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Research at CISAR

Faculty and associates of CISAR conduct research spanning a diverse range of topics related the economy, society, arts and culture of India and South Asia.

Research related to the Indian Economy

The Role of Social Capital in Institutional Performance

A Comparative study of three regions in Maharashtra with a view to figure out the determinants of differential institutional performance across the regions. This involves an empirical analysis of data gathered from surveying 9000 households from 300 villages in Western Maharashtra, Vidarbha and Marathwada. This project is funded by a SSHRC Standard Research Grant (Investigators: Siwan Anderson, Patrick Francois and Ashok Kotwal).

The Impact of Economic Reform on Employment and Poverty in India

The goal is to understand the dynamics of growth and poverty process in India through the last 20 years in a theoretically consistent framework that would explain the empirical specifics of output and employment growth. Investigators: Mukesh Eswaran (UBC), Ashok Kotwal, Bharat Ramswami(Indian Statistical Institute) and Wilima Wadhwa (Indian Statistical Institute). This is Shastri Applied Research Project (SHARP) funded by a three year CIDA-SHASTRI.

Determinants of Domestic Violence against Women in India

The project seeks to determine the socio-economic variables that create the conditions that lead to domestic violence against women in India. Investigators: Nisha Malhotra (jointly with Mukesh Eswaran).

Research related to Science/Technology, Society and Environment

Air Quality in Indian Cities: Assessing the Science to Inform Policy

Indian cities are among the most polluted in the world. This project examines the impact of traffic related air pollution on air quality in Indian cities. The research consists of several discrete but interconnected topics including: detection of trends in air quality data and attribution to traffic and other sources; measurements and modeling of in-use emissions from 2 and 3 wheelers; impact of switch to CNG and LPG in India’s auto-rickshaw fleet on air emissions; and the relationship between air quality policy and global climate change. Dr. Kandlikar collaborates on aspects of this project with Dr. Madhav Badami (McGill), Dr. Geetam Tiwari (IIT Delhi). This work is funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (Madhav Badami PI) and the Auto-21 Network (Kandlikar- UBC P.I.) Three doctoral students - Conor Reynolds (UBC); Arvind Saraswat (UBC) and Christian Krelling (McGill) - also work on this project.

Risk, Regulation and Agricultural Biotechnology: Controversies over Genetically Modified Seeds in India

India has emerged as a major battleground in the global debate over genetically modified organisms, and the regulatory process in India is marked by extensive public scrutiny and scientific controversy. This project aims to understand the emergence and evolution of these controversies and to examine their links to the national regulatory process, and the role of science therein. Kandlikar is the Principal investigator of this project funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada. This work is being done in collaboration with anthropologist Dr. Terre Satterfield at UBC. Julia Freeman (UBC) is the doctoral student working on this project.

Fast, Cheap and Out of Control? Ethics of Clinical Drug Trials in India

As costs of producing new drugs escalate pharmaceutical companies in the West are increasingly seeking to do clinical trials in the developing world. India with its large numbers of ‘treatment-naïve’ patients, English speaking elites and high quality of medical expertise provides an ideal location to outsource clinical drug trials. Through interviews with the diverse range of actors (patients, contract research organizations, clinicians, project sponsors and drug companies, and ethics committees) and participant observation in trials, this project seeks develop an understanding of the ethical dilemmas (and their resolution) in the construction and execution of this new form of outsourcing. Vinay Kamat (UBC, Anthropology) is PI on the project, with Milind Kandlikar as a co-investigator. This project is funded by the UBC Hampton Fund, and the Michael Smith Foundation for Medical Research.

Research related to History, Culture and Society


Mandakranta Bose’s most recent SSHRC funded project is the reconstruction of a lost Sanskrit text on dance and music composed around 2nd century c.e. The compositions and techniques it describes came from regional and popular styles, in contrast to older and more established styles, enriching India’s performance arts tradition. It is thus an invaluable document in retracing the evolution of India’s complex heritage of dance, drama and music. Dr. Adheesh Sathaye of the Department of Asian Studies is co-investigator in this project with Dr. Bose.


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