Project Awards Summary, 2016-17

Business, Economics, Law, and Policy

The Effects of Language and Gesture on Math Learning in Indian Preschoolers

The research program on which this project was built, tested the efficacy of educational games designed by cognitive scientists to improve outcomes for low-income children in preschools and after-school programs (run by Pratham in Delhi). It aimed to enhance children’s readiness for learning school mathematics by exercising their early developing numerical and geometric concepts, and by linking those concepts to mathematical language and symbols.The overall goal of this proposed project was to develop a rich theoretical understanding of why the games are effective, which would be useful both for future interventions in India and to answer theoretical questions about how gesture and language can contribute to learning.

The key faculty organizers for this project were Susan Goldin-Meadow, the University of Chicago; Elizabeth Spelke, Harvard University, researchers at the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab South Asia (JPAL South Asia), and researchers at Pratham, the largest non-governmental organization focused on education in India.

Prejudice, Stigma, Discrimination: Combatting Exclusions Through Policy and Law

All known societies exclude and stigmatize one or more minority groups. Frequently these exclusions are underwritten with a rhetoric of disgust: people of a certain group, it is alleged, are filthy, hyper-animal, not fit to share such facilities as drinking water, food, and public swimming pools with the “clean” “fully human” majority.  But exclusions vary in their scope and also in the specific disgust-ideologies underlying them. Legal and social remedies therefore need to engage in a comparative study of stigma and prejudice, learning from history and from the experience of other societies, and choosing social, legal, and institutional policies in the light of that learning. This project aimed to bring together a group of scholars of politics and law through a conference to produce a high-level book studying the operations of stigma and prejudice comparatively: comparing the U. S. experience with that of India, but also comparing the operations of stigma and disgust in the different areas of exclusion and majority tyranny. 

This project was organized by Martha C. Nussbaum, the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics of the Law School and Department of Philosophy at the University of Chicago in collaboration with Zoya Hassan, formerly a Professor of Political Science at Jawarharlal Nehru University, Delhi, and Vidhu Verma, Professor and Chair of the Centre for Political Studies at Jawarharlal Nehru University, Delhi.

Dialogues in Humanities and Ethics: Collaboration for Change

The Bucksbaum Institute of the University of Chicago, and the Medical Humanities Group of the University College of Medical Sciences, Delhi, are committed to promotion of ethics and humanities among the medical fraternity. Together, they conducted a three day workshop  for engaging scholars from the two countries, as well as developing the field of health humanities.The goal of the workshop was to enable faculty to humanize health education and patient care through the medical humanities. The deliberations culminated in a public forum theatre on the last day. Innovative approaches were employed in an effort to speak “with” rather than “to” the participants, thereby empowering them to share their deepest thoughts and insights to explore ethics and humanities in medicine.

The principal faculty who organized this workshop included Vinay Kumar, Matthew Sorrentino, David Meltzer, Monica Peek, and Ranjana Srivastava, along with Sunil K Pandya, and the "Theatre of the Oppressed" facilitators Satendra Singh, Upreet Dhaliwal, and Navjeevan Singh.

Art and Technology to Promote the Sexual and Reproductive Health in India’s Youth

How can art and technology be used in research, education, and programs to advance adolescent sexual and reproductive health (ASRH) in India? Ci3, an interdisciplinary research center at the University of Chicago, collaborated with three Indian partners to convene feminist and youth-serving organizations to discuss, exchange, and disseminate ideas to answer this central question. This project built on the ambitious work of our Indian colleagues who are using art, narrative, media, and mobile apps in their work with ASRH, in addition to Ci3’s experience designing digital games and apps for youth.

The key faculty organizers were Melissa Gilliam, MD, MPH, Professor of Obstetrics/Gynecology and Pediatrics at the University of Chicago, the founder and director of Ci3, co-PI of the Game Changer Chicago Design Lab, and Dean for Diversity and Inclusion of the University of Chicago Medicine and Biological Sciences Division; and  Alicia Menendez, a Research Associate and Associate Professor at the Harris School of Public Policy and the Department of Economics and a Principal Research Scientist at the National Opinion Research Center.

The Indian collaborators included Project Khel (a Lucknow based organization working in youth sexual education), Hidden Pockets (a Delhi-based collective of young feminists working toward young people’s access to sexuality services), and The YP Foundation (a Delhi-based organization whose goal is to cultivate a passion for social justice in youths across India).

Clinical Cost Effectiveness, and Budget Impact Analysis of Operation: ASHA’s Community-based Tuberculosis Program in India

Tuberculosis is the number one killer infectious disease in the world, and India bears a quarter of this global burden. While India’s Revised National Tuberculosis Control Program (RNTCP) has attempted to control TB in India through its publicly funded program, about half of TB care in India is through the for-profit private sector, where care is often substandard. Private non-profit organizations such as Operation ASHA have sought to provide easy to access TB care that meets or exceeds nationally accepted standards. However, costs of such programs may be higher than the RNTCP’s program.

This project aimed through collaboration with the RNTCP and Operation ASHA, a clinical, cost effective and budgetary impact analysis of Operation ASHA’s TB care model in comparison with RNTCP’s model from a social perspective. The budget impact analysis of scaling up Operation ASHA’s model through the RNTCP was also explored. 

Key faculty organizers of this project included Dr. David Meltzer, Professor at Department in Medicine in association with Kiran Raj Pandey (a Fellow in the Department of Medicine), Dr. Mai Tuyet Pho (Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine at UChicago).

The Indian collaborators included Dr. K. S. Sachdeva (Deputy Director General, Central Tuberculosis Division, in the Indian Government’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare) and UChicago Alum Sandeep Ahuja (CEO of ASHA.)


Culture, Society, Religion, the Arts

Symposium on Literary Translation

This project sought to organize a one-day symposium on literary translations. The first part was an informal roundtable on literary publishing and translation, which brought together South Asian writers working in Indian languages throughout the Delhi area, along with literary scholars, publishers, and translators. Future collaborations initiated by this discussion involved more specialized regional working groups of symposia, featuring issues of literary journals dedicated to contemporary South Asian poetry and fiction in translation, or the translation and publication of literary works by Indian-language writers for Anglophone publics.The second part involved a bilingual literary reading, showcasing the work of some of the roundtable participants. 

Principal faculty organizers of this project were Srikanth Reddy, Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Chicago and Jason Grunebaum, a Senior Lecturer in Hindi in UChicago’s Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations.

Turning the Page: New Directions in South Asian Book History

Over the past two decades, book history and print culture studies has emerged as one of the most vibrant fields of inquiry within South Asian Studies. A two-day workshop was organized that brought scholars from the University of Chicago, Jadavpur University, Kolkata, and other Indian academic institutions to address the state of discipline and engage in conversation on the future tasks and particular challenges to South Asian book history. It simultaneously looked backward and forward and identified salient themes and problems that have emerged over the last two decades and which currently occupy scholars working in different languages and periods. Additionally, it assessed emerging approaches, methods, and technologies, and attempted to make a preliminary map of new directions for study such as the exploration of popular and ephemeral print genres; histories of reading; new methods of the “geography of the book;” new approaches that shifted the focus from the intellectual contexts of “print culture” to the study of material, economic, and technological histories of the book.

The long-term goal of this project was to launch collaborative research projects, on both interpersonal and institutional levels, in the field of book history by University of Chicago faculty and their counterparts in South Asia.

Principal faculty organizers for this project included the University of Chicago Professors Ulrike Stark, Thibaut d’Hubert, and Tyler Williams (from the Department of South Asian Languages & Civilizations), in collaboration with Abhijit Gupta, Professor of English at Jadavpur University, Kolkata.

India Research and Travel: A Polymorphous State of the Arts

Alongside China, India’s art is a major player in worldwide exhibitions, criticism, and markets. Rather than the monolith that Chinese political circumstances have engendered, including a more unified art world, Indian contemporary art is differently profound in its variance and dialogism. This project (which included research and travel for Faculty and students), facilitated an in-depth focused examination of how art, in its making, reception, and market, is embedded in social, political, historical, and economic factors sought to develop an understanding of the diversity and complexity of Indian art. The research, travel, and exchange was structured to foster crosspollination across disciplines, cultures, and continents. While in India, the class continued to build on previously established contacts and relationships while also reaching out to new artists, collectors, and institutions who could contribute to the students’ education.

This interdisciplinary course, was taught by Laura Letinsky, Professor of Visual Arts at the University of Chicago in collaboration with William Mazzarella, Professor of Anthropology; and the trip was organized in consultation with Christine Mehring, Professor of Art History, and Aditi Mody, Executive Director, UChicago Delhi Center

Dance as Gesture

This project investigated Indian styles of dance from the perspectives of multiple disciplines: psychology, linguistics, and anthropology. More specifically, it sought to combine an ethnographic documentation of the transmission of these codified dance styles with a study of the consciousness of movement on the part of dancers and audiences, a linguistic analysis of the standardized and meaning-bearing gestures (mudras) characteristic of these dance traditions, and a linguistics-based analysis of the constraints on producing and combining the component movements. Key areas of interest included transmission of knowledge from dance teachers to students; psychological consequences of dance training; the creation and coding a corpus of dance gestures/movements in classical Indian dance and assessment of visual cortex entrainment in dancers and signers.

The key faculty organizers of this project included Haun Saussy (Comparative Literature), Diane Brentari (Linguistics), Daniel Casasanto (Psychology), Anastasia Giannakidou (Linguistics), Susan Goldin-Meadow (Psychology) at the University of Chicago. 

Sounding the Audio Moment in South Asia

Sound, music, and the arts are one of the most critical areas of exchange between the West and South Asia. From the colonial encounter to the formation of modernity, the West has repeatedly turned to South Asia to sound the past. Furthermore, music is one of the most powerful indices of a South Asian presence in the world. We need only think of the mutual influences of popular, sacred, and classical music between East and West. This project was innovative in its use of sound to put these processes of exchange in historical perspective and was part of a larger research initiative at the University of Chicago on audio cultures of South Asia, which involved scholarly conferences and related publications, including an edited volume, a documentary CD series, and mobile applications for dissemination of our resulting resources. It built upon the successful completion of a two‐year pilot project, “Audio Cultures of India: Rethinking the Performance Archive”.

Philip V. Bohlman and Kaley Mason at the Department of Music at the University of Chicago were the key organizers of this event in collaboration with James Nye and Laura Ring from the Library at the University of Chicago. Collaborating partners in South Asia included record collectors, scholars, critics, curators, and studio producers.

South Asian Images in Space and Time: Connecting Objects, Texts, People, and Places

This proposal was part of the University’s new initiative on South Asian images and imaging that was intended to address the increased expectation by scholars for integrated and open access to historical and contemporary image and imaging resources across all disciplines through preservation and mass digitization of resources not already being addressed through other South Asian international projects.

The meeting in 2016 was built upon an event held at the Center in Delhi in mid-December 2015, concluding the first phase of the project on “Images and Imaging in South Asia.” The most important component of the proposed workshop was a critical assessment of data required to support the discovery of images and associated digital objects for research and teaching. This workshop built upon the University’s engagements in South Asian studies, ethnomusicology, art history, photography, and anthropology, and it considered how we might elucidate and facilitate the humanistic understanding of sonic and visual resources. 

This workshop was organized by James Nye, Bibliographer for Southern Asia at the University of Chicago, and Anna Lise Seastrand, Harper & Schmidt Fellow, Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts, at the University of Chicago.


Science, Energy, Medicine, Public Health

Cities, Climate Forcing, and Infectious Disease Dynamics

The world is rapidly becoming urban, with the global urban population projected to double by 2050. This dramatic increase in urbanization poses new challenges for the control of communicable diseases. Urban environments create highly heterogeneous socio-economic, demographic, and environmental conditions that can affect the transmission of water-borne and vector-borne infections dependent on human water storage, including urban malaria and dengue. These same disease classes exhibit strong connections to climate variables, directly or indirectly, through transmission-related parameters and human vulnerability. Thus, understanding and controlling their transmission dynamics within cities will necessitate consideration of the relevant spatial scales at which to incorporate spatial heterogeneity and address temporal variation in incidence in response to climate forcing.

This interdisciplinary workshop brought scientists and public health practitioners together to further develop a collaborative project on the transmission dynamics of climate-sensitive, vector-borne and water-borne, diseases in cities of India. One main objective was to identify data needs and set the stage for assembling retrospective surveillance records for cities of India. Another goal was to define novel research directions at the interface between disciplines that would enhance public health intervention.

The key organizer of this workshop was Mercedes Pascual, a Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago. With their expertise in remote sensing and hydrology, the Argonne National Laboratory and UChicago’s Computational Institute were also key partners in the conference.

The Chandrasekhar Program at the University of Chicago

This proposal sought to create a summer research fellowship program called the Chandrasekhar Program targeted at undergraduate level U.S. and Indian students in STEM based fields. It was a student exchange program meant to enable Indian scholars to spend a summer performing research at the University of Chicago. It simultaneously facilitated research summers in India for UChicago undergraduate and graduate students. In addition, the Chandrasekhar Program leveraged existing mechanisms for the highly successful Khorana and Bose Programs seeded at the University of Wisconsin-Madison by Professor Ansari.

Each student participating in the exchange was matched with faculty based on overlapping research interests, as well as the suitability of the student’s training and the mentor’s expectations and requirements. It helped students to develop critical and creative thinking skills, in addition to experiencing lab research in an independent research. It was meant to nurture thought leaders of the future by providing them with an invaluable experience which allowed them to build perspective, early in their careers, to engage scientifically on an international level.

This project was organized by Yamuna Krishnan, a Professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Chicago, and Aseem Z. Ansari, a Professor in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.