Category Archives: Students

DEC 10 DEADLINE!! J. Watumull Scholarship


Deadline: December 10, 2017

The J. Watumull Scholarship for the Study of India provides support for University of Hawai`i undergraduate or graduate students with focused and well-developed proposals to study for a minimum of two months in India. The scholarship will support students in any field, including the professional schools and community college programs.

For AY 2017-2018, students may compete for awards of up to $5,000 each. Applications for support are due December 10, 2017. The award must be used by the end of Summer 2018.  Graduate students can undertake advanced study or research at a recognized Indian institution. Alternatively, students may conduct pre-approved independent study overseen by a faculty member at UH in cooperation with a scholar in India. Applicants should review and fulfill the eligibility criteria (see below).


  • Recipients must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents.
  • Recipients will be expected to use the scholarship to support them in a pre-approved program of courses at a reputable Indian institution or collaboration with an Indian scholar.
  • Undergraduate and graduate students from any UH campus and in any degree-seeking, professional or community college program may apply.
  • Students must earn credit for their program.
  • Awards will be made on the basis of academic merit to students in good academic standing. It is expected that students will have a minimum GPA of 2.5. Consideration will also be given to service to the community and other activities and experiences of the applicant.
  • The proposed course of study must contribute to a broader understanding and deeper appreciation of Indian culture and contemporary issues. The program does not necessarily have to be directly related to the student’s major area of study, but must be approved by the student’s academic advisor.
  • Preference will generally be given to students who 1) are not in their graduating year and 2) have had no prior first-hand experience in India.
  • At the time, the program in India takes place, recipients are expected to be continuing University of Hawaiʻi students.
  • Funding shall be used to support recipients’ travel to and from India, and their day-to-day living expenses while in India.
  • Recipients must submit a written report of their experience and research objectives that were met while in India to the Foundation Scholarship Office within one month upon their return to the United States.


How to apply

  • Applicants must submit the application form.
  • Three confidential letters of recommendation including one from the applicant’s academic advisor.
  • If students are participating in a pre-approved independent study program, the recommendation letter from the academic supervisor should include information regarding the specific requirements of the applicant’s research project.
  • A 2-3-page double-spaced essay must be submitted describing what the applicant is looking forward to achieving from the study program, the applicant’s plan of study, and preparedness to complete the project.
  • Applicants must submit a one-page, detailed budget.
  • Official transcripts from UH and any other colleges attended.
  • Evidence of in-country support or sponsorship in the form of a letter of affiliation or agreement from the host institution/scholar.
  • All the application materials must be submitted directly to

2017 Watumull Application – Form Fillable

Applicants are encouraged to contact the CSAS Director, Prof. Sai Bhatawadekar, at with any questions regarding the application process.

Fall Get-Together and Anna Stirr’s Book Launch

Please join us for our annual fall get-together on Monday, November 13th in the Tokioka Room, Moore Hall 319.

1:30-2:30 Anna Stirr will give a talk about her new book, Singing Across Divides: Music and Intimate Politics in Nepal (Oxford University Press, 2017), sponsored by the Asian Studies Program.

2:30-4:30 The Center for South Asian Studies fall get-together and book launch party will follow the talk, in the same room. Heavy pupus will be served.

The Nepal Earthquake and a Pizza Party

Originally published Tuesday, July 14, 2015
The Nepal Earthquake and a Pizza Party

Ranjan Adiga

We were nearing the end of the semester at Westminster College when the earthquake struck Nepal. My students and I had planned to celebrate the final week of a tough semester with a pizza party on Monday, April 27—as it turned out, two days after the devastation. Instead of a grammar and mechanics session, we’d have a proofreading party. I volunteered to bring donuts.

The weekend before that Monday, however, turned out to be life changing. At 2 a.m., April 25, my wife, Jessica, and I found out about the earthquake that had just struck our country. We spent the next few hours glued to the internet, horrified by the images and headlines unraveling at social-media speed. After what seemed like a hundred attempts we managed to contact our families. They were safe. That instant relief turned into nagging helplessness as large parts Kathmandu collapsed into rubble. The images kept pouring in on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. The landmarks we’d grown up around, such as the old-brick temples in Durbar Square, had collapsed into dust. Even the 213-step Dharara tower was now just a stump.

Worse affected were villages outside the capital that had simply vanished. Relying on sporadic phone calls and text messages that assured us of our family’s safety, Jessica and I lay in bed all day, scouring the internet as aftershocks kept rupturing land and lives. Meanwhile, our two-year old son Tenzing exhausted his arsenal of gestures to indicate he wanted to go out and play. He walked around carrying his tiny pair of shoes, motioned his hands to mimic the steering wheel, stood near the door with his ball while my wife and I lay immobile, numbed by shock and depression. When we finally took Tenzing out for a drive, the tranquility of suburban Salt Lake City seemed like a different planet. My privilege embarrassed me, but there was nothing I could do except take my son to the park.

Monday arrived. On my drive to work, I listened to NPR’s Morning Edition, which was my go-to station for breakfast news. Cat-Man-Do and Ne-Paul had invaded the news space in a way that I hadn’t seen or heard since I moved to the U.S. in 2003. It was surreal. Part of me was surprised that Steve Inskeep and Renee Montagne even knew that our country existed. Part of me felt guilty for thinking about such trivial things. I took the longer route just to stay with the news. When I finally reached college, I realized I’d forgotten something: donuts. I’d even forgotten to email my students to let them know that in light of the tragedy in Nepal we would have to forgo the pizza party. Class would start in half hour. It was too late to send that email. I knew my students wouldn’t mind that I’d forgotten the donuts, and maybe, they’d had a discussion in their dorm rooms to cancel the party out of courtesy.

I was wrong. I walked into the classroom greeted by stacks of pizza boxes, red cups, fizzy drinks, and cookie-brownie assortments. The students had done an excellent job with the preparation. They’d perhaps forgotten that I was from Nepal, or maybe they hadn’t caught the news, yet, or maybe they had, but didn’t know how else to respond. We had a plan, and unless we were informed to act otherwise, our job was to stick to it. America is a melting pot. Uncomfortable and inconvenient histories are left at the door. But higher education in the U.S. emphasizes critical thinking and questioning assumptions. Should I enlighten my students about a country they might otherwise never hear about? Or, start an invigorating discussion about social conscience and global citizenship? At Westminister, we have institutionalized on our campus walls the contemporary vocabulary of higher learning by enshrining words like “interconnectivity,” “global consciousness,” and “ethical awareness.” Each summer students take educational trips to Ireland, India, and Thailand and post pictures on social media, which the college proudly displays on its streaming web banner.

So I stood at the door of the classroom, wondering if I should turn this into a learning moment. “Sorry, I forgot the donuts,” I began. “Because of the earthquake.” Those who weren’t scrolling their phone screens stared back in silence. Did they know what I was talking about? “How many of you followed world news in the last two days?” I asked. A few hands went up. “Did you read about the earthquake in Nepal?” I proceeded, putting on my cheerfully inquisitive smile. One student shook her head in sympathy. I latched on to that moment. “What did you think?” I asked. After a lazy shrug, she said, “Sorry, it’s Monday morning.”

“Oh, well,” I finally said. The warm smell of cheese and marinara sauce had found our nostrils. We dug into the pizza and commenced reviewing papers about legalizing marijuana and lowering the drinking age. The students sat in groups and exchanged their laptops. They did what dutiful students would do — read each other’s papers and engage in discussions about their topics. During a short break a student even offered to drive to Dunkin’ Donuts, where they now had glazed croissants.  The proofreading party was a success. No one mentioned the tragedy again.

A version of this blog entitled, “Even an Earthquake Can’t Stir Student Empathy,” appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education,

Ranjan Adiga was born and raised in Nepal. He currently teaches English and Creative Writing at Westminster College. His works have appeared in Story QuarterlySouth Asian ReviewThe Chronicle of Higher Education, among others. He obtained his doctorate in English (Creative Writing) from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa in 2013.



Originally published Monday, January 14, 2013

Elizabeth Louis

Elizabeth Louis, “Cedar,” received her Ph.D in Geography from University of Hawaii at Manoa in 2012. Her dissertation, “The Political Ecology of Food Sovereignty Movements in Neoliberal India” was based on the fieldwork she conducted in the Telegana region.  She is currently a Postdoctoral Researcher at Texas A&M University, and is conducting fieldwork in rural India on the political ecology of sanitation and toilet use in rural India.

Vandana Shiva has become an iconic figure in the fight against the corporate takeover of agriculture. Her “Raise Awareness, Inspire Change” tour of Hawaiʻi in January will bring attention to two very important issues – seed sovereignty and food sovereignty (or what she calls food freedom or food democracy). Seed sovereignty is the right of farmers to save, use, exchange, and sell their own seeds. Seed sovereignty is seen as an essential requirement for food sovereignty, which is defined as the right of each person, community, and nation to define its own agriculture and food policies and practices that will enable each entity to not just have food security, but also ensure that the food produced is environmentally sustainable, and socially just.

The entry of multinational corporations into agriculture aided by the neoliberal policies of particular nation-states, and the World Trade Organization (WTO) pose the biggest threats to seed and food sovereignty today.   This commodification is dominated by a few agro-food giants through an integration of all aspects of production from seed breeding and research all the way to the food that ends up on our tables. While a handful of big agro-food giants control the market, Monsanto has become a symbol of all that is undemocratic, unsustainable, and inequitable in farming and food.

The fight against Monsanto and genetically modified crops is a just fight, and food and seed sovereignty seems to represent a universal good. However, in any movement there are contradictions. So while there is no question that the taking down of agro-food giants is important, one should also ask who defines seed and food sovereignty, how and, why.   How do these definitions affect those who struggle to eke a living from the land?

One of my most fundamental findings that emerged from my research on the food sovereignty movement in the Telengana region of India in 2008 and 2009 is that the perspectives of those who depend on agriculture, especially those who have to scrape a living from small pieces of land, are vastly different from urban intellectuals and activists who claim to represent these grassroots voices. For example, in the Telengana, a prominent food sovereignty NGO’s promotion of sustainable traditional food crops as a way to achieve food security and control of the food system (food sovereignty) did not resonate with farmers’ bread-and-butter issues and aspirations to move beyond a subsistence livelihood.  Even if the NGO’s prescriptions allowed the farmers to take care of their food needs, they needed enough income to educate their children, pay for medical expenses, to get their daughters married, and participate in an economy that was becoming an increasingly monetized.  By growing subsistence and traditional food crops, they could hardly meet these needs.
Unless farmers are completely isolated from the market and live subsistence livelihoods they cannot but feel pressured to participate in an increasingly monetized economy, and move to commercial crops. Monsanto has been implicated in farmers’ suicides in India because of the sale of GM cotton seeds. But a little known fact is that the suicides started before the introduction of genetically modified cotton in 1997-1998 in Warangal[i] district of Andhra Pradesh. The state created incentives for farmers to grow cotton even in areas that were not suitable for its cultivation. World cotton prices were high, and the promise of high profits encouraged many to move from low-risk to high risk cotton cultivation. When market prices crashed, pests attacked or droughts occurred, then farmers were caught in a downward spiral of dispossession, extreme desperation and suicide. All this happened during a time of shrinking state supports and reduced safety nets for the rural poor with the adoption of neoliberal economic policies. In the Telengana, it is not just cotton farmers who have committed suicide, but those who have been involved in a high risk commercial agriculture, and have nowhere to turn. This implicates the neoliberal model of agriculture more than the work of one corporation.

As far as I can see there are two battles – the one against the likes of Monsanto, and one on the ground that relates directly to ensuring that the rural poor have food and livelihood security. Unfortunately, these two do not always align.  Those who “own” the discourse of food/seed sovereignty need to consider how programs influenced by their ideas play out in specific localities for impoverished farmers, and the particular challenges they face in the shift toward commercial agriculture and high capital input crops. Vandana Shiva and other ideologues in the food/seed sovereignty movement in India have been accused of essentializing and idealizing rural livelihoods, and gender relations[ii]. We need to hear more about what farmers have to say about the multiple pressures they are facing as a result of the entry multi-national corporations, austerity measures imposed by their own governments, shifts in social aspirations and changing climate patterns among other things.   It is up to the movement spokespeople like Vandana Shiva to keep their finger on the pulse of the needs of the rural poor and make seed sovereignty relevant to their struggles.

As those who are working for food security and sovereignty in Hawaiʻi get ready for Vandana Shiva’s tour, I urge you also to keep in mind that the needs of western farmers, and those of Indian farmers –  who still struggle to get their needs for adequate food, healthcare, education met –  are vastly different.  How will the seed and food sovereignty help the poor farmer who is desperate to grow a commercial crop on her land because she needs money? Monsanto is culpable in all sorts of ways.  But let us remember that the quotidian problems of poor farmers in South Asia and in many other developing countries are much larger than what the struggle for seed sovereignty aims to address.


[i] Gathering agrarian crisis – Farmers‘  suicides in Warangal District (A.P.) IndiaCitizens‘ ReportCentre for Environmental Studies Warangal1998

[ii] Rural poverty and impoverished theory: Cultural populism, ecofeminism, and global justice. Regina Cochrane, The Journal of Peasant Studies Vol. 34, Issue. 2, 2007

Mies and Shiva’s ‘Ecofeminism’: A New Testament?”  Maxine Molyneux and Deborah Steinberg, Feminist Review, Issue 49, 1995