Statement of Solidarity with JNU: from the community of New York University, New York

We, the signatories to this statement, stand in solidarity with the student and faculty protests at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Student liberties, as well as the right to free speech protected in the Indian Constitution, were irreparably damaged by the State-sanctioned police action on the JNU campus, and the unjustified arrest of the student union President, Kanhaiya Kumar on the grounds of sedition. This is a grave charge reserved only for the active incitement of organised violence against the State, and one that was entirely inappropriate in the present circumstances.

We condemn the rhetoric of hate that has labeled protesting students as “anti-national”, “parasites on public money” and “terrorists”. We believe that the State has been unwilling to accept dissent through dialogue and open discussion on issues that it has been unsuccessful and irresolute in handling with justice and dignity. We see the attack on JNU to be an integral part of the larger processes — both implicitly and now explicitly facilitated by the government — of threatening and attacking university campuses across the country, and attempting to establish an intolerant, casteist, and fundamentalist regime which brooks no debate nor dissent. The institutional harassment and death of the Dalit PhD Scholar, Rohith Vemula at the University of Hyderabad, the violent attacks on the students of the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune, the Maharaja Sayaji Rao University, Baroda and Jadavpur University, Kolkata (to name a few) have all been indicative of the rising intolerance for any kind of dissent against the Right-wing, Hindu fundamentalist government.

We are deeply disturbed at the opportunistic subversion of the judicial process following the arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar, by the physical attacks on students and journalists conducted by lawyers, and by the public discourse surrounding the incident especially in certain television news channels and social media. The mass bloodlust present in the communal rhetoric against student leaders like Umar Khalid and Shehla Rashid is shameful and erodes any semblance of progress that any civilised society should aim for. It is alarming how any efforts at changing how things work that do not emerge from within the government or its allies, is treated with suspicion and rendered illegitimate. As students, teachers and civil society members committed to ideas of social justice, we condemn the use of archaic laws that threaten the democratic space that universities must offer.

Recognising what is happening in India is not arising out of a socio-political vacuum, but is finding resonances all over the world, we oppose the growing intolerance for student liberties and stand against the systematic State-orchestrated persecution of free thinking students and their allies.

We, the students, faculty and members of the larger NYU community, stand by fellow students and colleagues at JNU in this immediate struggle and promise solidarity in the larger struggle against injustice and intolerance, and in upholding the ideals of a true democracy. Continue reading “Statement of Solidarity with JNU: from the community of New York University, New York”

Statement of Solidarity with JNU from members of Yale University

We, the undersigned members of Yale University, strongly condemn the recent actions of the Indian Government and the Delhi Police in curbing freedom of speech, violating civil rights and stifling dissent. We condemn the arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar, a student at Jawaharlal Nehru University, on charges of sedition, and condemn the use of this archaic colonial law which has no place in a functioning democracy. We condemn the attempt of the State to restrict free speech, particularly on a university campus, and endorse the rights of all Indians to exercise their freedom of speech as protected under the Indian Constitution. Finally, we condemn the continuing inaction of the Delhi police with regard to the assaults on Indian citizens inside the premises of the Patiala House Court. Not only did they stand as mute witnesses while the assaults took place, but they have also failed to move against the perpetrators of the violence, including members of the bar, despite video and audio recordings of the events being in the public domain.

We noted with grief the suicide of Rohith Vemula, a Dalit student at the University of Hyderabad who was accused of being ‘anti-national’ and subsequently ostracised, and the repression of protests led by the students of the Film and Television Institute of India. As lawyers, students and scholars from India, the United States of America and other parts of the world, we stand with the students of Jawaharlal Nehru University, and support their right to an academic environment that is free of violence and enabling of dissent. We endorse the rights of all students and citizens to engage in political action and speech. We urge the Vice Chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University, the Government of India and the Delhi Police to take steps against those who have perpetrated acts of violence against students, journalists and bystanders in Delhi. We call on them to ensure that Indian citizens may exercise their freedom of speech and their right to disagree and agree with each other, without fear of arrest or assault. Continue reading “Statement of Solidarity with JNU from members of Yale University”

Statement of Solidarity with JNU: from the community at Columbia University, New York

We, the undersigned, strongly condemn the violence unleashed by the BJP, RSS, ABVP, and the Delhi Police within and outside the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) campus over the last few days.

We demand the immediate withdrawal of the unfounded, unjust and archaic charges brought against JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar, and of his release from custody. We are shocked by the inability or unwillingness of the police to shield him from the mob at the Patiala House Court. We demand an end to the presence of the police on campus, and their continued harassment and intimidation of students and teachers.

We further believe that the charges of ‘sedition’ and ‘anti-national activities’ being brought against Umar Khalid and other students (based on claims that they resorted to anti-India slogans and spoke out for Kashmir’s right to self-determination) are more reflective of the failure of the state to respect critiques and engage meaningfully with disagreements, the failure to see its own jingoism, the failure to appreciate the value of robust, diverse and politicized public universities, and the failure to concede that the freedom to speak up, especially against state injustice, is a fundamental right of all Indian ‘nationals’.

We therefore strongly condemn this increasingly prevalent tendency to unleash state- sponsored violence and intimidation techniques on our universities. We see this as connected to a more general culture of intolerance towards any voice that articulates dissent or resistance against the capitalist, casteist and Hindu fundamentalist government, evident most recently in the systematic harassment and tragic death of Rohith Vemula at the University of Hyderabad. We are further alarmed by the vicious slander against dissenting JNU students, and the maligning of the university as a whole, on social media and television.

We would like to extend our solidarity with the JNU students in this immediate fight, and express our hopes for a long-term, united movement towards a more just and a truly free society.

Continue reading “Statement of Solidarity with JNU: from the community at Columbia University, New York”

#StandWithJNU: Solidarity Statement by Academics in the UK

We, the undersigned, stand in solidarity with the students, faculty, and staff of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). We condemn the BJP government-sanctioned police action in the JNU campus and the illegal detention of the JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar. We strongly condemn the manner in which political dissent is being stifled, reducing academic spaces to fortresses. We also condemn the widespread witch-hunt of left-wing students and student groups that this police action has unleashed.

These recent acts are representative of the larger trend that we have been observing – the imposition of an authoritarian and regressive agenda in institutions of higher learning from Films and Television Institute [FTII], Hyderabad Central University [HCU] to Jawaharlal Nehru University [JNU]. From the institutional murder of HCU student, Rohith Vemula, and the suppression of student protests at FTII to the illegal detention of the student union leader Kanhaiya Kumar and pervasive police presence at JNU, there has been a constant non- observance and disregard of administrative and legal norms as well as a gross infringement of the democratic rights of the student community. These actions are embedded in a deeply chauvinistic cultural nationalism, which espouses a casteist and Brahmanical, homophobic, and patriarchal worldview.

We strongly believe that student politics is being targeted currently by giving a new lease of life to a sedition law that was a draconian tool in the hands of the colonial state and has no place in a democracy. It is our democratic right to dissent, disagree, organise and struggle against state, institutions or policies that transgress and suppress democratic and egalitarian values. Expression of dissent cannot and should not be equated with being ‘anti-national’ (or any other such constructed category) and is definitely not punishable under law especially if it is non-violent. Disguising targeted assault on oppositional student groups/political movements within the narrative binaries of nationalism/anti nationalism only reflects how vulnerable the BJP government feels in its own ability to provide accountable governance.

We also believe that institutions of higher learning should be publicly funded spaces for political engagement, debates, and critical discussions – a legacy campuses (be it JNU, DU, or FTII) have embodied. As they always have, university spaces should subsidise costs of education for students, irrespective of the political disposition of the students. A rather disturbing feature of the narratives around this issue has been the construction and furthering of an artificial dichotomy between academics and politics that suggests that being ‘political’ is an aberration. This would certainly appear to be the case, if seen through the neoliberal lens of perceiving education as an industry that produces ‘semester bred’ automated ‘disciplined’ individuals who are mere consumers.

However, as the nonviolent expressions of dissent by students in JNU clearly demonstrate, contrary to this neoliberal view of academia, we believe that ‘personal is political’ and there is no sphere that is devoid of politics. We believe that good academic work necessarily involves a critical engagement with society and its power inequities and in that sense is always politically engaged. This engagement thrives in the democratic space of the university where many dissenting views can be heard and debated. The vilification of JNU as a space of ‘anti-national’ politics is being carried out by ABVP and BJP in order to attack and break this democratic spirit of academic and political life in Indian universities.

As teachers, students, scholars, and academics from the UK, who are keenly observing the developments unfolding in JNU, we express our solidarity with the students, faculty and staff of JNU as they non-violently resist this infringement on their rights. We urge the Vice Chancellor of JNU to uphold the institutional autonomy and the democratic rights of the student community. We also urge the government of India to stop encroaching on our rights as citizens, students, activists, political and politicised subjects.

Continue reading “#StandWithJNU: Solidarity Statement by Academics in the UK”

Pennsylvania Scholars’ Statement of Solidarity with Student Activists in India

Statement of Solidarity with Student Activists in India from activists and academics in the Pennsylvania region, USA

We, activists and academics in the Pennsylvania region, strongly condemn the attack on academic freedom at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi. The arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar, the President of the JNU Students’ Union, on charges of sedition has brought to light the intervention of the Union Government in the internal matters of the university. The repeated interference by police personnel at the behest of Vice Chancellors on university campuses is a draconian move. The charges against students were brought after an event organized by a section of students on campus premises to discuss the judicial execution of Afzal Guru. The JNU Students’ Union was subsequently held responsible for the “anti-national” slogans that were chanted by a group of students. We condemn these trumped-up and unconstitutional charges and stand in solidarity with the efforts to repeal capital punishment in India.

The events unfolding at JNU reveal disturbing similarities with instances of government repression on other campuses. We remember, with distress, the actions of the University of Hyderabad (UoH) administration in cahoots with the Central Government, actions that led to the death of a promising Ambedkarite student-activist, Rohith Vemula. The protests that arose indicted the discriminatory atmosphere prevailing in our universities as tantamount to the denial of the fundamental right to education to socially marginalized groups. Further, the murder of social thinkers like Govind Pansare and M.M. Kalburgi by hyper-nationalist elements under the tacit encouragement of the policies of the Central Government has shocked all advocates of free speech in India.

The charges of sedition against students participating in democratic discussion of public events is highly objectionable. The stifling of voices through intimidation and muscle power does not bode well for educational institutions.

Debate and dissent are integral parts of a strong democracy. Universities are critical public spaces that support these democratic practices to realize the values of social justice enshrined in the ideals of the constitution. International campuses like JNU, FTII and UoH bring together diverse group of students in the spirit of self-reflexive and deep intellectual engagement to ask fundamental questions of their social realities. An attack on these institutions is an attack on this precious pedagogical space. Student movements in India in alliance with other social movements in the country have historically been a resilient and sensitive force. The BJP government’s efforts to undermine them is nothing but an assault on Indian democracy. The government has failed to protect the rights of student bodies, and the highhandedness of the police highlights the insecurities of the present government.

In the United States during a presidential election year, we watch increasingly bigoted views against blacks, Muslims, and immigrants gaining ground. These events cannot be seen in isolation and we stand at the intersection of socio-political movements in the US and South Asia.

We stand in solidarity with students and faculty of JNU and demand the immediate release of the detained students. We appeal to all advocates for academic freedom in India and abroad to stand united against this state atrocity.
Continue reading “Pennsylvania Scholars’ Statement of Solidarity with Student Activists in India”

Lessons Learned: Susanne and Lloyd Rudolph, in memoriam

rudolphs_indira gandhiLife Lessons

[Professors Susanne and Lloyd Rudolph, University of Chicago professors, brilliant political economists of South Asia, outstanding mentors and wonderful friends, both passed away this winter. Susanne, on December 23rd, 2015, Lloyd on January 16, 2016. Below, I reflect on all the life lessons they taught me over the past 27 years. Painting above by yours truly, presented to Susanne on her 8oth birthday in 2010, depicting Susanne and Lloyd with Indira Gandhi at O’Hare Airport in 1966]

1. Fall of 1995: Susanne and Lloyd take us on a hike to see the mouth of the Ganges at Gangotri. As we pass the tree line, I crumple with altitude sickness. Susanne and Lloyd both feel fine. They are in their sixties. We are in our twenties. As I clutch my stomach and lurch along, Susanne and Lloyd are spry and invigorated. Lloyd has just learned that another University of Chicago economist has been awarded the Nobel Prize, this one for his theory of rational expectations. Lloyd proceeds to attempt to apply this theory to our hiking behavior.

At the flat sandy bank below the glacier, Lloyd and Susanne pitch a four-person tent. I vomit quietly behind a boulder. At sunset, immediately preceding a modest dinner of dal and roti, provided by a man with a small eatery beneath a tarpaulin, Lloyd brings out the perfect size of flask, containing Scotch whiskey for cocktails. After dinner, we retire to our quadruple-sized tent and lie in four sleeping bags in a row. Susanne and Lloyd have miner-style headlamps for reading before bed. Susanne is reading an interesting biography of Mary Shelley. Lloyd is reading Wendy Doniger’s latest book, in which, he notes, she thanks a lover in her acknowledgments. Lloyd wonders if he should note down this pilgrimage to Gangotri in the acknowledgments of his next book.

I curl up into fetal position and wait for morning.

Always bring a flask on a hike. Never forget your bedtime reading and lamp. Avoid being born with a feeble constitution. Economic theory can be applied to daily life. Anything can go into your acknowledgments.

 

2. My second year of graduate school, 1992: Susanne hires me to be a student worker in their office. Lloyd and Susanne have an office suite: twin offices with a common area where the student workers sit. The job involves a huge amount of filing. My predecessor has left suddenly due to mental illness, and so the training is spotty. Every morning Lloyd and Susanne wake up very early and read all their newspapers. Lloyd cuts out all the articles that are pertinent to his own interests or those of virtually anyone he knows. He writes in loopy letters with a fountain pen on post-it notes instructions to us: “One to Deb Harold, one to Dick Taub, one to Brian Greenberg.” We must photocopy these and send them off to the appropriate parties. Often the original is to be filed. Sometimes we find our own names on the recipient list. Then we dutifully make a photocopy for ourselves and file it in our backpacks.

Students sign up for office hours in fifteen-minute segments on a sheet outside the door. Our job is to chat with them while they wait. Well, no, we are supposed to be filing and such, but the students want entertaining. Susanne always dispatches her advisees promptly after 13 minutes. Lloyd must be reminded. Lloyd likes to have a cup of Medaglia D’Oro coffee in the afternoon. If one of the women student workers accidentally makes it for him and brings it in, he becomes very anxious and we have to have a long conversation about whether or not it’s exploitative for him to accept it.

For a while, Lloyd and Susanne resist email. We are instructed to print out every single email they receive and place them in their inboxes, just like regular mail. As this practice fades, we begin to receive 5 AM emails from Susanne full of instructions for the day. Susanne’s instructions are always terse. In handwritten notes, her handwriting is thin and cramped. She uses ballpoint pens. Often, elucidation is required.

When Susanne and Lloyd give talks, Lloyd is famous for going off on tangents of which he loses control. Susanne is famous for cutting the tangents short and summarizing what Lloyd just said while he regains his composure. When they write, it’s the other way round. Lloyd’s ink pen loops all over Susanne’s text, cutting, expanding, copy-editing and critiquing. They do know how to write and speak without one another: Lloyd has a lesser-known specialization in the American presidency. Susanne is also a scholar of Max Weber. But they are at their happiest and most productive when they work together.

Summers are spent in their house in Vermont. As when they go to India every fourth year, they ship all the books and papers they will need for their work in large crates. They also ship their cat (but not to India). While they are gone, we continue to work in the office. Whole mornings can be spent pursuing instructions such as these: “LIR needs Sovereignty in China. Pale green cover. By Smith or Jones. Southeast shelf of LIR study at home or in LIR library office.”

I am also charged with ordering office supplies. I order everything in purple and lavender. No one seems to notice.

Share knowledge. Do not exploit your female workers. If you speak in tangents, find a pithy partner. Reverse is also true. Always edit with nice pens. Bring your work on holiday, as well as your cat.

 

Lloyd and Susanne with Mohan Singh Kanota, 1971
Lloyd and Susanne with Mohan Singh Kanota, 1971

3. The late 1950’s: Susanne and Lloyd first travel to India. Of course the best way to do this is to acquire a Land Rover in England and drive there. Most of the places they drive through are now war-torn, but that doesn’t mean it was easy then either. They tell thrilling tales of fording rivers in the car and all manner of hardships. Somehow or other, they end up in Jaipur, staying with the Maharaja. Perhaps the palace was already a hotel, but they immediately become fast friends with the princely set. There are photographs of hunting expeditions and glamorous parties. These interactions form the basis of their book Essays on Rajputana and they become India scholars. Their last major work, Reversing the Gaze, builds on a lifetime of good-will and intimacy with the history and politics of the princely states.

When the Maharani of Jaipur was imprisoned by Indira Gandhi during the Emergency, all she could think of was Susanne’s pineapple upside-down cake.

Always take the most adventurous route. Stay in palaces. Study what you love. Every adventure should become a book. Learn how to make pineapple upside-down cake.

 

4. Fall, 1988: I first meet Susanne in a required social sciences course at the University of Chicago, known informally as ‘Self, Torture and Anxiety’. She is teaching the unit on ‘Self’. Authors to be read: Max Weber, Adam Smith, Karl Marx. What I remember from the course: Susanne introducing herself on the first day, and explaining that she spends every fourth year with her husband and co-author in India, doing research. She is wearing a light blue khadi vest, or so I remember. Cornflower blue was always her favorite color.

I am a Classics major. I think: this woman has a better life path than I do; I go to my adviser and drop Latin and add Hindi. Political economy is something I’m still trying to understand.

Be on the lookout for good life plans. A Classics degree will not get you to India. Political economy is very important.

 

5. 2008, Kensington, California: The Rudolphs have retired to a beautiful house in the Berkeley Hills. I visit for lunch one day. Susanne’s Parkinson’s disease is noticeable now, although she never mentions it. On the other hand, she has just come in from Tai Chi in the park. For lunch, she makes a quiche. I watch as she tenaciously controls her movements, chops mushrooms, beats eggs. Each motion is an act of will for her. Lloyd is in charge of salad. He does not attempt to help her, not because he wouldn’t want to, but because executing these movements is clearly of the greatest importance to her. At lunch, on the deck, in the sun, they explain what projects they are working on. They reveal that they’ve started to watch movies in the evenings instead of working. This is a new world for them, and they seem quite amazed at all the material available. Susanne nods off to sleep. Lloyd gently wakes her and reminds her of the topic at hand. The pain in his face shows his anxiety about her illness, but also his disbelief. How can he be left with the responsibility of keeping the conversation on track?

Try new things. Keep fit. Don’t accept defeat. Respect your partner. Prepare to assume one another’s responsibilities.

 

6. Fall, 1989: I’m in India for the first time on a new study abroad program organized by Susanne. Me and one other student. Susanne isn’t actually there, nor is anyone else there to greet us, save a driver from the American Institute for Indian Studies (AIIS). In a scenario that’s guaranteed to horrify any modern-day study abroad coordinator, we are put in charge of making our own hotel reservations and finding a taxi to take us up to Mussoorie where we will study Hindi. The hotel thing falls through, and we end up sleeping on the sofas at AIIS, after which we are dispatched to an unknown guest house by an irate Pradeep Mehendiratta. When we finally have the courage to leave the guest house, we take a map (to try to determine where we are in New Delhi) and Susanne’s instructions. Go to Kashmiri Gate. Hire a one-way taxi to Landour Bazaar. This should cost you 750-900 rupees.

Be self-reliant. Carry a map. Prepare for surprises. Don’t forget your instructions.

 

7. 2015, Summer: We visit Susanne and Lloyd at their house in Vermont. Susanne is using a walker now, and Lloyd has been ill as well. He says he gets tired a good deal. Until a few years ago he still swam in Silver Lake at the foot of their lawn every day at dawn, but now that’s too much for him. You cut out more and more as you get older, he says, regretfully. He misses playing squash and going on long hikes. Susanne is sometimes present and sometimes not. She engages with bits of the conversation and wanders off with them. Lloyd seems anxious. What if he becomes too ill to care for her? The strain on him is already great. He still reminds her of what we’re discussing, in the most respectful tone.

All their lives they’ve lived in many places at once. Summers in Vermont, fourth years in India: winter in Jaipur, fall and spring in Mussoorie. Then there were always conferences, awards ceremonies and important meetings. They were always in motion. Even then, when they were both quite ill, they’d flown from California to Vermont, to be at their lake house. How much longer could they do this, we wondered, and how could Lloyd bear to return to Vermont without her? Lloyd explains to my daughter that Susanne is suffering from Parkinson’s, a disease that affects the memory. This is the first time I’ve ever heard either of them mention her illness, even though it has been evident for many years. In the evening we watch Mansfield Park. Lloyd no longer drinks a French-press full of coffee after dinner, and no one has any cognac.

Do what you love. Respect those you love. Make every journey matter. Don’t dwell on negative thoughts.

destination-india-a-us-couples-compelling-journey

 

8. Thanksgiving, circa 1994: We are amazed to be invited to dinner at the Rudolphs’. There are other graduate students and also assorted faculty members. As always at their house, we start off with sherry, cheeses and stoned wheat thins. By dinner, the graduate students, us included, are all quite drunk. At dinner there is more to drink. Lloyd and Susanne drink more than us and don’t seem in the least affected. The conversation is high-powered and intellectual. We are very quiet. We can’t contribute much to discussions of the inner workings of Indian parliament, the results of the latest census and controversies surrounding the Mandal Commission. After dinner, there is cognac and strong coffee. The graduate students can barely stand. The Norwegian Rational Choice theorist is only getting started. He is explaining something theoretical that we are in no position to understand. “Take jazz, for example…” he begins. “…or chess…” We don’t know what he’s talking about, but Susanne leans forward, bright-eyed and engaged, asking him all the right questions. Eventually we are bundled out onto the pavement, bleary-eyed and barely cogent. One of us has spilled red wine on the white sofa and covered it up with a sofa cushion, but I won’t say who.

Always serve cheeses with stoned wheat thins before dinner. Invite a nice assortment of people. Do not feed poor graduate students too much liquor. Figure out how to make jazz and chess analogies at dinner parties.

 

9. Christmas Eve, 2015: I’m in the kitchen, preparing eggnog with bourbon and nutmeg (without bourbon for the child). I receive a text from a friend who has heard that Susanne has passed away. Though the news comes as no surprise, I feel the tears coming, and a sense of helplessness. What would Susanne do, I asked myself. She’d pour the drinks with a steady hand. She’d carry on. Instead, I go upstairs and sob. The scene repeats itself: each time I think of her, I become tearful, and ask myself how she’d behave in my place. Susanne would be stoic. She’d think of the right thing.

What do you do when a mentor dies, and you have no example to follow? I try over the next few weeks to write something about Susanne, about what she meant to me, what she taught me about being a professional woman and leading a thoughtful life, but I couldn’t tell the story without Lloyd, and when I thought of Lloyd, waiting behind, as she embarked on the final journey before him, I cried again. I thought of Kazuo Ishiguro’s recent novel, The Buried Giant, which explores just this theme: no matter how tenaciously one might cling to a partner in life, the final journey must be made alone.

Or does it? Just twenty-four days later, word came that Lloyd had also passed away. I don’t know what afterlife they envisioned, or if they did at all. They were not openly religious or spiritual; they were fiercely rational scholars who loved to study, as political scientists, the present moment as it unfolded. But I like to think of them now, together on another journey, to an intellectually stimulating place in the sky, or of their souls finding new incarnations that will meet again, and forge another fruitful partnership, or of the two of them soaring off into another dimension full of conversation, stimulating company, hikes, cocktails and articles to be shared with all their friends.

When in doubt, pursue your research, write your books, pour out the drinks and carry on. Even if you don’t know your final destination, do your best to leave the party together.

Rudolphs

Passport Tales II

This weekend was the annual Madison conference bringing together all those who work on South Asia in whatever discipline (and whose papers were accepted, and who had funds from their respective institutions to pay the conference fee, and attend). I presented a paper on Mughal Sind, which is the beginning of a new project. As part of the festivities, I got to meet a number of young scholars who are putting in their PhD applications.

I wanted to put here some of the things I think are useful for all international students. First, that while the funding structures at most R1s is now uniform– that is, you get full funding for five years, if accepted– that does not mean all graduate students are treated equally. Non US citizens do not qualify for FLAS (Federal Languages and Area Studies) Fellowships. This means that if you are expected to study a language such as Persian, Arabic, Hindi, Sanskrit etc. at a Summer Institute or in South Asia, you cannot utilize FLAS funding for it, and must seek extra funding from your institution. Now, if you are lucky enough to be at Yale or Princeton, it may be a moot point but please inquire about this before hand.

Related, is your ability to travel to archives and/or to fieldwork. You will require visas and documentation for funding/accommodation that your peers will not need. This often means even short intra-semester trips need to be planned well in advance.

This leads to the exceptional cases: holders of Passports of Pakistan. There are many more young colleagues coming to US due to H.E.C or Fulbright funding. The visa regimes for these passport holders– and the availability of US Federal funding– is even more restrictive and draconian. Over my academic life, I have cancelled trips to EU, UK and Canada when either the visa came too late, or I could not apply for it in the time available.

What this means for a graduate student? In my book I make a (brief) argument for how the passport regime governing the scholar impacts the actual research methodology and practice. I will have much more to say on this, as the book comes out, but I wanted to flag this issue to the graduate students: when we imagine ourselves as scholars, who do we actually imagine? The international student in US/EU or the Pakistani student specifically, cannot imagine themselves as their US/EU/UK citizen peers. They cannot be the mimic men of Bhabha for they cannot mimic the legal ontology governing their peers. They are in an exceptional state (one only their Afghanistani, Yemeni, Iraqi and Irani colleagues can share).

The issue does not disappear as one progresses through the ranks either. Fellowships continue to be available through federal and semi-federal channels which are restricted to US citizens or Permanent Residents. Taking a visiting professorship in EU or UK is not as simple as just getting through a difficult selection process– it means dealing with even more legal regimes. If one is a Permanent Resident, for example, of the US, then staying out of the country for the duration of a 9 months fellowship may put that status in jeopardy. The calculus is confoundingly complex. Further, I have had numerous friends refuse to change jobs because their host institution promised them help with permanent residency. I have had others leave US because their host failed to live up to the promise and they were facing a significant financial burden in moving from working visa to a more permanent status.

In other words, the passport remains a critical aspect of the daily life, and life planning, for those who, on surface, seem to be just like everyone else. The citizenship regimes governing one’s legal life also governs one’s social and intellectual life. This point, perhaps seems absurdly pedantic to a young scholar seeking their first admission to a graduate program, but it may very well be, the most critical one.