The creation of the new School of Arts and Sciences building by Rahul Mehrotra Architects is well underway, and will be completed by Summer 2019. In July 2018, we welcomed a new intake to the integrated Masters programme in Life Sciences. We are designing programmes across the five divisions of the School, and in Summer 2019 will start new degree programmes for Undergraduate students in Economics, History, Philosophy, History and Languages (PHL), Physics, and Social and Political Sciences (SPS).
The School of Arts and Sciences at Ahmedabad University has appointed Maya Jasanoff as a Visiting Professor in the Humanities and Languages division. Jasanoff is the Coolidge Professor of History at Harvard University in the U. S. A., a post she continues to hold while taking on this assignment at Ahmedabad between 2019 – 2022.
An acclaimed "method historian" who believes in following in the footsteps of the characters she writes about, Jasanoff sailed across the Indian Ocean in a container ship and travelled on a barge down the Congo River for her much talked-about recent book, The Dawn Watch: Joseph Conrad in a Global World. Her three award-winning works explore different aspects of imperialism and globalisation. The Dawn Watch won the prestigious Cundill History Prize in 2018, which is administered by McGill University and awarded annually to a book that embodies historical scholarship, originality and literary quality.
"It's tremendously exciting to be involved at the ground level of an ambitious new institution dedicated to the liberal arts," Jasanoff says of the appointment. She is "particularly eager to spend time in Ahmedabad given its unique economic, social, and political history." While at Ahmedabad, Jasanoff plans to continue her study of Hindi, as well as her latest research into the role of ancestry in human history, tracking the way humans have sorted and separated themselves by kinship and descent for millennia.
"India is an important site for this project for lots of reasons, including a personal one, namely my own Bengali ancestry," says Jasanoff, whose mother was born in Kolkata. Teaching in India has "tremendous personal significance", since Jasanoff’s grandmother taught economics in Varanasi in the 1930s. India has figured prominently in her work already. Her first book, Edge of Empire: Lives, Culture, and Conquest in the East, 1750-1850—which won the Duff Cooper Prize and was selected by several publications as their book of the year in 2005—followed the lives of art collectors on the frontiers of the British Empire in India and Egypt. Her second book, Liberty’s Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World (2011) is the first global history of British loyalists in the aftermath of the American Revolution. Through a series of diverse personal histories, which range from a Mohawk leader to a young mother to a former slave, Jasanoff traces the impact of these refugees of the Revolution on the colonies they went on to inhabit. Liberty’s Exiles won the National Book Critics Circle Award and George Washington Book Prize in 2011.
As a Visiting Professor at the University, Jasanoff will offer lectures in imperial and global history, and engage faculty and students in different ways of writing about the past, such as biography and narrative non-fiction, through seminar-style courses. With several teaching prizes under her belt, Jasanoff believes "passionately in the value of a liberal education, whether you dream of being an engineer or an economist, a painter or a policy-maker. I am especially keen to convey to Ahmedabad students the power of history and the humanities in shaping a better future, whether for oneself, one’s community, or the world," she says.
Professor Maya Jasanoff’s opening lecture at Ahmedabad University takes place on Wednesday 9 January at 6:00 pm, under the title ‘What have the British done to us? Revisiting empire in a global age.’ This talk is open to the public.
Aditi Deo has a PhD in Ethnomusicology from Indiana University. Her research spans music in the subcontinent, especially Hindustani Khyal music and Hindi film music, and vernacular folk traditions in Rajasthan and Gujarat.
Aparajita Basu did her PhD in History from the University of California, Berkeley. Her work deals with the intellectual and cultural history of the subcontinent in the 19th and 20th centuries, with a particular focus on the transnational dimensions of anti-colonial political ideologies.
Karthik Rao Cavale obtained his doctorate from the Urban Planning department at MIT. His research interests include spatial political economy, urban and regional history, and studies of legal and political mobilisation.
Leya Mathew holds a PhD in Education from the University of Pennsylvania and has been a post-doctoral associate at NIAS, Bengaluru. Her doctoral work was awarded the United States National Academy of Education Dissertation Fellowship and the American Institute of Indian Studies Junior Fellowship. She works on the anthropology of liberalisation in India, cultural marxism and feminism, and STS (science, technology and society).
Mary Ann Chacko was awarded a doctorate in Education from Columbia University. She has two Masters degrees: one in English Literature, the other in Child Studies. Her research interests include critical childhood studies, citizenship education, policing in schools and gender issues in education.
Neha Jain did a PhD in Molecular Biophysics at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Mohali. She was subsequently a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Her research seeks to understand the effects of bacterial amyloids on human diseases, and her laboratory uses a wide range of microbiological, biophysical and biochemical techniques.
Ratna Ghosal received her PhD in Ecology from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. She later conducted post-doctoral research at the University of Minnesota, USA. Her work focuses on the proximate/physiological mechanisms of animal behaviour, and how such understanding can be implemented in the field of conservation biology.
Raghavan Rangarajan is a theoretical physicist. He was awarded his PhD by the University of California, Santa Barbara, and spent over 20 years on the faculty of the Theoretical Physics Division at the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), Ahmedabad. His areas of research are cosmology and particle physics, and he works primarily on processes that occurred soon after the Big Bang in the very early Universe. As well as working as a professor in the School’s Mathematical and Physical Sciences division, Professor Rangarajan has been appointed as both the Dean of the Undergraduate College and the Dean of Students at Ahmedabad University.
Samuel Wright completed his PhD from the University of Chicago, USA. He is an intellectual historian of South Asia with a particular interest in linkages between philosophical arguments and social contexts. He engages with questions that span early modern archives in Sanskrit and Bengali.
Positioned at the intersection of ecology, biology and physiology, Professor Ghosal’s work illustrates the manner in which a greater understanding of animal behaviour can improve our conservation practices. While studying the reproductive dynamics of Asian elephants, Ghosal pioneered a novel method (now used around India) to test elephant dung for reproductive hormones. She found that tracking ovulation and pregnancy using this method was almost as accurate as blood samples. This was a boon to those working on the ground, for blood samples are close to impossible to collect from wild elephant populations.
Subsequently, Ghosal explored the behaviour patterns associated with the Musth condition (a state of heightened hormone levels that periodically occurs among male elephants) and demonstrated that it has differing effects in different contexts. For instance, she showed that while male elephants can be more aggressive in their Musth state, only those in captivity show significant traces of cortisone in their system. This proved that, as such, Musth is not a stress-inducing condition, overturning the continued perception that it was something that needed to be prevented.
Currently, Professor Ghosal is setting out on an exciting new project to tackle the difficult question: Why do some Asian elephants have tusks, while others do not?
Having spent a number of years studying urban transportation in Indian cities, Karthik uncovered a strange situation. While there was general consensus in the field on the best policies to implement, few were employed by governments at the local level. This led him to explore the sociological, political and economic forces that shape the governing policies of urban spaces.
For instance, he studied the messy reality of street-vendor politics in Mumbai and Chennai, showing how – with the decline of populist political regimes – informal workers were led to appeal to the courts. He was interested in how legal institutions function in such unorthodox circumstances, and found that the effect of judicial intervention was not to establish the legality of street vending, but rather to allow street vendors a mechanism to buy time and forestall their eviction.
Currently, Karthik’s research is centred around tracing the emergence of ‘rurality’ as a spatial category in India’s developmental regime, and the manner in which it was articulated discursively, institutionally, and in everyday practice from the early 20th century.
Professor Wright specialises in the intellectual history of South Asia, particularly the pre-modern period dating from the 15th to 18th century. He is completing a book about the intersection between arguments in Sanskrit logic and epistemology and the social context within which they were made. He explores how Sanskrit intellectuals were patronised by new zamindars (landlords) in the early modern period. In doing so, he examines how this interaction informed and influenced the intellectuals’ ideas about, for instance, social identities, political values, property, and religion.
He is also in the beginning stages of another project, which aims to chronicle the emerging knowledge networks in 18th and 19th century India. While the same period in Europe saw the beginning of the learned societies and the emergence of academic periodicals, scholars in South Asia seem to have developed large informal networks for the exchange of ideas and manuscripts, and the diffusion of knowledge. Wright aims to explore how these communities constituted themselves, how they functioned and the manner in which they were shaped by larger socio-historical processes. Moreover, in this project, he is employing components of the digital humanities by creating maps of these networks to study the transformations that they underwent.