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Graduate Student Fellowship Awards

The Department’s graduate students have a strong track record of securing fellowships awards. We show case how these awards have supported successful students to carry out research in field and to complete their dissertations.


Michael Collins writes: 

“My research was funded by a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad (DDRA) Award. Between 2013-2014, I conducted ethnographic fieldwork examining the democratic transition of the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), or Liberation Panthers Party, the largest Dalit political party in Tamil Nadu. Over fourteen months, I traversed the state's northern districts to discuss with Viduthalai Chiruthaigal organizers how they recollect their transition into electoral democracy and discuss their perspectives on the compromises folded within formal electoral participation. My dissertation conveys ethnographically how Viduthalai Chiruthaigal organizers today recall their direct experience of electoral democracy, fifteen years after taking the plunge in electoral politics. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Tamil Nadu where I interviewed a wide range of Viduthalai Chiruthaigal leaders and even observed the 2014 General Election firsthand with one of the VCK's two parliamentary candidates." 


Samira Junaid recalls:

 “My research was funded by the American institute of Indian Studies (AIIS)  which commenced in summer 2014. I began my year of primary research in India in Chennai, where I made use of British East India Company records housed in the Tamil Nadu State Archives, Tamil Islamic textual materials collected by the Roja Muthiah Library, as well as papers from the Mackenzie Collection kept at the Government Oriental Manuscripts Library. After 3 months of intense scoping through these repositories, I moved to Pondicherry to make use of the bibliographic resources of the French Institute of Pondicherry and to exploit its relatively greater proximity to Nagore, the site of the famous Nagore dargah - the anchor point of my research. While in Pondicherry I re-discovered in Kottakkuppam, a neighborhood located at stone's throw in Tamil Nadu, the Anjuman Nusrathul Islam Public Library, an invaluable resource for anyone attempting to study Islam or Muslim society in Tamil Nadu. Started almost a century ago with private inititative, the Anjuman library continues to be maintained and augmented by local residents and well wishers. Another such important resource is the private library kept by retired professor and scholar Tamil literature, Sayabu Maraikkar of Karaikkal, who generously allowed me to use his library. My time in Nagore was rather interesting and challenging, as books seemed to be rather scarce and well wishers ceaselessly prodded me in the direction of matrimony. But it was here that I was able to be witness and participate in the everyday rituals and practices of the dargah - at times becoming the subject of curious onlookers - and to meet and talk to those people for whom the dargah appears at times to be an important site of mystical and historical value, and at other times an unremarkable, customary part of their everyday lives. Along the way I traveled to several other places in Tamil Nadu, saw many dargahs and met many people - scholars, teachers, politicians, businessmen, orthodox dargah-denialists, filmmaker-journalists, litterateurs, home-makers, social workers, students, publishers, poets, sufis, dargah trustees, and bystanders - all of whom contributed to making my time in the field rich in terms of experience, and reasonably useful for the purposes of a dissertation." 


Sudev Sheth describes:

“For the 2015-16 academic year, I have fellowships from the American Institute of Indian Studies (Junior Fellowship) and a fellowship from the Social Science Research Council (International Dissertation Research Fellowship). My doctoral research investigates connections between elite banking households, state formation, and finance capital. So far, I have spent three months studying banking papers from the Haribhakti Collection housed at the M.S. University in Baroda, along with files from the Baroda Records Office and various other local libraries. My research in India has been rewarding, especially since I have been interacting with many scholars based in Gujarat. One of the difficulties I have been facing is that the Haribhakti Collection remains uncatalogued, and sorting through bundles of unknown historical materials can be overwhelming.”


Sarah Pierce Taylor

This academic year Sarah Pierce Taylor is a Five College Fellow and a Visiting Instructor of Religion at Mount Holyoke College. The Five College Fellowship is designed to promote diversity across the Five College Campuses of Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, Smith, and UMass-Amherst while at the same time funding Ph.D. students in their final year of dissertation writing. In Spring 2016, Sarah will independently teach and design her first class "Gender and Sexuality in South Asian Religion" and will defend her dissertation in April. Her dissertation title is “The Aesthetics of Sovereignty: The Poetic and Material Worlds of Medieval Jainism."