By Odile Henry, CSH-Delhi


The year 2021 was marked by the second wave of the COVID-19 epidemic, which is estimated to have caused 2.2 million deaths in India, one of the worst cases of global Covid-19-related mortality (Guilmoto, 2021). The complete closure of the CSH premises, from April to the end of June 2021, once again affected a team that had had a very difficult year in 2020, as the centre was completely closed from 15 March to the end of the year. The consequences of this state of affairs are obviously considerable. Many of the field surveys that were interrupted the first time in 2020, were restarted at the beginning of 2021, but had to be suspended again for several months.

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News from the Archival Collections of the IFP IFP


IFP’s collections of manuscripts, photographs, maps and ecological specimens (pollen and plants) are among its pillars of strength and a key component of its scientific practice and history. The current phase marks another fresh chapter in the institute’s evolution as a center for archival work, with new collaborations and new efforts in the areas of dissemination, enhancement, curation and training.

In order to consolidate its digital collections and improve their visibility and accessibility, IFP has partnered with INIST to develop a new digital collections portal with improved functionalities and metadata curation in line with current global archival standards. The ongoing curation and digitization of decades worth of herbarium data on the Western Ghats through the FANTASTIC Ghats project supported by the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) is another development in this direction.

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Sanskrit and Malayalam Manuscripts from the Thrissur monastic Complex EFEO

Since 2018, with the generous support of Arcadia (EAP Pilot project 1039: https://eap.bl.uk/project/EAP1039), a team of scholars led by H. David, S.A.S. Sarma (both EFEO) and C.M. Neelakandhan (formerly SSSU, Kalady) is engaged in the inventory, digitisation and study of the important collection of palm-leaf manuscripts kept in the Vadakke Madham Brahmaswam, a Hindu monastery belonging to the order of Śaṅkara, in the city of Thrissur (Central Kerala). After a break in 2020 due to the pandemic, the work could resume in January 2021 thanks to the joint support of the Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures (CSMC - University of Hamburg) and the Mellon Foundation (project “The Book and the Silk Road”, hosted by the University of Toronto:https://booksilkroads.library.utoronto.ca/about-the-project).

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Revisiting Pakistan’s political history: focus on the Sindhi ethno-nationalist movement CSH Delhi

Julien Levesque, researcher at CSH until end of August 2021 and currently visiting assistant professor at Ashoka University, recently published a monograph in French based on his doctoral dissertation: Pour une autre idée du Pakistan: nationalisme et construction identitaire dans le Sindh (Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2022). The book contributes to ongoing scholarship that seeks to provide a fuller picture of Pakistan’s politics by focusing on progressive actors often left out of the dominant narrative. Almost from the moment of Independence, Pakistani authorities have persistently faced contestation from the provincial elites. Tensions in centre-province relations have caused significant disruption—most significantly, the independence of Bangladesh in 1971. They have only partially been eased by the federal structure put in place after 1973.

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The digitalization of urban governance in India: Techniques, ideas, practices CSH Delhi


Convenors: Stéphanie Tawa Lama, CNRS-CSH and Khaliq Parkar, CESSMA, Université de Paris

This two-day , online workshop was born from the observation that the rich literature on the digitalisation of urban life paints starkly contrasting pictures of the potential impact of technology on the public sphere. of such phenomenon: fFor instance, while the literature on smart cities sketches a digitally enhanced urban utopia, surveillance studies warn us against the dystopian dimension of the same digital technologies. This dichotomous vision strongly suggests that digitalisation has essentially ambiguous effects. The workshop precisely aimed to capture and document this ambiguousness inherent in the digitalisation of urban governance, by assessing its actual, observable impact on local democracy in the Indian context.

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Digital capitalism in India, the State and the people: the Aadhaar battle (2009 – 2021)

Since its launch in 2009, the digital ID scheme (also known as Unique ID or Aadhaar) has been highly controversial in India and elsewhere. It has embodied the interplay between technological progress and control of public expenditure on the one hand, and privacy and social rights protection on the other. At the first glance, it appears to be a dream for scientists, civil servants, merchants and politicians, but it could turn into a nightmare, especially under authoritarian regimes.

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The study of coastal areas in the Indian Ocean, A new interdisciplinary research field at IFP IFP

Coastal areas are ecosystems that are rapidly changing physically, ecologically, socially and politically, transformed by policies and practices of the populations. They have become crucial spaces needing to be critically observed. Since 2018/19, IFP teams have focused part of their new research on analysing the transformations of these spaces, drawing on its interdisciplinary skills in ecology, natural resource mapping and social sciences.

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On Fishercoast

The interdisciplinary team at the IFP, in collaboration with partners from India, France, Norway, UK and Slovenia, was able to successfully secure the project ‘Fishercoast’ through the EqUIP call, which began in January 2019 and runs until June 2022. This project examines how coastal development policies have transformed the physical, ecological, and social character of coastal areas in India and select European countries, seen in relation to their impact on the wellbeing of fishing communities. While aggressive modernization of fisheries in the past decades aimed at economic progress, it also resulted in damage to marine ecosystems, increased inequality, and social conflicts.

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On RUSE, Urban and Socio-ecological Resilience of the Pondicherry Bioregion

Part of the RUSE research project, funded by the French Development Agency (AFD), is concerned with the urban transformations taking place along Pondicherry’s urban coastline, which is being increasingly targeted by projects to promote tourism through centrally-sponsored schemes such as AMRUT, Swadesh Darshan, and the Smart City Mission. One such project, ‘Extension of the Beach Promenade’, proposes to extend the existing seaside avenue from the ‘White Town’ area into the coastal neighbourhoods of Kuruchikuppam and Vaithikuppam, traditionally home to the fishing community, and which remain largely used for the everyday tasks of local fishing economy.

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History of Yoga EFEO


The Haṭhapradīpikā (also known as the Haṭhayogapradīpikā), authored by Svātmārāma in the early 15th century, is arguably one of the most widely cited and influential texts on physical yoga, and is instrumental for the flourishing of haṭhayoga on the eve of colonialism. It survives in a large number of manuscripts in different scripts from across India and no edition hitherto has recorded their many variations. To tackle this huge task, a three-year research project entitled “Light on Hatha Yoga: A critical edition and translation of the Haṭhapradīpikā, the most important premodern text on physical yoga”, led by James Mallinson (SOAS), Jason Birch (SOAS) and Jürgen Hanneder (Philipps-Universität Marburg), has been approved by the British and German research funding agencies (AHRC and DFG).

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Two private collections of palm-leaf manuscripts from the Tamil country

Suganya Anandakichenin (PI), Giovanni Ciotti (University of Hamburg) and S. A. S. Sarma (EFEO, Pondicherry) have been awarded a grant for a pilot project under the British Library's Endangered Archives Program, supported by the Arcadia Fund. Entitled “Preservation of two private collections of palm-leaf manuscripts from the Tamil country for posterity”, this ten-month project (August 2021-May 2022) aims to clean, digitize, and catalogue at least part of about 180 manuscripts belonging to two collections (called “Kalliṭaikuṟicci” and Villiampākkam).

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An Intellectual History of Late Vedānta

A new 4-year research project has been launched on 1st September 2021, led by scholars of the University of Cambridge (V. Vergiani, J. Duquette, A. Barua) in collaboration with the EFEO (H. David) and funded by the Leverhulme Trust (United Kingdom). The aim of this project is to study the history of Vedānta, one of the most prominent intellectual and religious trends of the second millennium in India, from 1750 to 1900.

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At the Ecole française d'Extrême-Orient EFEO

Classical Tamil Winter Seminar

The Tamil Cankam Project team at the Pondicherry Centre organised a mini Classical Tamil Winter Seminar (CTWS), from 1-5 March 2021, to read the Kalittokai, one of the Cankam anthologies that has recently been critically reissued. The text represents the pinnacle of sophisticated poetry of the period, and the subject matter is further complicated by the highly influential medieval commentary of Naccinārkkiṉiyar. External participants were welcome but, due to the continuing pandemic, the entire seminar was conducted online.

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At the Centre de Sciences Humaines CSH Delhi

In addition to its three internal seminars held regularly in 2021 (CSH Lecture Series, CSH Seminar and CSH-CPR Urban Workshop), the CSH organized three international conferences this year.

The broken mirror: Making sense of Indian politics on social media, organized by Jean-Thomas Martelli (CSH) & Aasim Khan (IIIT-D) on 30-31.08.2021

(un)Making the Nation Religious (un)orthodoxies, Secular (un)certainties and Minorities organised by Jonathan Varghese Koshi, on 9-10.09.2021 https://sites.google.com/view/unmakingthenation/home

The Digitalization of Urban Governance in India : Techniques, Ideas, Practices, organized by Stéphanie Tawa-Lawa (CSH-CNRS) & Khaliq Parkar (CESSMA) on 11-12.10.2021

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At the French Institute of Pondicherry IFP


IFP Photo Contest 2021 was held on the theme of 'Wetlands and Water in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry regions’ on January 31 on the occasion of the Pondicherry Heritage Festival 2021 and the World Wetlands Day 2021. Following this event, a photo exhibition has been organised at the French Institute of Pondicherry in March, inaugurated by Mme. Lise Talbot Barré, Consul General of France in Puducherry in presence of Smt. Smitha. R, I.A.S., Secretary, Sci, Tech & Envt., Govt. of Puducherry.



The IFP, thanks to Nicolas Bautès, co-organized a two-days seminar, Artistic Activism in India (History, Practice, Paradigm and Circulation) (online) on 11-12 May 2021, in collaboration with MSH Paris-Nord, CEIAS (CNRS-EHESS), LabSIC and ADS-Bordeaux Montaigne University.




IFP was present at the Knowledge Summit, a bilateral scientific forum, Pune, India (online), 24-26 november 2021: Blandine Ripert organised the panel “Socio-economic transformations of coastal areas” in the workshop Marine Sciences, in which Marine Al Dahdah, Julien Andrieu, Nicolas Bautès presented their work. Delphine Thivet took part in the workshop Artificial Intelligence in agriculture, giving a social sciences perspective.

The Local Food System Festival 2021 was organized from February, 3-9, 2021, by IFP in collaboration with different stakeholders (universities, NGOs, farmers’ movements, etc.) to share reflections on the theme of food sovereignty and the transition to agro-ecology.

IFP was present at the 11th International Conference on Ecological Informatics in Thiruvananthapuram, India, 9-13 November 2021, with the presentation of 6 papers on remote sensing and machine-learning applied to their ecological data from the Western Ghats forests by students of the Ecology Department (Debrabata Behera, Devika Menon, Vincy Wilson, Naveen Babu K., Ayushi Kurian) and their supervisor Ayyappan N.

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At the French Institute of Pondicherry IFP

Amuthavalluvan joined the Social Sciences Department as an anthropologist to work in POLLIN, an IFP’s multidisciplinary project funded by CNRS on pollinators and bee-keeping practices in Puducherry.

Marine Al Dahdah joined the Social Sciences Department in October 2021 as a research fellow. She is a CNRS fellow from the Center for studies of social movements (CEMS-EHESS) and member of Unit 1276 “Risks, Violences, Reparation” of the French National health and medical research body (Inserm). Her research focused on digital health in India, Ghana and Kenya.

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At the Ecole française d'Extrême-Orient EFEO

S. Venkatarajan, Ramesh and Murugesan D. joined the Pondicherry Centre of the EFEO for 10 months from 1 August 2021 to clean, oil and digitize manuscripts within the framework of the project “Safeguarding for posterity two private collections of palm-leaf manuscripts from the Tamil country” — British Library Pilot Project EAP 1294 directed by Suganya Anandakichenin (Affiliated Researcher, Centre for the Studies of Manuscript Cultures, Hamburg University).

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At the Centre de Sciences Humaines CSH Delhi

Odile Henry joined as the director of the CSH in September 2021. She holds a doctorate in sociology from EHESS. She is a full professor of sociology at Paris 8 University.

Laurence Gautier joined as researcher in September 2021. She is a historian, her research examines the debates around Indian Muslims’ position in the nation after partition, as citizens and as a minority group.

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At the Centre de Sciences Humaines CSH Delhi

Nicolas Gravel stayed as the director of the CSH, completed his contract after 4 years in August 2020. He continues as an associate researcher at CSH.

Nicolas Belorgey was a CNRS research fellow (www.cnrs.fr) at the Institut de Recherche Interdisciplinaire en Sciences Sociales, Paris (IRISSO http://irisso.dauphine.fr) and left in November 2021. He conducted his research on the unique ID in India: Aadhaar. He has degrees and experience in political science, economics and sociology.

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At the French Institute of Pondicherry IFP

Rahim Aguejdad, CNRS researcher, detached at the l’IFP, department of geomatics, left at the end of his 2 years contract after having studied urban growth of Pondicherry.

Nicolas Bautès, Researcher at the Department of Social Sciences left the Institute in August, at the end of a 4 years contract. He remains an associate-member at the IFP.

Sarah Benabou, Researcher at the Department of Social Sciences left the institute at the end of october 2021 at the end of her 4 years IRD’s posting. She remains an associate-member at the IFP.

T. Gopal, a permanent staff, started his career at the IFP as driver in 1992 and in due course of time became the Vaguemestre of IFP. He served the institute with full involvement as an Administrative Support staff, chauffeur and maintained the IFP vehicles until his retirement in December 2021.

Hélène Guétat served the IFP as the head of the Social Sciences Department from september 2017 and left the Institute in August. She remains an associate-member.

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Jacques Pouchepadass, historian of modern and contemporary India, was born in 1942 in Barsac (Gironde) to a father from Pondicherry and a mother from Bordeaux. Following his diplomat father, he spent his teenage years in India and then in Japan, and obtained his baccalaureate from the Lycée Français in Pondicherry, before coming to Paris to study. After graduating from the Ecole Normale Supérieure and obtaining the 'agrégation' in history, he decided to work on India and for his thesis undertook research on the agrarian history of the province of Bihar in the British period. He became a researcher at the Centre for Indian and South Asian Studies (EHESS Paris) in 1967 and joined CNRS in 1974. He was posted from 1989 to 1993 to the French Institute of Pondicherry, where he was the director and founder of the social sciences department. During his time at the IFP, he opened a new and pioneering historiographical project on the relationship of men and women to their environment, which resulted in his famous book L'Homme et la forêt. This work, carried out in collaboration with the Department of Ecology, showed his great ability to engage in dialogue across disciplinary barriers, which IFP teams continue to promote through their collaborations today. He has played a major role in decompartmentalising Indian studies. He’s missing today to his colleagues and friends, since he died last October.

Maurice Taieb, renowned geologist and co-discoverer of the famous australopithecus Lucy, left this world in July 2021. All those who met him during his stay at IFP in 2000 remember him as a curious, reckless, stubborn researcher, driven by an incredible intuition.

S. Vijayarangan was the Gardener of the IFP since 1985 and maintained its garden with passion until his demise in June 2021. An endemic plant Hildegardia populifolia of Malvaceae family was planted in the IFP garden in his honour.



François Gros, an outstanding Tamil scholar and director of the EFEO from 1977 to 1989, died in April 2021. Born in Lyon on December 17, 1933, François Edouard Stéphane Gros, who was an associate professor of grammar and a student of both André Leroi-Gourhan and Paul Dumont, began his career as a French teacher in Algeria. But he became fascinated with the study of the language and literature of the Tamil language as early as 1963, when he was hired by Jean Filliozat, then director of the EFEO, to work at the French Institute in Pondicherry. It is to his early years in Pondicherry that we owe, in 1968, his beautiful translation into French of the Paripāṭal. As director of the EFEO from 1977, François Gros worked to redeploy the EFEO across Southeast Asia and to consolidate the School's position there, while at the same time overseeing the organization of the Paris headquarters, which involved the creation of a genuine library at the Maison de l'Asie. For he was indeed always a lover of books, texts, and poetry, and it was his desire to understand and make others understand that made him study not only the literature of the Cankam, the corpus of Tamil Bhakti (Tēvāram), and the archaeology of the region (teaming up with R. Nagaswamy for a publication on the city of Uttaramerur), but also contemporary Tamil literature, an interest that resulted in such publications as L’arbre Nâgalinga, a collection of twentieth-century short stories. Deep Rivers: Writings on Tamil Literature (2009) provides an overview of his work. He was also a founding member of many long-standing research programs still going on at the IFP to which he was affiliated, like the Grammatical Encyclopedia in Tamil, the History of architecture in the Cauvery delta, the Historical atlas of South India. He was one of five Europeans to receive the Kural Peedam Award from the Indian government for outstanding lifetime achievements as a scholar.

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At the Ecole française d'Extrême-Orient EFEO


The eminent epigraphist Professor R. Nagaswamy, former Director of the Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department, passed away on 23rd January at the age of 91. Numerous obituaries have appeared in a variety of Indian newspapers (see the selective list below), all highlighting different aspects of his rich and varied life. Several mention his key rôle in the high-profile court case of the “London Naṭarāja”, which culminated in the judgment that the Chola-period bronze statue came from the temple in Pattur, in Tamil Nadu, and the consequent return of the sculpture to India.

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At the Ecole française d'Extrême-Orient EFEO

Hugo David and SAS Sarma were honoured with an award for their sincere and dedicated contributions to Sanskrit studies and research by the Vadakke Madham Brahmaswam Vedic Research Centre, Thrissur Kerala, on 13 November 2021.

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At the French Institute of Pondicherry IFP


Carmen Spiers has received the French thesis prize "Prix de la Chancellerie" on December 7th, 2021, in the Grand Salon of Sorbonne University in Paris, for her PhD thesis entitled "Magie et poésie dans l'Inde ancienne. Édition, traduction et commentaire de la Paippalādasaṁhitā de l’Atharvaveda, livre 3" prepared at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes-PSL and directed by Nalini Balbir and Arlo Griffiths.



David Picherit has won the Best Edited Volume Accolade at the ninth edition (2021) of the ICAS Book Prize for which nearly 1000 titles were submitted, for the edited book Mafia Raj: The Rule of Bosses in South Asian (Lucia Michelutti, Ashraf Hoque, Nicolas Martin, David Picherit, Paul Rollier, Arild E. Ruud, Clarinda Still, Stanford University Press, 2018). Collaborative, multivocal and organic, this book offers an accessible and comprehensive anthropology of gangster politicians and violent entrepreneurs in South Asia. It elucidates muscular politics and everyday criminality with analytical depth and ethnographic detail through portraits of charismatic anti-heroes with blurred identities, encompassing boss, delinquent and movie star.


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At the Centre de Sciences Humaines CSH Delhi

Bruno Dorin has been invited by Rajiv Kumar, the vice-president of NITI Aayog (the Indian equivalent of the French High Commission for Planning) to co-author with two of his economist colleagues (Neelam Patel and Ranveer Nagaich) a working paper entitled "A New Paradigm for Indian Agriculture: From Agroindustry to Agroecology".

Himanshu was approached by Kunal Sen, the Director of UNU-WIDER, to produce a book on inequality and poverty with a focus on India. This honorary publication project is part of a new series of books/monographs entitled "UNU-WIDER Elements Series in Development Economics" published by Cambridge University Press.

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Linguistic and Textual Aspects of Multilingualism in South India and Sri Lanka. Edited by Giovanni Ciotti and Erin McCann, Collection Indologie n° 147 / NETamil Series n° 8, Ecole française d’Extrême-Orient / Institut Français de Pondichéry, 2021, xiii, 817 p., ISBN: 978-81- 8470-238-5 IFP) / 978-2-85539-242-4 (EFEO). 2000 INR (64 EUR)

Order from IFP: https://www.ifpindia.org/bookstore/ci147/

Order from EFEO: https://publications.efeo.fr/en/livres/955_linguistic-and-textual-aspects-of-multilingualism-in-south-india-and-sri-lanka

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The Yoga of the Matsyendrasaṃhitā. A critical edition and annotated translation of chapters 1–13 and 55. Csaba Kiss. Collection Indologie n° 146 / Haṭha Yoga Series n° 1, Institut Français de Pondichéry / Ecole française d’Extrême-Orient, 608 p., ISBN: 978-81-8470-239-2 (IFP) / 978-2-85539-241-7 (EFEO). 900 INR (32 EUR)

Order from IFP: https://www.ifpindia.org/bookstore/ci146/

Order from EFEO: https://publications.efeo.fr/en/livres/957_the-yoga-of-the-matsyendrasam-hit


The Vārāṇasīmāhātmya of the Bhairavaprādurbhāva: A Twelfth-Century Glorification of Vārāṇasī.

By Peter Bisschop, Collection Indologie n˚ 148, Institut Français de Pondichéry / Ecole française d’Extrême-Orient, 2021, iv, 190 p.

Language: Sanskrit, English. 500 Rs (19 €). ISBN: 978-81-8470-240-8 (IFP) / 978-2-85539-243-1 (EFEO)

Order from IFP: https://www.ifpindia.org/bookstore/ci149/

Order from EFEO: https://publications.efeo.fr/en/livres/949_the-v-r-as-m-hatmya-of-the-bhairavapr-durbh-va


Vaiyākaraṇasiddhāntabhūṣaṇam. The Vaiyākaraṇasiddhāntabhūṣaṇa of Kauṇḍabhaṭṭa with the Nirañjanī commentary by Ramyatna Shukla and Prakāśa explanatory notes by K.V. Ramakrishnamacharyulu. Part III (Samāsaśaktinirṇaya)

Critically edited by K.V. Ramakrishnamacharyulu, Collection Indologie n˚ 149; Shree Somnath Sanskrit University Shastra Grantha series n˚ 7, Institut Français de Pondichéry / Shree Somnath Sanskrit University, Veraval, Gujarat / Ecole française d’Extrême-Orient, 2021, xxxiii, 547 p.

Language: Sanskrit. 1400 Rs (45 €). ISBN: 978-81-8470-241-5 (IFP) / 978-93-83097-46-3 (SSSU) / 978-2-85539-244-8 (EFEO)

Order from IFP: https://www.ifpindia.org/bookstore/ci149/

Order from EFEO: https://publications.efeo.fr/en/livres/959_the-vaiy-karan-asiddh-ntabh-s-an-a-of-kaun-d-abhat-t-a



Of glass, skills and life: Craft consciousness among Firozabad’s glassworkers. Arnaud Kaba in collaboration with Shankare Gowda. Institut Français de Pondichéry / Centre de Sciences Humaines, 2021, 35 p. (CSH-IFP Working Papers - 18)

Though so many women in India do wear the glass bangles from Firozabad, little is known about the daily life and subjectivities of the glass workers. This anthropological paper about Firozabad’s glassworkers explains how their collective subjectivity, their craft consciousness has been shaped by their link to the glass, to the tool of production and its evolution, and by the city’s social and political context.


Edition of Special Journal Issues

Books Chapters


Other publications (Book review, film, encyclopedia, etc)

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At the French Institute of Pondicherry IFP

The research project (FSPI : 01/2020-12/2021) SEDRIC@SriLanka (Social‐Ecological Dynamics in Rapid Economic development: Infrastructure and coastal Change in South and Eastern Sri Lanka) has been valorised with a series of videos :


In November 2021, the website "City of waste" was launched, it is the electronic version of the eponymous exhibition presenting portraits of waste reclaimers around the world, and presented in India at different venues in Delhi as well as in Pondicherry.

Free access: http://city-of-waste.societes-urbaines-et-dechets.org/


As a result of an interesting collaboration with the India Meteorological Department (IMD), a High Wind Speed Recorder has been installed on the IFP terrace. The recorder has been operating since October 2021, recording wind speed, direction of the wind and pressure at every one minute.

The data can be accessed online http://air.imdpune.gov.in/graph.php.

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