The IFP Newsletter

September 2022

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SOCIAL SCIENCES WINTER SCHOOL IN PONDICHERRY 2022 - After a two year-long hiatus due to the pandemic, the SSWSP is back this year ! Applications are now open for the 6th edition, which will be held at UMISARC (Pondicherry University) from November 28 to December 2. This year's edition will be on "Rethinking inequalities" The Social Sciences Winter School in Pondicherry is open to Doctoral and Master students of all fields in social sciences.The trainers will be from various disciplinary backgrounds and the teams will be international, composed of young and senior researchers originating from Indian universities and research centres of excellence, as well as from abroad.

Click this link to fill the online application form:
The application should further include a full CV and the Postgraduate degree certificate to be sent at
The deadline for submission of application is September 16, 2022.
All correspondence should be addressed to the team of coordinators:

More information and detailed programme is available on the website of the Winter School:
INTERNATIONAL SEMINAR ON ‘KAVYADOSA’ (POETIC FLAW) - A seminar on “poetic flaws” (kāvyadosa), an important topic of classical Indian poetics, has been organised at the Department of Indology by M. Vinoth on the 4th and 5th of August 2022. During these two days, thirteen scholars from India and abroad discussed the history of the notion of a “flaw” in the poetic domain, various treatments of this topic throughout the history of Sanskrit poetics, and the impact of this reflection on the textual transmission of the ancient Sanskrit poetic corpus. The talks and discussions, which were held in English as well as in Sanskrit, were attended by students and colleagues from the IFP, Pondicherry University and the EFEO, and are to serve as a first step towards a reassessment of the importance of a reflection on “defects” in the understanding of kāvya (and the theoretical reflection thereon) as a specific literary genre and cultural form in early and pre-modern South Asia.
LOCAL FOOD SYSTEMS MONTHLY EVENTS - July and August were fruitful months for the now monthly event. On July 29 the Social Sciences Department received Dr R Sridharan, Chiel Medical Officer, Chief Nodal Officer at the State Medical Plants Boards of UT of Pondicherry ( Government of Pondicherry) to talk about the importance of preserving the knowledge of herbs for their nutrition and therapeutic value. The following month, IFP received Mr Armanath Krishnamurthy, Managing Director of Hotel Surguru in Pondicherry and Mr Prathaban V, Zomato Delivery agent, to discuss how digital technologies and online food delivery apps are changing the food market.
JOINT WORKSHOP “MICROFINANCE AND HOUSEHOLD DEBT IN INDIA. SURVIVING THE CRISES AND BUILDING THE FUTURE”- On 19th July, the Observatory of Rural Dynamics and Inequalities in South-India and Dvara Research Foundation organized a joint workshop on microfinance and household debt. By bringing together academics, practitioners, investors, and policymakers, this workshop aimed to take stock of the crisis's effects and propose ways forward. The following points were discussed: the high financial vulnerability of a portion of poor households; the ambivalent effects of credit bureaus, which serve mainly to protect lenders; the persistence of strong inequalities in access to financial services, not only for poor households but also for the organizations that serve them; the issues and challenges of debt cancellation practices.
PLMPI - IFP's Indology Department is coordinating the pilot mission of a Container Laboratory which will be stationed in Pondicherry in 2023, as part of the Palm-leaf Manuscript Profiling Initiative (PLMPI) of the Centre for Study of Manuscript Cultures (CSMC), University of Hamburg. A seminar series is planned throughout 2022 to familiarise IFP researchers across all departments with the multiple analytical techniques that will be deployed within the lab. The aims are to explain in detail how each technique will be useful to the study of palm-leaf manuscripts, and discuss how they could be used by IFP researchers and students to develop small parallel projects using these techniques.

In July, Dr. Marina Creydt of the Hamburg School of Food Sciences, kicked off the series with her talk titled "Metabolite Profiling of Wood and Plant Food by non-targeted high-resolution Mass Spectrometry". In August, Prof. Dr. Stephan Seifert of the Department of Chemistry presented his work "Classification and characterization of complex data with chemometric approaches" Another seminar is planned with Dr. Sebastian Bosch of the Centre for Study of Manuscript Cultures. He will present his work "Non-/minimally invasive on-site analysis of palm-leaf manuscripts"

New projects

THE NILGRI ARCHEOLOGICAL PROJECT,  a new project in collaboration with and funded by the University of Ghent has started at the IFP in June 2022. The IFP will manage the Paleoecological component of this project situated in a multidisciplinary framework to study the pre-colonial history of Indian upland forest-dwellers of the Nilgiris in Southern India. Within the chronological horizon of this project, i.e., the start of the Common Era to the early nineteenth century, the idea is to use pollen and phytoliths in tandem with quantitative vegetation studies at local (archeological site based) and regional (paleoenvironmental reconstruction) scales. The broad aim is to assess the potential to go from site specific reconstructions of the past vegetation to regional quantitative pollen based reconstruction of the past landcover. The current project would focus on filling the gaps in both data and methodologies that would allow us to achieve this.
PROJECT INDRA - INDIAN MONSOON AND VEGETATION DYNAMICS: LESSONS FROM TWO CONTRASTING GLACIAL- INTERGLACIAL CYCLES OF THE MIDDLE PLEISTOCENE - This new project started earlier this year at CCMR, Portugal, brings together an International multidisciplinary team that aims to reconstruct monsoon-driven vegetation changes in Central India during specific contrasting glacial-interglacial cycles with diverse baseline climatic conditions using the pollen record from deep sea sediments in the Bay of Bengal, close to the mouth of the Godavari river. Anupama, K. and Prasad, S. are external advisors in this project providing expertise in Tropical Palynology. Mr. Ankur Deb, from IPMA who joined this project visited us for an Internship in Palynology and to use the Thanikaimoni Pollen Reference collection at IFP from 25th July to 1st September 2022. He made a brief presentation on his internship and has submitted an Internship
report on 30th August 2022.
BIOGRAPHY OF THE TRANQUEBAR HERBARIUM - ENVIRONMENTAL MEMORIES IN DIALOGUE WITH A COLLECTION OF MEDICAL MANUSCRIPTS FROM SOUTH INDIA - Thomas Drouin will conduct a PhD in history and anthropology of science, financed within the framework of the MeeT project (Mémoire des écosystèmes en Tension) and by the Labex "Les Passés dans le Présent", will be directed by Emmanuel Grimaud, researcher at the Laboratoire d'Ethnologie et de Sociologie Comparative (LESC) of the University of Paris Nanterre. It aims to write the biography of the Tranquebar herbarium by bringing together different types of memories preserved in this herbarium and a collection of medical manuscripts on palm leaves kept at the IFP. To do this, he will rely on new recording devices and on questions from different disciplinary horizons: history of science and anthropology of science and the enrichments to these brought by the dialogue with indology, botany and ecology. Its method will be rooted in the history of science, in particular that of botany and the environment, in dialogue with the research that the two archives will be the subject of [mot manquant] by the different departments of IFP, the universities of Hamburg and Pondicherry in particular. Its aim is to bring back to life the human and non-human actors of this environmental and medical knowledge and to make their voices heard in the present.

ENVIRONMENTAL LAW AND ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS IN INDIA (RENAUD COLSON IFP / UNIVERSITÉ DE NANTES) - This new project aims to analyze 1/ how the central government, the states’ institutions and local authorities use the law to tackle the growing environmental challenges facing India, 2/ what cultural, social and political drivers shape this legal response, and 3/ how successful Indian environmental law is in meeting its assigned objectives. In a first phase, the research will map out the institutional structure and the normative content of Indian environmental law drawing on official sources (constitutional provisions and constitutional case-law, federal statutes, state laws and local regulations). Over a second phase, the research will contemplate the relevance and the feasibility of legal transplants in environmental policy from India to France (e.g. the National Green Tribunal, environmental public interest litigation…) and more generally from the Global South to the West. The project will also evaluate the potential contribution of Indian legal doctrine to the contemporary debate on global environmental governance.

Fieldwork and ongoing projects

Image: Field work, September, 2021, Vennar river system, Cauvery Delta. Credits: Neha Khandekar

Breaking down knowledge silos in science and practice of water management in India
Neha Khandekar - Social Sciences Department (Doctoral Researcher)

I finished submitting the manuscript titled " Breaking down knowledge silos in science and practice of water management in India" in the Delft 2021: Advancing Socio-hydrology series of Research Topics within Frontiers in Water Journal." This paper is a joint effort of Indian scholars and practitioners working in the Indian river basin context to engage towards integrating knowledge pluralities to advance philosophies, science, and practice of water in India. We are expanding the community of water scholars and practitioners through the Indian Youth Water Network (IYWN) collective in bringing new voices, new ways and methods of knowing. We are connected in our effort to braid physical processes and understanding with socio-cultural knowledge to conduct research on Indian water systems. This paper answers the call to work towards decolonising education, knowledge, and ways of practicing and perceiving the science and practice of water in India. Here specifically I contributed towards ideation, overall synthesis and coordination in the paper. Additionally, through our ongoing research work in the Kaveri Delta collective with colleagues at IFP guided by Dr Senthil Babu, we also submitted insights to support arguments in the paper on current dominant discourse of water science in India  shifting problems to heavy engineering and infrastructural modes of solution marginalising engagement with alternative narratives, knowledge forms or other complex drivers of problems. 
Image: Village in Pudukottai, 2017. Credits: Balaji Srinavasan

Depleted by Debt Project: Restitution in Study Villages
Nithya Joseph  - Social Sciences Department (Affiliated Researcher)
On July 16 and 17, a team from the Observatory of Rural Dynamics and Inequalities in South-India shared the results of the "Depleted by debt" project with residents of the study villages. Key findings included the extent of malnutrition following the pandemic and lockdown; very high household financial fragility and unequal access to financial services based on caste and gender; kinship and social networks; forms of employment; land ownership patterns; environmental conditions; type of agricultural production; and the uneven effects of climate change. Discussions with participants revealed that the households identified by the study as the most vulnerable are still struggling to cope with the impact of the pandemic. They face persistent reductions in incomes and spiralling debt. Defaults on microfinance loans have left many women, disproportionately Dalit and landless, owing thousands of rupees in interest and penalty fees, facing threats from loan officers, and being denied formal loans.
Image : Expecting with fear the uncertain outcome of borewell drilling - Credits: Frederic Landy

Conclusion of the ANR ATCHA
Frédéric Landy - Social Sciences Department (Associated Researcher)
The ANR ATCHA project is coming to an end. I did 5 last days of fieldwork in the Berambadi watershed! In this area of South Karnataka. ATCHA studies and models irrigation, changing cropping patterns in relation with climate change. My previous investigations with Dr Venkatasubramanian G led me to develop the hypothesis that many farmers migrate, not so much because they are poor but mainly because they want to raise enough money to dig a borewell. Thanks to our interpreter Arkesh, I interviewed about forty farmers, which led me to conclude that my assumption was incorrect. We indeed observed that the link between migration and irrigation is only one way: irrigation slows down migration by providing income, but it is not migration that enables irrigation, since its income is insufficient. However, it does, enable the repayment of instalments and "juggling with debt" (I. Guérin, 2014). We should therefore not excessively isolate the different modes of livelihood with the aim of analyzing them in silo, but rather consider everything within the household system of activities.

IFP collections

IFP PHOTO COLLECTION HELPS TO TRACK DOWN STOLEN IDOLS -  IFP's collaboration with the Idol Wing CID of the Tamil Nadu Police was again fruitful. The investigation officers indeed managed to trace back several idols stolen from Tamil Nadu temples and smuggled to the US thanks to our rich and decades-old photo collection . This illustrates once again the multidimensional work and worth of the Photo Department in terms of heritage preservation. More info at
STARS PROJECT EXHIBITION IN THE LINDEN MUSEUM - The STARS project (Studies in Tamil Studio Archive and Society) is participating in the upcoming exhibition "Of Love and War. Tamil Cultural Histories" which will open on the 8th of October 2022 in the Linden Museum (Stuttgart, Germany). The IFP has loaned the anthropological museum over 60 photographic prints which have been curated by Kasha Vande (EXPOSURE Foundation), responsible for outreach and exhibitions for STARS. This will be the fourth public display of the results of the STARS project, after three exhibitions in Pondicherry, Panjim and Paris. The exhibition catalogue will be running until Spring 2023.

New arrivals

Renaud Colson is Associate Professor at the Law & Political Science Faculty of the University of Nantes (France) and Honorary Lecturer at Cardiff University. He holds a Master’s degree in Legal Theory from the Université Saint-Louis Bruxelles, a Master’s degree in Private Law and a PhD in Legal History from the University of Nantes. He has held several visiting positions in universities and institutions all around the world and joined IFP to study environmental law and environment rights in India under several aspects, from local legal response to the Indian contribution to global climate governance.
Jenni Balasubramanian is a postdoctoral fellow at LCF ( Laboratoire de recherche sur les espaces créoles et francophones) under the supervision of Pr. J-C Carpanin Marimoutou. She holds a PhD from the Centre of French and Francophone studies. She is currently working on a FEDER Project PaTRIM-OI Cultural Heritage in the Indian Ocean, from global to local: Tanzania, Reunion, India, Mauritius on the history and memory of the Indian indentured labourers from South India to La Reunion and Mauritius in the 19th century.
Sundara Skanda Poorvajan Sareswaran who is writing his Ph.D-thesis under Prof. S. Arunasundaram (Sanskrit College, Chennai), has joined the Indology department from 1 st June 2022 for a period of three year. He will pursue his studies and use his expertise in Śaivism in the framework of the project “Transcribing Indian Cultural Knowledge and Heritage”.
S. Anandavardhan who worked in IFP from 2nd January 1987 to 31 st October 2016, joined again the Indology department from 1 st May 2022 onwards, for a period of three year. He will use his expertise in Śaiva manuscripts and rituals in the framework of the project “Transcribing Indian Cultural Knowledge and Heritage”.
Aneesh Raghavan, who recently submitted his PhD thesis on the first book (vimarśa) of Mahima Bhaṭṭa’s Vyaktiviveka with Pondicherry University, will join the Indology Department on 1st September to work for nine month, together with S. Lakshminarasimhan, on the completion of vol. 5 of the Pāṇinīyodāharaṇakośa, a dictionary compiling the examples of traditional Sanskrit grammar, several volumes of which have appeared in the past. Aneesh, a regular visitor at the IFP, will also participate in the various events and projects conducted by the Department.
Matthew Leveille, currently doing his PhD at the University of Virginia (USA), will come to India as an AIIS fellow in September, and will join the Indology Department for ten months, until July, 2023. His work is focused on the stotras (“songs of praise to the deity”) by the famous 16 th -century South Indian polymath Appayya Dīkṣita, particularly his Varadarājastava, and on his Śaiva-Vaiṣṇava religious imagination. He will work with scholars at the IFP and EFEO, and additionally intends to travel for fieldwork to Kanchipuram and Thanjavur to learn of the temple cultures and to seek out manuscripts. He is also interested in Sanskrit and Tamil literature relevant to Appayya’s thought and poetry.

Building renovation

IFP is renovating, embellishing and rationalising its work spaces and the 18th century building. Work has just begun, initially to change the beams damaged by termites, humidity and time, thanks to the support of the DIL (Direction des Immeubles et de la Logistique) of the MEAE. This work will be followed by an upgrade to fire safety standards, then a reorganisation of the work spaces and better conservation of the collections (photo archive and manuscripts)). The IFP will thus undergo several months of work, which will lead to improved working conditions and better maintenance of a remarkable building.
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