In This Issue
About Us
About Pattrika
This biannual newsletter is conceived to give a glimpse of the many and varied projects conducted by the French research centres in India.This third issue in the new online format covers the first half of 2018. Click here for previous issues
Contact Us
IFP: ifpinfo{at}ifpindia{dot}org

EFEO: administration{at}efeo-pondicherry{dot}org

CSH: communication{at}csh-delhi{dot}com
MANDU (Monsoon, climatic anomalies and society in late medieval India) (IFP)

MANDU (Monsoon, climatic anomalies and society in late medieval India) is an interdisciplinary project on past landscape and waterscape in India, exploring the impact of climatic variation on societal change and the ways people and society responded and adapted to hydroclimate-related risks, insecurity, and extremes in the semi-arid environment of Central India. It tackles a period that is particularly neglected in the social and environmental dynamics of India, i.e. the late Medieval (c. 1100 to 1500 CE), a period of both significant climatic disturbances and sociopolitical and cultural changes.

This 4-year project (2019-2022) of which Anne Casile (IRD, PALOC Research Unit, currently assigned at IFP) is the Principal Investigator, is a laureate of the ANR JCJC Call 2018. Together with a team composed of leading scholars from human, social and environmental sciences, including Anupama K., Prasad S. and Muthusankar G. from the IFP, she will coordinate an interdisciplinary research programme, focusing on the area of the famous site called Mandu (Dhar District, Madhya Pradesh).

Contact: Anne Casile: anne{dot}casile{at}ifpindia{dot}org

ERC Śivadharma Project: collaboration with Naples and Bologna (EFEO)

Detail of painted wooden cover-board of a ninth-century Nepalese manuscript of the Śivadharmottara, National Archives, Kathmandu 5-892 (NGMPP A 12/3)

In September 2018, the Pondicherry Centre of the EFEO learnt the good news that it would be one of several beneficiaries of two major funding grants awarded by the European Research Council (ERC). One of them began formally in December 2018: a five-year ERC starting-grant entitled “Śivadharma”, awarded to the Principal Investigator Florinda De Simini (“L’Orientale”, Naples). Several researchers of the Centre will be involved in this project, which aims to throw light on a major corpus of neglected first-millennium sources for religious history.

Arguably the dominant strand in the multifarious mass of 3000-year-old traditions that we loosely call “Hindu” is that formed by the practices and theologies that crystallised around the once liminal Vedic deity Rudra, or, to give him his apotropaically euphemistic name, Śiva, “The Benevolent One”. These Śaiva traditions are themselves hugely varied, encompassing antinomian practices that harnessed the power of transgressive sexual and mortuary rituals, as well as philosophically sophisticated defences of a range of both dualist and non-dualist theological positions. What has been studied out of all this, particularly in the last 50 years (and particularly in the French institutions of research in Pondicherry), is overwhelmingly the huge and fascinating literary corpus of doctrines and liturgies produced by intellectuals. But there are sources that enable us to reconstruct the history of the major unacknowledged moving force behind these priestly productions, namely lay religiosity. And perhaps most important of these sources is the largely still unpublished and barely studied body of Sanskrit works known as the Śivadharma, the “Religion of Śiva”, produced between the sixth and ninth centuries CE. This project aims to open up more of this primary source material to scholarship, to document better the huge spread of its influence across the Sanskrit cosmopolis (discernible primarily through epigraphs, translations, quotations, borrowings and commentaries). In so doing, it aims also at throwing light on the genesis of “Hinduism”.

Contact: Florinda De Simini: florindadesimini{at}gmail{dot}com, Dominic Goodall: dominic{dot}goodall{at}efeo-pondicherry{dot}org

The Challenges of Inequality (CSH)

CSH has the privilege of coordinating an important research consortium that is devoted to the understanding of some of the challenges that inequalities in human condition continue to raise in both Europe and India. This consortium gathers together scholars from France (many of them based at CSH and IFP), India (Delhi School of Economics and Indian Statistical Institute), UK (Warwick University) and Norway (University of Oslo). The consortium has received a nearly 1 000 000 euros research grant by the EU-India Platform for Social Sciences and Humanities (EqUIP) for this endeavor for the period 2019-2021.

The worldwide success of Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century, (Harvard University Press, 2014) is a clear indication that inequalities in human condition continue to be one of the most important issue faced by our fast growing and integrating world. Inequalities of income and wealth seem to be on the rise within many countries, even though they may be declining when one adopts the "world citizens" perspective proposed some 15 years ago by Bourguignon and Morrisson.

Yet inequality is a complex notion. Besides the usual wealth and income inequalities grandly addressed in Piketty's book, the public debate often address more subtle inequalities of opportunities among social groups as well as inequalities in health, education, access to new-technologies, exposure to environmental risks, social status, etc. The complex nature of these inequalities raises important challenges for the individuals who are affected by them, the policy makers who want to alleviate them, and the social scientists who want to understand them.

One of these challenges concerns the very meaning and measurement of these inequalities. The standard tools for appraising income or wealth inequalities -- for example by means of inequality indices or Lorenz curves - are in effect inadequate for appraising inequality in more qualitative or ordinal dimensions such as social status, health or education. The standard tools of inequality measurement are also imperfectly suited to address the multidimensionality of the attributes whose distribution is evaluated. An important output of the research project will be to propose philosophically grounded new methods for appraising these inequalities that duly account for both the ordinal or qualitative feature of many of the concerned variable and the specific issues raised by their multidimensionality.

Another challenge raised by those inequalities lies in the attitudes that people develop about them. A country like India for instance is commonly depicted as being more tolerant with respect to inequalities in social status -- that underlie the continuing prevalence of the caste system -- than European and North American countries. Along a different line, there is a widespread view in countries endowed with what Max Weber called the "protestant ethics" that inequalities resulting from factors that people are responsible for -- for instance their effort -- are not ethically objectionable. It is only the inequalities that result from circumstances -- like skin colour, gender, family background, etc. -- that should be reduced. This "responsibility ethics" widely shared in Anglo-Saxon countries and endorsed by contemporary philosophical theories of justice, seems less prevalent in countries with strong catholic traditions such as France or Italy. The research project will accordingly examine how these cultural differences in attitudes to inequalities affect the very way by which these inequalities are appraised and analyzed.

The last challenge raised by inequalities concern their impact on both the design of public policies aiming at mitigating their most adverse consequences and the individual lives trajectories. India has implemented various programs to reduce pecuniary poverty and inequality, as well as inequalities of opportunities between men and women on the one hand and between groups of varying social status often based, in India, on caste. One of them is the well-known Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Guaranteed Employment Act (MGNRGEA). Another is the national DDU-GKY program which trains and places rural high-school dropouts into urban jobs, with quotas for women, scheduled tribes and schedule castes. The project will provide an extensive analysis of these programs. It will also examine from a more qualitative perspective the consequences that these inequalities can have on the life trajectories of individuals be they poor Nepalese migrants, households from Tamil Nadu or workers in large Indian firms.

Contact: Nicolas Gravel: nicolas{dot}gravel{at}csh-delhi{dot}com