Ancient Architecture India

Duke India Initiative Research Fund Grantees


The Duke India Initiative has awarded 5 research grants totaling $61,900 for the year 2018-2019. These grantees’ projects reflect the Duke India Initiative’s commitment to promoting and intensifying collaborations within Duke and amongst Duke and partners across India.

Being Human at the Margin: Gandhian Traces after Life-in-Prison

This project “Being Human at the Margin: Gandhian Traces after Life-in-Prison” is an ethnographic project that looks at how ex-prisoners exposed to Gandhi’s writings during prison-time incorporate Gandhian principles and practices into their lives outside prison. Based in Maharashtra (a state that collaborates with NGOs to run a “Gandhi Study Program” in its prisons), this project hopes to explore how meaning is installed into being human at the margin, and how the figuration of Gandhi plays a role in this. The project will stimulate collaboration with Indian partners beyond academia, and will also connect prison-based educational initiatives in the U.S. with those in India for richer exchange about prison reform and prisoner rehabilitation. 

  • Leela Prasad, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Duke University

Minimizing the Influence of Dust and Air Pollutant Deposition on Solar Energy Production Globally 

This project aims to provide insight and tools to combat photovoltaic soiling. The global approach will include ground-based measurements of soiling from novel soiling monitoring equipment. This data will be combined with particulate optical knowledge and expertise into soiling mechanisms to improve a model that predicts soiling across the globe. Solar energy producers can then use this model to save on the order of 1 billion dollars annually through optimized cleaning strategies."

  • Drew Shindell, Nicholas Professor of Earth Sciences, Nicholas School for the Environment, Duke University
  • Mike Bergin, Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Duke University
  • Mark Wiesner, Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Duke University

Imaginary Landscapes: Teachers-Students-Artists

Imaginary Landscapes: Teacher-Students-Artists is a programming and curricular initiative centered on a shared interest between two Duke Documentary Studies faculty -- Christopher Sims and Katie Hyde -- and a Delhi-based photographer, Chandan Gomes. We will organize a series of workshops and exhibits at Duke and in Kolkata and Delhi that explores the themes common in our work as documentary photographers and educators – landscapes and the imagination of children. Our project will invite and include the participation of faculty and students in each location to create their own work alongside those of the workshop facilitators and artists, with each exhibit and workshop adding new perspectives and strategies for the next iteration. Our initiative will afford the Duke community the opportunity to work first-hand with one of India’s most promising and creative young photographers, bring the work of the Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) faculty to communities in India, and provide substantial faculty mentorship opportunities for two exceptional Duke students, Mahima Varma and Avrati Bhatnagar.

  • Christopher Sims, Undergraduate Education Director / Lecturing Fellow, Center for Documentary Studies, Duke University

An Assessment of the Water Quality in Northwestern India: A Multi-component Characterization of Pollutants in Drinking Water and Remediation Strategies

Water is a diminishing commodity in India due to the combination of global warming and over extraction of water resources. Yet degradation of drinking water quality is another critical and often overlooked factor that limits water availability in India. Our initial study has found that uranium contamination occurs in groundwater resources all over India and treated drinking water in Jaipur, Rajasthan contains high levels of toxic chemicals and pathogens that pose health risks to the city population. Our initial data also indicate that the current water treatment practices notonly fail to eliminate many human pathogens, but also generate harmful secondary chemicals known as disinfection byproducts. These results raise concerns about the ability of the water authorities to adequately monitor and treat drinking water supplies in India and the associated potential health effects. The new Duke India Initiative project will generate a research consortium including leading U.S. universities (Duke, Stanford and Georgia Tech), three academic institutions in India, and the government of Punjab to further evaluate the water quality issues in Northwestern India. The research will (1) verify preliminary results on presence of toxic chemicals in treated drinking water in Jaipur; (2) evaluate groundwater quality in particularly uranium and other contaminants in rural areas across the state of Punjab; (3) evaluate municipal water quality in Ludhiana city in Punjab; and (4) evaluate technology solutions for providing clean drinking water in rural and urban areas in India.

  • Avner Vengosh, Professor of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University

The Value of Love:  Global Perspectives on the Economy of Care

This project reconsiders the value of care labor from the perspective of the global south, starting with a two-day workshop to frame a larger, multi-year grant proposal for an interdisciplinary, international working group.  The working group emerges from the recognition that how we produce knowledge about labor’s value — how we frame questions, name problems, draw boundaries and collect and analyze evidence — in turn shapes laws, public policies, and social practice.  This labor is ascribed value in many different ways, whether in uncommodified forms such as motherhood and community service, semi-commodified forms such as informal labor and servitude, or hypercommodified forms such as the emergent platform or gig economies.  Amid this diversity, love labor remains structurally undervalued in our economies, despite many decades of data collection, research, and writing about this critical issue.

  • Jocelyn Olcott, Professor of History, Duke University