Project Awards Summary, 2019-20

Business, Economics, Law, and Policy

Improving Skilling, Signaling, and Safety in the Indian Informal Labor Market

The issue of job creation is a central policy concern in India, where an estimated 10 million individuals enter the job market annually. The lack of jobs and specifically “good quality” jobs consistently emerges as a dominant concern of the Indian electorate. Underlying the larger policy challenge of industrial growth and job creation are myriad inefficiencies in the supply of relevant, skilled workers, and their visibility and availability through the labor market. This project attempts to characterize problems and identify and test solutions relevant to critical questions of (1) skill acquisition through education, training and on-the-job experience; (2) skill signaling through the labor market; and improved (3) safety of workers, especially women, in their daily physical movement from homes to work and marketplaces. Our proposal aims to address each of these three questions—​skilling​, signaling​ and ​safety—​drawing on recent computational advances in human sensing, crowdsourcing, active learning and cloud computing that have become critical to the intelligent search provision that has lubricated the high technology sector.

As part of the above project, a conference will be held at the University of Chicago Center in Delhi. The principal faculty organizer of this conference will be James Evans from the Department of Sociology, University of Chicago and Nandana Sengupta from the School of Policy and Governance, Azim Premji University in collaboration with Aspiring Minds, Urban Clap, Safetipin, and National Development Corporation (USDC), Indian National Government.

Conferences on Improving Life in India's Slums

Improving the lives of India’s urban poor is one of the world’s most pressing development problems. India is home to roughly half of word’s population of people living in extreme poverty. These some 350 million people live in rural India. Notably, India also has the world’s largest gap between rural and urban income. In other words, the way to get the most people in the world out of extreme poverty is to find a way to integrate India’s rural poor into India’s cities. The problem, however, is that getting a foothold in India’s cities can be difficult because those cities do not have formal housing options available for the countries’ working poor. The principle aim of this project is to change the narrative about life in India’s slums. Life in India’s slums is defined by shortages. In the slums, there is not enough space, safe water, access to financial inclusion, or the justice system. The standard narrative used to explain these shortages is that slum dwellers in India are poor.

As part of the project, two conferences will be held in two cities. The first conference will be held in Mumbai that will bring together NGOs, activists, and researchers who are on the ground working in slums. The focus will be on sharing insights on programs that are improving the lives of slum dwellers, programs that are failing, and programs that are still needed.

The second conference will be held at the University of Chicago Center in Delhi and will bring together high level government officials, policy makers, thought leaders from thinktanks and universities to discuss specific reforms that could be implemented to improve the lives of the urban poor.

The above two conference will provide an ideal forum to increase the profile of the important research currently being conducted by University of Chicago faculty to the relevant policy communities in India, but also ensure that India’s urban policy is informed by the best possible evidence.

Principal organizers of this project include the University of Chicago Law School Professors, Adam Chilton, and Anup Malani. They will be collaborating with Anita Patil-Deshmukh from PUKAR.

Quantitative Marketing, Structural Econometrics, and Deep Learning: Conference and Workshop

This project represents an ongoing collaboration between the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and Top Business Schools in India viz., Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA), Indian Institute of Management Bangalore (IIMB), Indian School of Business (ISB), to create and nurture an environment for long-term collaborative research in Quantitative Marketing.

There is an increasing interest in academic research as well as industry applications in the domain of Marketing Analytics, Applications of Quantitative Marketing in emerging markets such as India. As part of this project, the team of Principal Investigators aim to leverage this context and enable seamless research exchange among the academic institutions, industry partners and University of Chicago.

The project would primarily involve one-day annual conference spear-headed by the Principal Investigators from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business including, Aruna Divya T, Pradeep Chintagunta, and Sanjog Misra, and supported by the host faculty from one of the leading business schools in India. The format of the conference will be geared to encourage dedicated, high-quality research conversations and provide a platform for doctoral students and faculty members from India to gain exposure to latest research developments in the field of quantitative marketing.

Culture, Society, Religion and the Arts

New Global Authoritarianisms and Democracy's Discontents

This project begins with the understanding that we need to unsettle default assumptions about the merits of liberal democracy, to distinguish between liberal democracy and other prospects for democratic action, and to interrogate the conventional scholarly investments in the bifurcation between authoritarian and democratic regime types.

Through a series of workshops, the research group will interrogate the global rise of authoritarianism in historical, comparative, and transnational perspective. Recognizing the rise of ultranationalist movements in India, Europe, Latin America, and the United States and taking into account the defeat of calls for liberal democratic government in the Arab world, the working group will explore the new forms of authoritarianism emerging worldwide.

The principal faculty organizers of this project from the University of Chicago are Lisa Wedeen, Department of Political Science Adom Getachew, Department of Political Science; and William Mazzarella, Department of Anthropology.

Slum Clearance, Urban Restructuring, and (Re)Emergent Communities in Mumbai

As part of a broader global process of urbanization, a number of cities around the world are engaged in bold urban restructuring efforts focused on eradicating slum areas and reshaping the urban landscape, in part in order to better compete as “global cities.” The city of Mumbai is in many ways emblematic of these efforts. Massive slum clearance and redevelopment efforts are underway in the service of expanding and upgrading the city’s infrastructure and opening space for corporate, commercial, and housing development. Foundational to this restructuring is the demolition of many of the city’s informal settlements and the resettlement of residents to newly built housing complexes. These are generally constructed as midrise tower-block developments, either on a portion of the footprint of the slum undergoing redevelopment or on greenfield sites in other parts of the city.

Although much has been written about slum communities and the broad processes of urbanization and urban restructuring policy in Mumbai, little empirical research exists on the lived experiences of former slum dwellers post- resettlement or on the nature of the communities into which they have been moved. This project seeks to understand the impact of resettlement on individuals, families, and communities and the dynamics of both urban restructuring policies and local community life that contribute to relocated residents’ current circumstances and well-being.

The principal faculty engaged in this project is Robert Chaskin from the University of Chicago School of Social Service and Administration in collaboration with Professors Manish Jha and Mouleshri Vyas from the School of Social Work at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).

India's Francophone Literature

Long been ignored in the English-speaking world, the French literature is gaining a new lease on life, as young authors contribute to its growing corpus, as translations of major literary works appear, and as scholars develop new perspectives on the curious place of francophone Indian writing in global literature.

This project will bring together writers, translators and scholars through a conference at the University of Chicago Center in Delhi to examine India's rich francophone literary heritage. The conference will be held in collaboration with the Jawaharlal Nehru University's French Department and will feature two panels: one focusing on contemporary Indian fiction in French, and featuring authors K. Madavane and Ari Gautier; the other focusing on the longer history of India's francophone literature. A range of established and younger scholars will also be present at the conference.

The faculty organizer of this project is Blake Smith from the Department of History, University of Chicago along with Vijaya Rao from the School of Language Literature and Culture Studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).

Contemporary Art and Museums in India

The Smart Museum’s Curator of Global Contemporary Art at the University of Chicago and senior staff will embark on an initial research and familiarization trip to explore possible collaborations between the Smart Museum, the Delhi Center, and arts organizations in India. Organized to coincide with the India Art Summit, Smart Museum staff will meet with artists, critics, curators, and museum professionals. These meetings accompanied by museum, artist studio and private collection visits will provide a better understanding both of the history of modern and contemporary art and the institutional context for its presentation in Delhi specifically and India generally. From this foundational research, the Smart Museum in coordination with the Delhi Center staff will be able to propose future projects engaging the resources of the Center and the expertise of the Museum’s staff.

The principal faculty organizers of this project include Orianna Cacchione, Jill Sterrett, and Issa Lampe, all of which are Smart Museum of Arts staff at the University of Chicago.

Early Historical Thought in Eurasian Context

From the late centuries before the beginning of the Common Era, deep into its first millennium, disparate societies across the Eurasian landmass developed ways of engaging with their past, through narrative, material culture, forms of language-use, and ways of cultured being. The sources that emerged from these differing cultures of history provide the bedrock on which the modern historian of the ancient world constructs her argument and interpretation. The specialist abilities required in order to work in any of these areas are formidable, and each historiography is possessed of its own debates and dynamics. Research questions moving across the different historical cultures (for instance, the study of early Inner Asia) and expressly comparative studies of these cultures exist, but the need for a cross-cutting dialogue between different areas, is especially urgent. Recent and exciting research on the interconnections at the level of ideas and material culture across the supercontinent suggests the need to think collectively and critically the interconnected ways of knowing the past across Eurasia.

This workshop will bring together specialists of the classical West, central Asia, India, China, and the Asia Buddhist ecumene to frame and pursue big questions about the different varieties of historical knowledge, the interconnections between historical thinking and other social processes, and their place of such knowledge in collective forms of self-understanding and self-presentation.

The principal faculty involved in this workshop is Whitney Cox from the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago.

Solidarities of the Global South

This project will bring together an interdisciplinary group of scholars to establish regional collaborations that develop conversations around solidarities across the Global South. These initial conversations will shape a proposal for a larger Neubauer Collegium project at the University of Chicago campus. The workshops will engage decolonial questions within Global South networks to open up dialogues with scholars in South, Southeast and East Asia aimed at decentering a Euro-American epistemological framework. The project will explore the social and political networks that traversed aligned and non-aligned geopolitics, that is, “third world” and “second world” spaces, while critically challenging the disarticulation of specific, local historical, political and economic conditions and the static geopolitical vision that the term Global South might imply.

This project thus explores forms of failed and accidental solidarity, as well as nostalgia for solidarity amidst political and economic collapse. Some of our concerns include expressions of solidarity in the form of transnational delegations, congresses, and festivals that constructed social and political spaces, whether events or textual/digital archives, in an attempt to imagine forms of belonging outside, alongside and in relation to the diffuse forces of late capitalism.

Principal faculty organizers of this project include University of Chicago Professors Mark Philip Bradely from the Department of History; Leah Feldman from the Department of Comparative Literature, in collaboration with Prathama Banerjee, Centre for the Developing Societies, and Wang Hui, Institute for Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences at the Tsinghua University.

Proposal to Develop a Course on Visual Studies at St. Stephen's College, Delhi

Visual studies has consistently attracted considerable interest, within and beyond the space of the University. The city of Delhi holds a particular distinction in this respect. Several Universities in Delhi currently offer postgraduate courses in Visual and Film Studies. The Department of English at the University of Delhi has an optional paper on Visual Studies that focuses almost exclusively on the traditions of European visual art. Jawaharlal Nehru University’s Department of Arts and Aesthetics and Ambedkar University’s School of Culture and Creative Expressions have a formidable reputation in offering challenging and structured postgraduate courses in cinema and visual studies. Nothing, however, exists for students at the undergraduate level.

This project will explore ways in which a short certificate course in Visual Studies might be established at St. Stephen's College. Workshops for the faculty at St. Stephens will be organized, followed by an intensive introductory course for undergraduates in the second year. The goal of this project is to begin a series of conversations to build capacity among academics for Visual Studies at the undergraduate level. The organizers of this project plan to use the University of Chicago’s deep expertise in different aspects of visual studies to begin a series of pedagogical conversations.

Key faculty involved in this project include Rochona Majumdar from the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago along with Smita Gandotra from the Department of English at St. Stephen’s College, New Delhi.

Global Technology in Local Contexts: Lithography in Asia

The year 2022 will mark the bicentenary of the arrival of lithography in India, a watershed moment in the history of printing in South Asia that has been described as more significant than the advent of movable type in 1556. An inexpensive, easily accessible printing technology, lithography enjoyed extraordinary success in India; it has been associated with the “democratization of print” in South Asia and rise of commercial printing and journalism in Indian languages. Within India’s multilingual/multiscript cultural landscape, lithography was a versatile mass production medium, while also providing a link with manuscript traditions in its ability to replicate fine calligraphy. Across the Islamic world, Muslim communities embraced it for both religious and secular printing.

The upcoming anniversary provides a timely moment to review the history of lithography in its sociocultural, economic, and aesthetic dimensions, and assess its impact in India and across Asia in local and transregional perspectives. This project through a series of workshop will bring together scholars from the US, Europe, India and other Asian countries to discuss new approaches to the study of a global technology in light of recent interest in material cultures, connected histories, and the circulation of knowledge and technologies. The workshops will provide a platform for Indian early-career scholars to present their work in an international setting and engage in conversation with leading scholars in the field. Designed as a sequel to an earlier book history workshop held at the Center in 2017, it seeks to expand institutional ties and forge new collaborations with South Asian book historians.

Principal faculty organizers of this project include Ulrike Stark and Thibaut d’Hubert, both from the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago as well as Abhijit Gupta from the Department of English at the Jadavpur University, Kolkata.

Science, Energy, Medicine, and Public Health

An Integrative Platform for Research on Human Evolution and Reconstruction of the Past in India

This project calls for a multi-disciplinary platform to brainstorm ways in which social scientists and biologists can work together effectively to add new dimensions to the reconstruction of the human past in India. Integrative studies are being conducted in other parts of the world that have shed key insights into the evolution and past migration of humans to various parts of the world. India currently lack such a concerted effort to actively bring together researchers from complementary fields such as archaeology, anthropology, and the biological sciences, in addition to governmental agencies that regulate sample access, to discuss ways of bridging the gap and ensuring a more holistic interpretation of our species’ past in this region.

Through a workshop, the organizers intend to develop an ideal platform for researchers from these fields to get together under one roof, debate and discuss outstanding questions in the social sciences and population genetics that can gain from the application of novel scientific tools, and come away with tangible ideas and networks to initiate exciting collaborative projects.

Principal faculty organizer of this project from the University of Chicago includes Maanasa Raghavan, Department of Human Genetics; working in collaboration with Dr. Niraj Rai, Birbal Sahni Institute Palaeosciences, and Sinam Spalzin, from the Archaeological Survey of India.

Mapping Mycobacterial Infection with Single Cell Resolution

This project involves collaboration between Krishnan lab in UChicago and Sundaramurthy lab in the National Center for Biological Sciences (NCBS), India’s premier biology research institute. Krishnan lab in UChicago has invented a breakthrough technology called two-ion measurement (2-IM)that measures the ionic composition of sub-cellular organelles called lysosomes. Since these measurements are image-based, it is now possible to quantify the cell-to-cell variation in any given system. Sundaramurthy lab in NCBS has recently discovered that lysosomes in M. tuberculosis infected cells are qualitatively different from those in uninfected cells. Further, it is the variations in the properties of individual cells in a population that plays a role in these differences. However, the compositional changes in the lysosome during this process are not known. Thus the 2-IM technology from UChicago and the biological question from NCBS are ideally matched for two-way interaction, transfer of knowledge and the first implementation of a breakthrough technology from UChicago in India, in a problem of high relevance to India. 

The project is a natural application of the 2-IM technology of the Krishnan lab in UChicago and the discovery of the Sundaramurthy lab in NCBS about how lysosomes are re-wired during Mtb infection. The benefit to UChicago is to apply a UChicago invention to a problem impacting millions of people suffering from tuberculosis, ubiquitous in India. Indian researchers stand to benefit from early and direct access to 2-IM technology to gain new scientific insights.

Principal faculty organizers for this project are Yamuna Krishnan from University of Chicago and Varadharajan Sundaramurthy from National Center for Biological Sciences (NCBS).

Progressing with Partnerships: Supported Decision Making Among Vulnerable Groups

This project includes a two day conference that will bring together health professionals from University of Chicago and the University College of Medical Sciences (University of Delhi) to discuss core constructs, challenges and strategies to improve supported decision-making among vulnerable populations, including persons with disabilities, LGBTQIA+ populations, those with chronic pain and in palliative care, those at the end of life, racial/ethnic minorities and those with language barriers.

The conference will be an expansion of the previous collaboration in the field of ethics and medical humanities between Bucksbaum Institute for Clinical Excellence at the University of Chicago and the Medical Humanities Group at University College of Medical Sciences, Delhi.

Principal faculty organizers of this project include Monica Peek from the Department of Medicine at the University of Chicago, and Satendra Singh from the University College of Medical Sciences at the University of Delhi. They are working in collaboration with Mark Siegler from the Department of Medicine at the University of Chicago, Khan Amir Maroof from the Medical Humanities Group at the University College of Medical Sciences, and finally, Pragna Rao, Dean of Medical Education at the Manipal Academy of Higher Education. 

The Far Side of Rescue - A documentary film about the aftermath of forced rescue and rehabilitation in the lives of South Indian se workers

The global movement against what is conceptualized as “human trafficking” has ushered in a new dispensation of interventions into the lives of women who sell sex. Anti trafficking rhetoric frames raid, rescue, and rehabilitation as requisite modes of engaging women who sell sex. Across India, millions of dollars of transnational donations have poured into the country to support NGOs involved in rescuing and rehabilitating trafficking victims. The Government of India has been under intense scrutiny since 2003 from the U.S. Department of State and the international community to increase its anti trafficking efforts, leading to an uptick in raids and rescues. Indian legislation mandates that any victim of trafficking be committed to custody in a shelter (“protection home”) until her parent, guardian, or husband formally requests her release, accompanying her home. Nevertheless, the majority choose to return to selling sex after winning their release.

This project will produce and premiere a fifty-minute documentary film examining why anti-traffickers seek to reform them and how sex workers respond to their interventions and the demand to quit sex work. The film would also facilitate a deeper understanding among humanitarian donors (both in India and abroad) of the afterlife of interventions into sex trafficking. By contributing to the problematization of India’s present anti-trafficking apparatus, the film would have the potential to bring positive impact to the precarious situations of hundreds of thousands of women who sell sex across India as well as their families.

The principal faculty involved with this project is John Schneider from the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of Chicago along with Kimberly Walters from the California State University Long Beach and M. Ravi Kanth, Independent Filmmaker.

Developing Resources for Implementing, Monitoring, and Evaluating Kissa Kahani

This project will enable the Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry and Innovation in Sexual and Reproductive Health (Ci3) to prepare to scale the Kissa Kahani intervention aimed at reducing gender inequalities and improving girls’ human capital (health and education). Kissa Kahani, a project now in its third year, began with narrative-based research methods to understand the experiences of young people living in urban slums. Kissa Kahani discovered that gender inequalities were manifested through limited mobility, limited health information, early marriage, and school drop out. They developed an intervention to address street safety, menstrual hygiene, family planning, and reproductive health, in order to promote school attendance. The multimedia intervention uses games, narrative, comics, and a wrap-around curriculum to educate young people and change behaviors. This project will contribute to the development of tools for training, monitoring, and evaluation of the Kissa Kahani intervention in preparation for implementation and scaling in schools serving young people living in urban slums in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh.

Research for this project is led by Dr. Melissa Gilliam, Vice Provost and Founder Ci3 at the University of Chicago and Dr. Alicia Menendez, Associate Professor at the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago.

Developing the Pediatric Minimal Invasive Surgery Program in India and Southeast Asia

India is the world’s only country where 30% of the population is under 21 years of age. As such, it is of utmost importance to ensure children’s health and well-being. This large population will eventually form the backbone of the country’s wealth and contribute to national GDP. Complex congenital urological anomalies are highly prevalent, affecting at least one out of every hundred newborns. If these newborns have access to optimal surgical care and reconstructive surgery, they can resume normal health. The morbidity of the open surgery has a huge impact not only on the patient’s quality of life, but also emotionally on the family, and economically on the nation. Minimal Invasive surgery in the form of Laparoscopy and Robotics will help to alleviate the morbidity of such open surgery in the form of reduced hospital stay, less pain, and an early return to normal activity. Minimal Invasive surgery will thus help both children and their families.

The faculty organizer of this project will conduct a Live Surgery Workshop with Symposium at a few government funded institutes during the visit and deliver the lectures at regional conference to train residents, fellows, and surgeons from within the region deliver the best care to children in need.

The faculty organizer of the project is Dr. Mohan S. Gundeti from the Department of Medicine at the University of Chicago. He will be working in collaboration with institutes like Sanjay Gandhi Institute of Postgraduate Medical Sciences, Lucknow; Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Chandigardh; and Jawaharlal Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education and Research.