Research

Tracking biodiversity and vegetation phenology through remote sensing at regional scale IFP

The increasing trend of anthropogenic impacts and changes in the monsoon patterns demand monitoring studies of biodiversity at a relatively quicker and broader scale. Recent advancements in remote sensing data and technology has emerged as a strong tool by providing continuous information to assess biodiversity and monitor vegetation phenomenon like phenology at the regional scale. Understanding this phenomenon at the regional scale will key to tackling to reduce the impact of human or climate-driven effects on biodiversity. In this context, we launch a study to monitor the vegetation phenology of Biligiri Ranganathaswamy Temple Tiger Reserve at the community level using field and remote sensing data. The study involves time series trend analysis of vegetation phenology of dry and evergreen forests, and hill-top grasslands. The project is part of collaborative research with NRSC, and it is funded by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and the Department of Space (DoS), Government of India.

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The Haṭha Yoga Project draws to a close EFEO

Sculpture in the Vidyāśaṅkara mandir at Shringeri (photo: Jim Mallinson)

The ERC-funded Hatha Yoga Project (HYP, grant n°616393) has charted the history of physical yoga practice through texts, visual culture and ethnography. Based at SOAS University of London and running from 2015–2021, the HYP has employed several researchers at the EFEO in Pondicherry, and its major outputs will be published in the Collection Indologie series of the IFP and EFEO.

The first of these is Csaba Kiss’s critical edition of the Matsyendrasaṃhitā, a collection of teachings attributed to the Siddha Matsyendra which dates to perhaps the 13th century. It includes instructions on esoteric physical techniques, but its āsanas do not include the more contortionist and gymnastic postures that become central to haṭhayoga. The Matsyendrasaṃhitā thus marks an early stage in the development of haṭhayoga from tantric traditions. Among the other critical editions already submitted for publication are the earliest known haṭhayoga text, the c. 11th-century Vajrayāna Amṛtasiddhi, and the youngest text edited in the project, the c. 18th-century Haṭhābhyāsapaddhati, which teaches 112 postures, including repeated dynamic movements.

Two members of the HYP team, James Mallinson and Jason Birch, are now part of a new project funded jointly funded by the UK’s AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council) and Germany’s DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft). “Light on Hatha” will build on the work of the HYP and produce an edition of the Haṭhapradīpikā, the most influential haṭhayoga text, employing two research assistants at the EFEO in Pondicherry.


Reading Historical Nepalese and Cambodian Inscriptions

Detail of K. 367, a C7th stela of the reign of Jayavarman I from Vat Phu (Laos), now at the Conservation d'Angkor in Siem Reap. Photo: Bertrand Porte, Stone Restoration Workshop of the National Museum of Cambodia, © EFEO.

As part of the DHARMA project (ERC grant agreement N° 809994), Dominic Goodall meets up online with other members of Task-Force C (Kunthea Chhom, Chhunteng Hun and Chloé Chollet) along with Prof. Diwakar Acharya (University of Oxford) and Dr. Nina Mirnig (Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna) on Wednesday mornings (European time) to study Sanskrit inscriptions from Nepal (especially from the 5th–7th centuries CE) and Cambodia (from both the pre-Angkorian and Angkorian periods). During these meetings, both published and unpublished epigraphic materials are reviewed.

Regarding the texts that have already been published, the team aims to check the readings using estampages and photographs in order to improve existing editions, and to prepare new translations into English.

In the case of unpublished inscriptions, the team prepares an edition with a translation into English. The new data provided by these texts often prove significant for the history of the areas under study. An interesting case is the inscription K. 1457 from Prasat Kon Kramom (Cambodia), which sheds welcome light on the vagaries of religious life at the ninth-century court of Jayavarman III, about whom little was known before, other than that he was fond of tracking and capturing elephants. The study of this inscription has already led to the preparation of an article about sectarian rivalries which has been submitted for publication.

For all inscriptions, the editors encode their new editions and translations in EpiDoc-XML for future online publication in the DHARMA-base.

Contact: chloe [dot ] chollet [at] efeo [dot] net


Survey on the Housing Market (Shailja Tandon) CSH Delhi

The project, Survey on the Housing Market is a fieldwork-based study to understand the housing price dynamics in the metropolitan city of Delhi using hedonic practices. The project aims to construct a data set on the prices (purchase or rent) and the characteristics (size, number of rooms, comfort, location) representative of the diverse housing infrastructure of Delhi. The sampling was chosen in 2005 and 2006 based on two parameters: spatial dispersion and the categorical distribution of the households, characteristic of the three segments of the heterogeneous housing market of Delhi. They are authorized and unauthorized slums, urban villages, Delhi Development Authority (DDA) housing to private houses. Professor Nicolas Gravel and his team adopted a stratified random sampling strategy. For this purpose, they made a random selection of households on the computer using the electoral roll of the occupants in Delhi. The data set also gathers information on the occupants inhabiting the diverse housing group, such as the family size, place of birth, and income. In 2019, CSH under the rubric of Challineq project, that is, Challenging Inequalities, revived the project, Survey on the Housing Market. The idea was to conduct a longitudinal study to map the changes over fifteen years in the housing market of Delhi. In the study's revived version, Prof Gravel and Louis Charlot, incorporated caste and religion as two socioeconomic factors in the questionnaire.

The fieldwork under Prof. Gravel and Dr. Olivier Telle's supervision has been conducted over the year in 46 districts of the Delhi Municipal Corporation area, covering over 5000 households, hiring over 21 Research Assistants to cover all the zones of the city. The only unfixed variable in this study was the field. The field as a domain of research and Delhi as a field of study was/is dense, challenging, and surprising, sometimes bad but mostly enriching and fruitful for field investigators. For the Research Coordinator, it has been extraordinary, no matter how ordinary people think of the field.

Contact: shailja [dot ] tandon [at] csh-delhi [dot ] com


Reducing inequalities among unequals (M. Faure, N. Gravel)

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When can a distribution of income among a group of homogeneous agents be considered more equal than another? An important achievement of the modern theory of inequality measurement is the demonstration made by the mathematicians Hardy, Littlewood and Polya in 1952— and popularized among economists by Amartya Sen in 1973 — that the following four answers to this question are equivalent.

(1) A is more equal than B if it can be obtained from B by means of a finite sequence of transfers of income from a richer to a poorer agent.

(2) A is more equal than B if all utilitarian ethical observers who assume that agents convert income into well-being by the same concave utility function so agree.

(3) A is more equal than B if the poverty gap is lower in A than in B for every definition of the poverty line.

(4) A is more equal than B if the distribution of income in A Lorenz dominates that in B.

Such an equivalence is important because it connects tightly four a priori distinct answers to the above question. The first answer identifies an elementary transformation that intuitively captures the very notion of inequality reduction. The second answer links inequality measurement to a set of explicit normative principles (utilitarianism) and seeks consensus among them. Finally, the third and fourth answers provide empirically implementable tests—poverty gap or Lorenz dominance—to determine whether or not one distribution is more equal than another. Comparing income distributions by means of Lorenz dominance has become indeed a routine practice followed by thousands of researchers all over the world.

However this classical equivalence only concerns distributions of income between otherwise perfectly homogeneous agents. Yet, income is not the only ethically relevant source of differentiation between economic agents. If these agents are collectivities such as households or jurisdictions, they differ not only by their total income but also by the number of members among whom the income must be shared. If the agents are individuals, they may also differ by non-income characteristics such as age, health, education, effort or caste status. What does “reducing income inequalities” mean when applied to agents who are differentiated with respect to another characteristic? In short, how can one define reducing inequality among unequals? This is the basic question addressed in this article published in the prestigious International Economic Review.

Contact: mathieu [dot] faure [at] csh-delhi [dot] com / nicolas [dot] gravel [at] csh-delhi [dot] com