The contemporary urban in South Asia is a major focus of Sarai's interests. Towards this end, we are committed to promoting critical research in the field, deploying varied theoretical perspectives and addressing multiple issues. In light of the fact that existing social science scholarship in the field is rather thin and theoretically unsophisticated, we feel that our intervention is both important and urgent. We need to be both researchers and mentors, understanding the contemporary urban through our own work and helping build a network of young researchers who are adequately equipped to engage with the complexity of modern urban experiences. In this manner we hope to both supplement the resources provided by the traditional university system, as also transcend them in terms of addressing emerging issues and experimenting with form.
The Student Stipendship Programme is a crucial intervention in this regard. Students are provided financial support and academic resources to carry out research, present their work and interact with the wider academic community. Each year Sarai supports around 20 young research scholars for short term studentship to facilitate research on urban life in South Asia. Stipendiaries are selected from all parts of the country, metros and small towns alike, and they cover a wide range of traditional as well as emerging academic disciplines including literature, history, geography, urban planning, media studies, film studies etc.
For the last four cycles, the Student Stipendship Programme has successfully developed a community of research scholars, operated as a platform for dialogue and sharing of information, and provided exposure, inputs and encouragement to young researchers.
• To build a network of young researchers with a focus on urban issues;
• Promote research on variety of themes, especially emerging issues;
• Provide an environment for experimentation with form of research;
• Provide academic support in the form of readings and lectures;
• Encourage public rendition of work through email based discussion forums such as firstname.lastname@example.org ;
• Encourage a culture of peer review among young researchers by inviting researchers to comment on postings and drafts of fellow researchers.
The Selection Process
Selection of student stipendiaries is done through a public call for proposal through advertisement in research and popular magazines such as The Economic and Political Weekly and Hans , email forums including email@example.com , firstname.lastname@example.org etc., posters to different universities/ institutions all over the country and letters to people working on urban and media issues. The response to these have steadily increased over the years. Proposals are received from all over the country and as with the Independent Fellowships we witnesses a greater number of applicants from non-metros. Similarly, there has been a steady increase in number of proposals in Hindi, thus attesting to the growing reach of the programme.
The proposals are shortlisted and selected by a committee of three Sarai members. Clarity of research agenda, clear work plan and creative potentiality are among the important considerations in selection of projects. In addition, we attempt to build greater diversity through some weightage for proposals from smaller towns and those in Hindi. Women constitute close to 60 percent of selected researchers. This diversity, together with a commitment to rigorous research, has ensured that over the years the students have been able to engage with a range of experiences and that theoretical reflections are inflected with the recognition of social diversity.
The Student Stipendship Programme started as a part of City One Conference organised by Sarai/ CSDS in January 2003. The conference design included an innovative component for students who were offered an opportunity to attend the conference and also report on it on the Reader List and other forums. Invitation to attend the conference was through a public call that required students to submit a brief write-up on their research interests and background.
Sarai also provided financial support to the extent of Rs.10,000 to prepare a research paper that would build upon their learning through conference participation. These papers were presented at a separate workshop in June 2003. Some of the interesting research presented during the workshop included An Archeology of Memory, a work on Purana Quila by Anand Vivek Taneja (Mass Communications, Jamia Millia Islamia), A Study of Social Organization/Reorganization of Workers' Lives at the Workplace and in the Neighborhood in the context of Dhanbad, by Dhiraj Kumar (History, J.N.U), A Comparative Study of Contemporary City Structures (of Ahmedabad) by Rutul Joshi (Urban and Regional Planning, CEPT), Chowks in Munger by Sheema Fatima (Sociology, D.S.E), Gender and Hindutva in Pune City: Documenting Women's Participation in Jnana Prabodhini by Swati Dyahadroy (Pune University), Visualization of the Colonial Urbanism (in Kerala) by Sujithkumar Parayil (CSCS, Bangalore), The Evolution of the City and its Regime: A Case Study of Jamshedpur c. 1920-1960 by Kalyan Kumar (History, JNU), Railways and the Changing Rural-Urban Interface: A Case Study of a Railway Town, Jamalpur, c. 1860-1930 by Nitin Sinha (History, JNU).A lot of these researchers carried forward their stipendship work and developed their research threads even after the stipendship period.
On the basis of experiences of the first cycle and feedbacks from the community of researchers in the first year, a need was felt for a preliminary workshop. Most researchers also expressed the necessity for intellectual support in terms of articles, lectures on theoretical frameworks, suggestions regarding fieldwork and archival works. In order to meet these needs, a preliminary workshop was organised in the second year of the programme in March 2004 to introduce students to the works of urban scholars, research methodology and resources. The interactive workshop included presentations on 'Urban Experience' (by Ravi Sundaram, Sarai-CSDS), 'Researching City Scapes' (by Solomon Benjamin, independent urban scholar), 'Urban Environments' (by Awadhendra Sharan, Sarai-CSDS) and 'Labour, the Public and the City (by Prabhu Mohapatra, Department of History, Delhi University). The presentations concluded with a group discussion on 'Research Methods and Resources'. A set of relevant articles theorizing the urban experience was compiled as a print 'Reader' and a CD, and distributed among workshop participants.
At the end of the yearly cycle of the stipendship, research scholars were invited to present their six months' research work in a two days workshop on 19 th -20 th of August 2004. Presentations included those on N eighbourhood Pattern and Urban Planning in Calcutta by Jayani Bonnerjee (Department of Geography, Kolkata) , Architecture of Sociability : Workers Co-operative Coffee Houses of Delhi: The Tent and Mohan Singh Place Coffee House : A Case Study by Sumit Roy and Soumya B.Verma (MCRC Jamia Milia Islamia), Mrinal Sen's Calcutta : City as the Site for Regression and Radicalism by Arpita Guha Thakurata (School of Women's studies, Jadavpur University), Living in Heritage : The Fontainhas Festival in Panjim by Jerry Cherian (Goa University), S tudy of Work Culture at Fast Food Chains by Syed Khalid Jamal (MCRC, Jamia Milia Islamia), The Future of Public Space ( Lok Sthano Ka Bhavisya ) by Aparna Malviya ( Political Science, Allahabad University).
The Student Stipendship programme in its third year( 2004-05) was further redesigned to include to more support from senior researchers at Sarai and greater public interactivity through regular postings on the urbanstudygroup list. Students were now motivated to make a minimum of 5 postings on the email@example.com, outlining not only their research question but also the process of doing research and the primary and secondary materials being drawn upon to address their research agenda. The period of fellowship was also extended from 6 to 9 months and the extent of financial support raised from Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 15,000. The number of workshops was also increased and now included a preliminary workshop where students were introduced to critical literature in the field through lectures and presentations; an intermediate workshop where they discussed selected readings and present a brief synopsis of their papers and a final workshop where they made presentations of their research findings.
The workshops were organised in Delhi (Jan. 2005) and Bangalore (July 2005) and the final workshop in Delhi (August 2005). The first workshop had a combination of open interactive sessions on urban research, field work, problems and perspectives in archive based research. The second workshop aimed at establishing a linkage between ongoing research work and the existing literature on urban research. Researchers were asked to provide commentaries on selected readings from the reading material which was distributed among them during the first workshop. Researchers were also taken on the field trip of the IT corridor in Bangalore with a view to providing them first hand experience to understand emerging land-use patterns and the politics through which these developments are secured. Senior Bangalore based researchers and Sarai collaborators Solomon Benjamin and Asha Ghosh acted as field guides. Researchers also presented a brief synopsis of their papers and Sarai researchers and collaborators provided guidance on how to organise their research materials into cogent intellectual arguments.
In 2006, the stipendship amount was further increased to Rs.20,000. contuing earlier trajectory of the programme, this year too, stipendiaries were selected from a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds and geographical locations: from Thiruvananthapuram to Varanasi and Pune to Darbhanga and Kolkata, stipendiaries focus on a broad range of disciplines including literature, history, gender studies, urban planning and communication studies. In the course of nine months of stipendship, researchers were invited to participate in three workshops ( Delhi:February, Bangalore: June and Delhi: August) .
This year's subjects include engagements with dynamics of new urbanism in Pune, historical trajectories of matrimonial classifieds, Popular music and issues of regional and gendered identities urban memories and question of representations, narratives and desires, geographies of capital and labour in Trivandrum, historical construction of goondas in context of Great Calcutta Killings of 1946 and many worlds of beauty and the beauty industry.