Exchange and Urban Studies at IIAS
I spent three wonderful months at IIAS from March to June 2014, as part of the exchanges under the Urban Knowledge Network Asia (UKNA) program. These were extremely productive months, getting to meet several scholars in residence, and deepening my relationships with those I already knew, all while exploring the Netherlands. While there were a couple of other UKNA scholars at IIAS with whom I shared substantial interests, the diversity of areas that fellows pursue meant that conversations were just as fascinating as they were enlightening. I remember learning about the music of Northeast Asia, Christianity in Sri Lanka, and the Chinese diaspora in South Africa from some of these excellent fellows.
As a short-term Leiden resident, I came to appreciate its past, urban form, architecture, and, of course, its museums. Speaking of the latter, one of the IIAS colleagues generously loaned me their Dutch Museum Pass, and I could use it to visit museums not only in Leiden but also Amsterdam and Utrecht. Since the Netherlands is a (relatively) small country that is well-connected by its train system, Leiden is a convenient launchpad to explore its different regions. One of my favorite memories of the summer was convincing a Japanese IIAS fellow to accompany me to a field hockey game that India was to play against Belgium, in a village on the other end of the country. The poor fellow did not quite know what field hockey was, let alone having ever watched a game, but was a good sport to come anyway. We ended up journeying by multiple trains, exploring the beautiful village, witnessing a close game, and chatting with the Indian team players and coaches.
On the academic front, I spent my time at IIAS working on a literature review for an area (urban ecology of Delhi) that I was just about dipping my toes into. The review has been extremely valuable; contributing not only to research work, but also feeding into teaching. My Urban Environment course at Ambedkar has since then had a much stronger ecological component, much to the appreciation of students. I also had the opportunity to present the work towards the end of the visit at the Delft University of Technology.
Over the years, many of the relationships forged during that time have only been strengthened. I have come to participate in and contribute to IIAS initiatives such as Asian Studies in Africa, ICAS, and Humanities across Borders, and I look forward to continuing these collaborations in the coming years. Congratulations to IIAS on its 30th anniversary and all the best for what is to come.
Associate Professor, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar University Delhi