The New Generation Network (NGN) is the first coordinated effort by Australian universities to deliver policy-relevant research on contemporary India.
In 2017, 10 Early Career Researchers across five universities (University of Melbourne, La Trobe University, University of New South Wales, Deakin University and Queensland University of Technology) and three states will begin three-year postdoctoral positions in eight disciplines exploring contemporary challenges in India.
This initiative is part of a broader push by the Australia India Institute to provide highly informed answers to the questions facing India and the Australia-India relationship.
An exploration of incubators and funders in the clean technology space in India
Social enterprises and start-up businesses are playing an important role in the development of new markets for clean technology products and services at the bottom of the pyramid in India, and in developing new energy landscapes. My research will explore how clean tech energy incubators and funders are supporting and shaping social enterprises and businesses. It will focus on how and why incubators and funders are choosing businesses, ideas, and technologies to support, how they shape and discipline the activity of those businesses, and how they learn from the success and failure of businesses.
This research will shed light on the role that incubators and funders are playing in supporting, shaping, and disciplining social enterprises and start-up businesses serving the bottom of the pyramid in India. In terms of policy impact, outlining how incubators and funders are choosing businesses, ideas, and technologies, and how they are responding to success and failure – this research will show where incubators and funders are doing things well, and where improvements are necessary.
Who discriminates? A study on the determinants of ingrained discrimination
Almost all the existing research on discrimination focuses on the side that is discriminated against – more specifically, these questions emerge as which race/gender/community/caste is more prone to be discriminated against? We ask the opposite question – which race/gender/community/caste is more prone to discriminate? Most of the existing literature also examines the features of discrimination prevalent among agents who have already entered the labour market. We intend to examine if discrimination is ingrained amongst younger agents who have not as yet, entered the labour market. In an experimental design, we ask our participants to rank fictitious profiles of imaginary candidates on the basis of suitability for a paid workshop. We then study the nature of discrimination based on the differences in the observed ranks across treatments that either reveal ‘additional information’ of the fictitious candidates or do not reveal them.
The first policy relevant question that can be directly addressed is – whether it is beneficial to have details on caste, race etc, in application forms of national interest. If behavioural determinants of hiring (e.g. favouritism) are more significant than the core economic determinants (e.g. measures or signals of productivity), then it will help to model the labour market that allows for the possibility that productivity is not always rewarded (contrary to the predictions of economic theory). A primary data collection unit named OutlineIndia has taken interest in this project, and we are already on the process of data generation. I have already been invited by a few schools here in India to discuss some preliminary findings. I will be happy to share the feedback so far.
Indian international thought in postcolonial and historical perspective
Despite India’s obvious and growing international importance, its foreign policy and the thought it draws upon to engage with the world are poorly understood. Regardless of his flashy diplomatic style, Narendra Modi’s foreign policy draws heavily on its historical antecedents, including those that originate with the Indian National Congress rather than the Hindutva movement. This research will look into India’s ideational engagements with the world from the 1930s through to the present day, looking at how Indian thinkers and foreign policy practitioners understood the world, and how they responded to the racialized world order in which they operated, feeding into India’s present day foreign policy.
By producing a postcolonial genealogy of Indian international thought, this research will produce a new understanding of the ideas that underpin contemporary Indian foreign policy. As these streams of thought are also intimately connected to the racial discourses associated with the British empire, it will also add new depth to our understanding of India’s relationship with Australia. By investigating little known Indian thinkers, this project will also bring greater diversity of thought to the canon international relations theory.
Human impacts of artificial afforestation in North India
Countries around the world are undertaking programs for afforestation (tree plantation) in an effort to mitigate climate change. However, little is known about the impacts of these efforts on resource-dependent communities. Plantations alter the mixture of benefits that people derive from the landscape and the practices of by which forests are managed. I am working with several colleagues to develop a mixed-methods project (remote sensing, quantitative surveys, and qualitative methods) to study (a) the effects of plantations on rural livelihoods in Himachal Pradesh, (b) the institutional and political conditions that can help to align plantation planning with rural needs, and (c) the ways that plantations are remaking the rural landscape through new species, patterns resource use, and land cover types.
This project will fill a gap in existing knowledge about what happens to plantations after they are planted and the ways that they affect the livelihoods of resource-dependent communities. This should have important implications for developing policy that is more likely to succeed in aligning environmental and livelihood needs in the context of the present widespread push toward plantations around the world. One of the project’s collaborators is a senior Indian forest officer, and we are planning to develop a set of guidelines and training materials to disseminate our findings to foresters in India.
Innovative pathways to transform waste plastics into sustainable and high value products
The project entails development of innovative processes to transform waste plastics from various sources, including electronics and automotive into sustainable high-value carbon agglomerates for replacement of coke and coal in metallurgical industries. Experimental and fundamental research will enable us to characterise wide range of plastics in incredibly complex waste streams and determine their suitability for the project. Industrial trials of the agglomerates with Indian and Australian partners of the SMaRT centre will be an integral part of the project and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) studies will be undertaken to evaluate their environmental impact.
o Increased diversion of waste from landfills in India and Australia.
o Development of innovative and sustainable technology to agglomerate waste plastics for green manufacturing.
o Creation of fundamental and scientific database pertaining to interactions of carbon derived from waste polymers and metals.
o Push towards the formalisation of recycling sector in India and transferring the economic and social benefits to the poorest communities involved in waste collection.
o Quantitative assessment of environmental benefits from sustainable manufacturing.
Grassroots Interfaith Peacebuilding in India & Australia: The Role of Alliance in Violence Prevention & Social Change
Situated within the contemporary contexts of reinvigorated Islamophobia, as well as heightened awareness of structural racism and the intensification of white supremacy in political discourse, this project will explore processes of interfaith peacebuilding involving Muslim communities in India and Australia. Using qualitative methods (interviews and participant observation), the project will focus on alliances across difference (of religion, gender, ethnicity, and class) to consider how such alliances shape both subjects’ own identities, as well as their collective sense of social justice and political change. Comparison across local, national, and global contexts & histories will provide new insights on community-led peacebuilding initiatives.
Employing participatory action research, I will partner with organizations in Hyderabad and Melbourne to design and implement workshops on alliance-building, where activists involved in interfaith peacebuilding will engage in personal reflection and examine the successes and failures of their coalition work and collective organizing. These dialogues will provide a foundation for creating policy reports to inform state agencies and the NGO sector on promising approaches to building peace across social difference and conflict.
Transforming sport in India: A legitimacy approach to understanding and improving governance
Governance legitimacy is most succinctly defined as the ‘perceived right to govern’. Forms of legitimacy include procedural, structural, consequential, linkage, and personal. Study one of this project audits the alignment of the current governance practices of Indian National Sport Organisations with different forms of legitimacy. Study two and three will use purposefully-selected cases to explore legitimacy in depth. In study two, in-depth interviews with a range of stakeholders will provide insight into the perceived legitimacy of the cases. Study three will be an action research project to explore the efficacy of legitimacy management techniques based on findings from study two.
The action research study will provide the most direct impact of this project. Through action research, participating organisations will work with the researcher to create meaningful change in their organisation. The legitimacy focus of this project means that the participating boards may improve their perceived legitimacy resulting in more effective governance. Indirectly, the findings of the three studies will inform the MYAS, SAI, and other stakeholders on actions that can improve sport governance in India.
In the aftermath of the Indian Sodomy Law Legal Reform: Anti-discrimination, LGBT Rights and Social Acceptance in India
In the context of the stalled legal reform of homosexuality in India (2009-2013), this project examines the social, cultural and political initiatives undertaken by NGOs, civil society actors and lawyers/activists to foster acceptance and awareness about LGBT identities. Prominent among such initiatives are anti-discrimination policies enacted in workplaces, support groups in university campuses, celebrity activism and public dialog between parents and mental health professionals. Based on fieldwork in Delhi, Bombay and Chennai, this interdisciplinary project will use qualitative methods like interviews and archival research, and draw upon media studies, legal studies, human geography, postcolonial studies and human rights scholarship.
This project highlights how Indian activists deploy global LGBT advocacy in a non-western context in line with local sensitivities around class, caste, religion and region. It makes an interdisciplinary contribution to media studies, comparative geographies and postcolonial studies. A geographically specific, ethnographic account of the social, cultural and economic processes through which safer LGBT visibility is being created in the institutional spaces of the family, workplace and education can inform the national policy on gender and sexual minorities.
Planning the sustainable and resilient ‘smart cities’ in India: An evidence-based approach to local climate change mitigation and possible impacts
Urbanisation and the conversion of increased proportions of agricultural and “natural” landscape to urban land use in India has been resulting in increase of local temperatures compared to the surrounding rural areas, as well as of the occurrence of tropical days and heat waves. This project will undertake an evidence-based approach to examine the relationship between local climate change, outdoor thermal comfort, and energy consumption in selected ‘smart cities’ (Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam) of India. The understanding of the strategies which control this relationship is essential for climate change resilient cities as well as for supporting sustainable smart city planning.
This project supports evidence-based decisions and strategies relating to mitigate urban vulnerability to climate change, and fills the gap between research and practice by providing an ‘Urban Climate Change Mitigation Performance Index’. This decision-support tool will inform and assist urban policy and development assessment and planning practices in selection of optimal building and urban interventions to cool streetscapes and cities, decrease energy consumption, protect urban population’s vulnerable health, and improve conditions of comfort.