Applications are invited for the upcoming cycle of Sarai-CSDS Independent Research Fellowships.

The Sarai Programme, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi
Sarai is a programme of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), Delhi. CSDS is one of India’s best known research centres, with traditions of dissent and a commitment to the work of the public intellectual going back four decades. The Sarai Programme at CSDS was initiated in 2000 as a platform for discursive and creative collaboration between theorists, researchers and practitioners actively engaged in reflecting on contemporary urban spaces in South Asia—their politics, built form, ecology, culture and history—as well as on the histories, practices and politics of information and communication technologies, the public domain and media forms.

For more information, visit

*The Purpose of the Independent Fellowship*

The Sarai-CSDS Independent Fellowships allow the time for individuals from diverse backgrounds to either begin or continue research into specific aspects of media and urban culture and society, broadly and creatively defined, and to also think carefully and rigorously about the various public forms in which their research might be rendered. We are also interested in using the materials generated through the research to continue to build up our thematic archive of research on the city. Thus, we see the fellowship as an important source for this archive. Finally, an important purpose of the fellowship program is to spark, overlap and allow access to newly emerging research networks across disciplines, academic and non-academic institutions, organisations, practices, geographical locations and professional backgrounds.

We are thus invested in the idea of what we call public and distributed research, where new knowledge is created and shaped from a variety of locations, and not just in a top-down fashion. Participants in the fellowship programme are expected to have a very strong and independent motivation towards the pursuit of their own specialised areas of research, but also to respond to and critique the research of others in the programme as intelligent non-specialists, and be open to suggestions and comments from non-specialists.

Each year, a large number of the fellowships are awarded to projects that deploy standard methodologies and forms from the humanities and social sciences towards what we feel are justly deserving, new and emergent areas of research. However, a significant number of fellowships are also awarded to projects that are innovative both in terms of what they consider to be research, as well as the variety of purposes and forms to which that research is applied. As a result, we encourage the inclusion of individuals with little or no previous formal research experience who want to pursue, more rigorously, a passion for a tightly-focused, feasible, understudied research topic; and equally, we encourage individuals with seasoned research experience in a conventional context to experiment with forms that are relatively new to them.

For detailed abstracts of successful proposals from previous years, please visit and click on the link for “Independent Fellowships” on the left-hand sidebar.


–For administrative purposes, applicants are required to be resident in India, and to have an account in any bank operating in India.

–Applications can be in Hindi or in English. The research work and presentation can also be in either Hindi, English, or a combination of the two languages.

–The research fellowship will run from January 2006 to the end of August 2006 and award between Rs 30,000 and Rs. 60,000 during this period.

–Fellows will be required to make a minimum of six postings, one per month, on Sarai’s “reader-list” email listserve, between January and the end of June 2006.

–A working draft or initial prototype of the final work will be expected by the end of July 2006. The final presentation of the research project will be made in Delhi at the end of August 2006.

–The fellowships do not require the fellows to be resident at Sarai.

–Although participation in the fellowship programme does require a substantial time commitment—to the research, the postings on progress, and interaction with other researchers and projects in the fellowship cycle—participants are also welcome to pursue the fellowship research in addition to their primary occupations or commitments to other fellowships or grants, if any.

–Proposals from teams, partnerships, collectives and faculty are welcome, as long as the grant amount is administered by and through a single individual, and the funds are deposited in a single bank account in the name of an individual, partnership, registered body or institutional entity.

–Applicants who apply to other institutions for support for the same project will not be disqualified, provided they inform Sarai if and when support is being sought (or has been obtained) from another institution. The applicants should also inform Sarai about the identity of the other institution.

*What Do You Need To Send, Where and When?*

There are no application forms. Simply send us by postal mail your:

1. Name(s), email address(es), phone(s), and postal address(es).

2. Proposal (not more than 1200 words) including details of the subject, process, mode of public presentation and rationale for the research. Your proposal will be greatly strengthened if you are also able to indicate the kinds of materials that you think your research project would be able to generate for the Sarai archive. In the past, fellows have submitted transcripts of interviews, photographs, recordings, printed matter, maps, multimedia and posters, related to the subject of their study, to this archive.

3. Two work samples: if possible, the samples of previous work done should give us a sense of your preferred mode of public presentation for this project (e.g., academic research paper, narrative prose, multimedia, video, performance, photography, installation, sound recording, “creative” writing, prototype design, combinations of the above, etc.) and also suggest to us how you might understand your upcoming research process for this fellowship. The work samples can—but do not necessarily have to—make reference to the current research topic.

4. A clear work plan (not more than one page) with, if possible, a month-by-month breakdown of the research work.

5. An updated CV (not more than two pages) for each applicant.

–Send these to: ATTN: I-FELLOWS PROPOSAL 2005-2006, Independent Fellowship Programme, Sarai, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, 29 Rajpur Road, Delhi 110054, India.

–Enquiries: vivek at for English proposals, ravikant at for Hindi proposals.

–Last date for submission: proposals should be postmarked on or before Monday, October 31, 2005.

–The list of successful proposals for 2005-2006 will be announced on the Sarai website, and on Sarai’s email list, reader-list at, towards the end of December 2005. For more details on joining the reader-list, please visit and click on “LISTS at Sarai”.

*Who Can Apply? *

There is absolutely no pre-qualification required for application to the Sarai-CSDS Independent Fellowship. Sarai invites independent researchers, media practitioners, working professionals, software designers and programmers, urbanists, architects, artists and writers, as well as students (postgraduate level and above) and university/college faculty to apply for support for research-driven projects.

*What Other Fellowships Does Sarai Offer?*

Sarai offers an exciting “Student Stipendship” for students at academic institutions wishing to pursue closely mentored and innovative research (contact: sadan at and a “FLOSS Independent Fellowship” for programmers and coders wishing to develop free and open source software (contact: viyyer at Please note that the Sarai Media Fellowships have been discontinued.


*New Directions for the Independent Fellowship Programme in 2006*

The new design for the Independent Fellowships will include:

–Systematic and regular monthly offline meets for fellowship holders in each of our major metros.
–Use of a list dedicated to discussion and critique in Hindi.
–Facilitation of more interaction, both from Sarai and also between fellowship holders in different locations.

*Why Research? What Do We Mean by Research? *

Sarai is committed to generating public knowledge and creativity through research. Hence the support for research driven projects and processes. The fellowships are in the nature of small grants in order to emphasise the initiation and founding of projects that would otherwise go unsupported.

By research we mean both archival and field research, and forays into theoretical work as well as any process or activity of an experimental or creative nature—for instance in the audiovisual media, as well as in journalism or the humanities and social sciences, or in architecture and socially attuned computing.

We are especially interested in supporting projects that formulate precise and cogent intellectual questions, reflect on modes of understanding that implicate knowledge production within a critical social framework, foregrounding processes of gathering information and of creating links between bodies of information. We also encourage research that is based on a strong engagement with archival materials and imaginative ways of tackling the question of the public rendition of research activity.

*The Experience of Previous Years*
This is the fifth year in which Sarai is calling for proposals for such fellowships. We would like to describe how the process has worked in previous years, as an indication of what applicants should expect.

These included work toward projects based on investigative reportage of urban issues; essays on everyday life; a history of urban Dalit performance traditions; soundscapes of the city; a graphic novel about Delhi; a documentation of the free software movement in India; research on displacement and rehabilitation in cities; interpretative catalogues of wall writings and public signages; digital manipulation of popular studio portrait photographs; the limitations of language in shrinking public spaces in Srinagar; histories of cinema halls and studios in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata; a study of the world of popular crime fiction in Bengali; reflections on the Kashmiri ‘encounter’ in Delhi, and many others. Successful applicants included freelance researchers, academics, media practitioners, artists, writers, journalists, activists and professionals such as nurses and bankers.

The projects were submitted in English, Hindi or a combination of the two languages. We have seen that projects that set important but practical and modest goals were usually successful, whereas those that may have been conceptually sound but lacked sufficient motivation to actually pursue a research objective on the field, usually did not take off beyond the interim stage.

Sarai interacts closely with the researchers over the period of the fellowship, and the independent fellows make a public presentation of their work at Sarai at the end of their fellowship period. During the term of their fellowship each fellow is required to make a posting to our email list every month, reporting on the development of their work. These postings, which are archived, are an important means by which the research process reaches a wider discursive community. They also help us to trace the progress of work during the grant period, and understand how the research interfaces with a larger public.

Submissions at the end of the fellowship period included written reports and essays, photographs, tape recordings, audio CDs, video, pamphlets, maps, drawings and html presentations. Fellows have made their final presentations in the form of academic papers, lecture-demonstrations and performances.

*What Happens to the Research Projects?*

The annual research projects add to our increasingly substantial archival collections on urban space and media culture. These are proving to be very significant value additions to the availability of knowledge resources in the public domain. Researchers are free to publish or render any part or all of their projects in any forms, independently of Sarai (but with due acknowledgment of the support that they have received from Sarai). Sarai Independent Research Fellows have gone on to publish articles in journals, work towards the making of films, exhibitions, websites, multimedia works and performances, and the creation of graphic novels, soundworks and books. We actively encourage all such efforts.

*What We Are Looking For*

As in the past, this year too we are looking for proposals that are imaginatively articulated, experimental and methodologically innovative, but which are pragmatic and backed up by a well-argued work plan which sets out a timetable for the project, as well as suggests how the support will help with specific resources (human and material) that the project needs.

Suggested Themes:

Sarai’s interests lie in the city and in media. Broadly speaking, any proposal that looks at the urban condition, or at media, is eligible. Proposals for projects that seek to push disciplinary limits and boundaries or break new ground, that offer fresh and detailed empricial insights, that desire to engage with questions and problems pertaining to cities, urban culture, media from a philosophically and conceptually enriched terrain of inquiry are especially welcome. We are committed to methodological and analytic rigour even as we are also keen to engage with sensibilities and registers of thought that are oppositional, dissident, heretical, imaginative and poetic.

More specifically, themes may be as diverse as the experience of work in different locations, institutions and work cultures, histories of urban sexuality, heretical figures and imaginations, histories of particular media practices, legality and illegality, migration, transportation, surveillance, intellectual property, social/digital interfaces, urban violence, street life, technologies of urban control, health and the city, the political economy of media forms, digital art and culture, or anything else that the applicants feel will resonate with the philosophy and interests that motivate Sarai’s work.

We are particularly interested in work that comes from non-metropolitan and mofussil urban spaces, even though we continue to look for strong projects that articulate the realities of major cities.