from the faculty and present the pitches to both sets of publishers, and give a public reading of their works in progress.

The summit will serve as the public launch of the five-year, UChicago-led South Asian Literature in Translation (SALT) project, and signal the project's initial focus on translator training and book acquisition: the first two links in the chain that must be supported in order for the entire translation ecosystem of South Asian literature to be sustainably nourished.

Exploratory Trips

Regional Conversations: Mental Health in South Asia

PI: Seeba Anam, Department of Psychiatry

This proposal aims to expand the understanding of adolescent mental health needs in South Asia, by facilitating knowledge exchange with key stakeholders and partner institutions in India and Bangladesh. A series of exploratory visits with targeted leaders at peer academic institutions, medical schools, mental health related organizations, public health and community-based organizations would allow for development of key partnerships in regions of interest. Exploratory visits are critical to the deeper understanding of diverse mental health needs, in part due to regional variation in potential risk and resiliency factors germane to distinct South Asian regions. The regional variability in structural vulnerability to factors such as climate change, COVID-19 pandemic disruption in school closures, social and cultural norms related to mental health care seeking have contributed to differential expressions and rates of anxiety, depression, trauma and related sequelae. The overarching outcome of this proposal extend an existing research initiative to cultivate an interdisciplinary training and research network dedicated to mental health in South Asian communities.

Strategic Partnership: Collegium-Delhi Center

PIs: Elspeth Carruthers, Tara Zahra, Dieter Roelstraete, Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society

The Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society incubates interdisciplinary research collaboration at the University of Chicago. Unique among research incubators the Collegium houses an exhibition gallery and integrates the visual and performance arts into larger research inquiry.

The Collegium’s leadership team (Director Tara Zahra, Executive Director Elspeth Carruthers, Curator Dieter Roelstraete) proposes an 8-day exploratory trip in FY24 to the Delhi Center to assess the physical site, to build institutional relationships with the Delhi Center team and their partners, and, to foster local connections for current and future research projects, as well as related arts partnerships. The Collegium leadership team would also meet with the RAQS Media Collective, an internationally renowned group of artists based in Delh,i to discuss a possible exhibition as part of the Collegium’s 3-year Reimagining Cosmopolitanism project (Dipesh Chakrabarty and Lisa Wedeen). Depending on this conversation, the plan could be for an exhibition in Chicago, or Delhi, or both.

Nearing a decade of research activity, the Neubauer Collegium was originally envisioned as the global center on campus. Although the Collegium has supported many research projects to date that also received support from the Delhi Center, the partnership has been accidental rather than deliberate. The timing is right to find ways to amplify the informal research partnerships between Delhi and the Collegium that have been percolating over the years, and to develop a plan for fulfilling the original vision for establishing a thriving UChicago research circuit among the global centers. Such a circuit would further advance collaborative interdisciplinary research by the University on a global scale. The outputs/deliverables of the arts and research partnerships would include exhibitions, performances, conferences, workshops, and publications connected to research projects sponsored by the Neubauer Collegium, as well as to projects cosponsored by the Neubauer Collegium and the Delhi Center.

Planning Meetings

Strengthening Community Engagement Through University-Civil Society Collaboration in Post-COVID Urban India

PI: Robert Chaskin, Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice

Partner Organization(s): Tata Institute of Social Sciences

The COVID-19 pandemic severely disrupted economic and social life for the urban poor in India, and has created significant challenges for the civil society organizations that work with and on their behalf. These organizations were forced to pivot quickly to focus on immediate relief, and now must reorient their work to meet increased demands for their support in the context of increased need, retrenched funding, and a changed economic and political landscape that strains their capacity and constrains their options. As the country emerges from the pandemic, they are taking stock of its impacts on the urban poor, and re-working strategies and priorities. This proposal seeks support for a first-phase planning process to understand the specific nature of challenges that they have faced, their current orientations to addressing these challenges, and the resources and capacities they need to sustaining and evolve their work in order to respond to their current challenges. The findings that emerge and relationships built through this planning process, will lay the foundation for a longer-term university-commuity partnership that aims to strengthen the response of these organizations to the critical issues confronting communities in this post-pandemic period.

Working Group: Cambridge History of Indian Literature

PI: Whitney Cox, Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations

Partner Organization(s): Cambridge University Press

The proposed working group will be the first of two meetings in the 2023-24 academic year to bring together contributors to the forthcoming History of Indian Literature, coedited by Whitney Cox and Francesca Orsini (Prof. emerita, SOAS, University of London), which is under contract with Cambridge University Press. We will meet with India-based partners/contributors to discuss precirculated chapter drafts both collectively and in small breakout groups, with the aim to have peer-to-peer collaboration and editorial feedback for the individual contributions and in order to identify themes at the level of the volume's individual sections and as a whole. The format for this meeting will be replicated at an event on the Hyde Park campus in the spring of 2024. Given both the international composition of the contributors, the very diverse materials that will be included in the volume, and their temporal range (from the earliest times up the the contemporary), these meetings will be absolutely essential to forging an intellectual consensus among the contributions, and making the project genuinely collaborative.

Public Events

Mrinal Sen Birth Centenary: Film Retrospective and Conference

PIs: Rochona Majumdar, Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations; Daniel Morgan, Department of Cinema and Media Studies

May 14 2023 is the birth centenary of Mrinal Sen, the renowned Indian filmmaker whose Hindi feature film Bhuvan Shome (1969) marked the beginning of the Indian New Wave. Beginning in 1953 with Neel Akasher Neechey (Under the Blue Sky), Sen made 27 feature films, 14 short films, and 4 documentaries. He was also the author of several books on film in Bengali and English. In light of this anniversary are applying for funding to host a three day film retrospective and conference on Mrinal Sen at the University of Chicago in Fall 2023 to mark his birth centenary.  Mrinal Sen was contemporaries with Satyajit Ray (1921-1992) and Ritiwk Ghatak (1925-1976) as the three major filmmakers who were part of the rebirth of a new and radical Indian cinema. The Ray centenary occasioned a number of conferences and symposia on multiple campuses in the United States and India. Yet we did not organize anything on campus, not least due to Covid related restrictions. Because of this, over the next three years we would like to mark the Sen and Ghatak centenaries, thereby emphasizing the importance of this period of Indian cinema while also inaugurating a set of conversations on global art film and transnational filmic avant gardes. Our Sen conference will be the first of these events.

Research Projects

Building a Legal Vertical on the "Data for India" Platform

PI: Anup Malani, Law School

Partner Organization(s): Data for India

India has a remarkable supply of public data, but it is hidden away in hard-to-access databases only domain experts know how to navigate. Easy access to these data, and user-controlled tools to digest it, will go a long way in establishing some common foundational truths about the state of the country and its people. Our long-term project is to create a database and website modeled on Our World in Data that collates this public data and presents it in a visual format.  We will call it “Data for India”.  For the casual reader, the platform will be a clean, easy-to-navigate website with 8-10 topic areas to begin with, such as health, legal justice, climate change, demographic change, etc.  For the more academically-inclined user, including the growing audience of social science students, as well as data-minded people in academia, the site will additionally make accessing the cleaned, organized underlying data barrier-free.  Finally, a clean and pretty charting tool will allow readers to see the data in charts alongside written explainers.

Data: Its Collection, Curation, and Communication for Water Pollution

PI: Supratik Guha, Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering

Partner Organization(s): IIT Roorkee, Data.org

Our objective is to expand Indian research interactions and build upon the extensive work completed by our project, ‘Water-to-Cloud (W2C)’ between 2016-2020, and 2022 - present, developing a geospatial network for water sensing in Indian rivers. Through boat operations in India’s major rivers and tributaries, W2C collects time-stamped, geospatial water quality data in an effort to pinpoint sources of water pollution and map the spread of water pollution. More recently, alongside collecting new data, W2C digitizes (focusing on machine readability) and aggregates existing public data mainly from state pollution control boards and irrigation departments. Our project had to cease during the pandemic, and we are in the process of reinstating and expanding the research in the direction of data curation. With the proposed funding we hope to be able to accomplish this. We have already begun studies and an initial pilot program in the Uttarakhand region. With the funding and additional research, we hope to be able to tap into emerging funding calls for joint UChicago research with Indian scientists. This is in-line with US and India’s recent moved towards closer collaborations in critical areas. We will build a web portal to visualize W2C collected data alongside publicly available data (drainage information, industrial zones, locations of sewage / water treatment plants, etc.) to better understand and communicate water pollution. We have started with Uttarakhand. Our second goal is to conduct a workshop in the Fall of 2023 to bring together stakeholders in the water space in India and US (government stakeholders, researchers, NGOs, and industry).

Effects of climate change on Himalayan biodiversity

PI: Trevor Price, Department of Ecology and Evolution

Partner Organization(s): G.B. Pant National Institute of the Himalayan Environment, Wildlife Institute of India

The goal of this project is to further our understanding of the impacts of climate change on biodiversity, in a particularly sensitive area of the world (the western trans-Himalaya). The region depends on winter snow for its precipitation. Reduced precipitation and high glacier melt have resulted in this becoming one of the places in the world most affected by climate change. We have little assessment of the long-term consequences this will have for biodiversity. Our project comes with three components to address this gap in our knowledge. First, we will conduct a workshop at the University of Chicago’s Center in Delhi attended by early career researchers from both India and Chicago to highlight what is (and isn’t) known. Second the PI will undertake a week-long visit to the University of Ladakh to develop outreach and collaborations with faculty and students. Third, two students (one Indian, one from Chicago) under the supervision of the PI and Dr. Suresh Rana from the GB Pant National Institute of Himalayan Environment will begin field studies on consequences of climate change for the most economically important tree in the region, birch Betula utilis. The research will involve an assessment of birch growth at lower and higher elevations, couched in the framework of a drying, warming environment.

The Conch and Its Communities: Climate Change and the History of a Hindu Sacred Object in Bengal

PI: Dipesh Chakrabarty, Department of History

Partner Organization(s): Presidency University

Conches have long been held as most sacred objects by Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains and extolled in their scriptures. In Bengal, the object is especially consecrated. Among all castes, perforated conches are ritually sounded every dusk in Hindu Bengali homes, and married Bengali women customarily wear a pair of conch-bangles. In both these uses, the conch is believed to protect Hindu homes and their bearers from all possible evil forces. These artifacts with an ancient life under the sea are thus natural prototypes of security, connecting the home to notions of a protected natural and cultural pasts. These centuries-old practices in Bengal remained, till recently, the proxy-evidence of the stability in the production and consumption cycle of conches. Yet, conch-life is now itself becoming an increasingly vulnerable existence, owing to changing conditions of the sea, its rising temperatures, frequent natural disasters, and so on; conditions which are being attributed to climate change by both scientists and affected communities. Mounting sea-temperatures are causing rapid water acidification, which directly affects the capacity of shelled invertebrate animals, including the Indian domestic conch (turbinella pyrum), to secrete calcium carbonate, essential for the production of their protective outer shells. Along with practices of over-fishing for cultural use, the growing inability of mollusks to produce their shell-shields negatively impacts their chances of survival. Two diametric scales of conch history—natural and cultural—are thus coalescing in an unprecedented manner through recently felt imbalances in the physical supply and social demand for conches. While the impact of climate change on culture is itself a bourgeoning field of inquiry, its relationship with the future of religion and ritual is wanting, and this project aims to understand how everyday Bengali religious-cultural lives could be endangered by planetary forces unleashed by anthropogenic climate change. It thus seeks to bring together cultural and planetary histories. 

The Hindoo/Presidency College: A Global History

PI: Rochona Majumdar, Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations

Partner Organization(s): Presidency University

The project, ‘Hindu/Presidency College: A Global History’ began in 2020 with Rochona Majumdar as the principal investigator, and Upal Chakrabarti and Sukanya Sarbadhikary (Presidency University) as co-investigators. The project has received funding from the UChicago Center in Delhi in the past. We are pleased to report that it has already had considerable impact as an endeavor in public history. The latter is, as such, rare in South Asia. We are applying for a last round of funding to the UChicago Center in New Delhi to accomplish three objectives that will bring this project to a successful completion. They are 1. Workshop: Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the group that we assembled to contribute to a volume inspired by the digital archives we have assembled was able to meet in-person only once in three years. Now that the volume we proposed is under contract with Cambridge University Press we intend to have a final workshop in which participants will be requested to pre-circulate their completed papers (7000 words) 2. Hire a research assistant for six months. 3.  Due to the difficulty in scheduling visa appointments (ostensibly due to pandemic-induced delays), co-investigators Sukanya Sarbadhikary and Upal Chakrabarti could not visit the University of Chicago in the past three years. Their visit is now scheduled for October 2023 after Sarbadhikary’s visa interview on September 10, 2023. We need funds for their accommodation and travel. This visit will enable important meetings for the editorial work on the book. In addition, we want to present the digital archives at a public event on campus. During Sarbardhikary and Chakrabarty’s visit, we hope to organize meetings with the Regenstein library and the South Asia Open Archives to start the process of housing the digital archives in sites in the US.

W.E.B. Du Bois in Hindi Translation

PIs: Jennifer Pitts, Adom Getachew, Department of Political Science; Tyler Williams, Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations

Partner Organization(s): Centre for the Study of Developing Societies

This project intends to translate and publish selected writings of W. E. B. Du Bois into Hindi. The purpose is make available to a wide Hindi-reading public the writings of one of the most prominent theorists of race and empire, and critics of inequality, of the twentieth century. Given that subaltern thinkers of India have often identified with the struggles of Black peoples of the world and given that debates have raged on around whether race and caste can be put within the same framework of analysis, it is important that people in India, especially those involved in Dalit struggles, be given the opportunity to read in original the writings of leading race theorists of our times. Without doing so, the controversy around race, caste and possible continuities between the two cannot resolved in any productive way. This project is a small beginning in that direction, and seeks to translate some select writings of Du Bois, and publish them with a translated introduction by Du Bois experts and a preface written in Hindi explaining Du Bois’s relevance to the Indian public. This project thus constitutes a step towards the development of a library of decolonial insurgent philosophers for our times.

Training Initiatives

Disability Inclusive Compassionate Care 2.0 -  Making Rights Real: Training of the Trainers to teach Disability Competencies in Universities in India & the US

PIs: Kamala Cotts, Brian Callender, Wei Wei Lee, Aniruddha Hazra, Department of Medicine; Michele Friedner, Department of Comparative Human Development ​​​​

Partner Organization(s): UCMS - Delhi

Medical curricula in India and USA lacked content on teaching about disabilities until recently. In India this change was initiated by the University of Chicago (UC) through a project titled Disability Inclusive Compassionate Care (DICC)  in 2018-19 which framed disability competencies and incorporated them into the National Medical Education Curriculum. Meanwhile, there has been progress in the USA towards making medical education disability inclusive. However, there has been little effort across the two countries since, towards implementation. Hence, the proposed project will aim to train a cohort of health professional educators (HPE) on teaching the disability competencies. In this, humanities-based methods hold promise as it builds on the expertise in this domain across the UC-India team. Four teaching-learning methods (TLM)  will be used in parallel: Theater of the Oppressed, poetry, graphic medicine and disability ethics. The HPE will then be expected to pilot these TLM in their respective schools. A dissemination event will allow sharing experiences of piloting and best practices from UC in disability teaching. The project will create a cohort of health professional educators equipped to teach disability competencies as well as video recordings and a written guide will be made freely available.