'Becoming Coolies': Rethinking the Origins of the Indian Ocean Labour Diaspora, 1772 -1920

A collaborative project with the University of Edinburgh and University of Leeds. It aimed to challenge existing assumptions about 'first wave' Indian migrants, and sought to situates Indian indentured labour migration within the broader story of labour mobility in the Indian Ocean region in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The project is in its concluding stages, with edited books and monographs appearing in the Global South Asians series, published by Cambridge University Press.

Project leader (and series editor): Prof. Crispin Bates


The Other From Within: Indian Anthropologists and The Birth of the Nation

A collaborative project with the School of History (University of Leeds); Centre for South Asian Studies and the School of History (University of Edinburgh) and School of History (University of Manchester); Manchester Museum; Anti Caste Discrimination Alliance (ACDA); Asiatic Society of Bengal (Kolkata, India); Anthropological Survey of India (Head Office, Kolkata, India) Sahapedia (India); an Budhan Theatre (Ahmedabad, India). The project traces the development of anthropology as an academic discipline in India and as an instrument of state formation across the transition to independence, ca. 1900 to 1970.

Co-investigator: Prof. Crispin Bates


Crossing the Indian Ocean: The Movement of People, Cultures and Ideas

An interdisciplinary collaborative research initiative, focussing on the various types of migrations that have occurred across the Indian Ocean, from the ancient past until the present, that tie the region together as a single transnational space, culturally, artistically, socially, and economically. The research initiative will be developed virtually and in a real- world workshop, with the aim of producing a publishable volume on this theme.

Project leaders: Prof Crispin Bates and Assoc. Prof. Sumit Mandal (Nottingham University)


Subaltern Rights and Colonialism

A research theme aimed at exploring the cosmopolitan claim rights of Subaltern South Asians in the colonial world, illustrated through petitions and court cases across the globe. The project will explore the ways in which subalterns worked to engage with civil society long before the era in which workers rights became widely recognised. The research initiative will be developed through virtual and/or real world workshops with the aim of producing a journal special issue and a publishable volume.

Project leaders: Prof. Crispin Bates and Yoshina Hurogobin (Kenneshaw State University)


Sustainable Cities: Tackling the Challenges of Global Urbanisation

Research under this theme focuses on how to improve life for those living in cities today and how to reduce the impact they have on the areas around them. Major issues such as pollution, traffic congestion, crime, public health will be under the spotlight. The first major project will concern plastics pollution.

Project leader: Agamutu Pariatamby


The Ramayana in Malaysia

A research-based contribution to the Global Encyclopaedia of the Ramayana project. The project is exploring Ramayana as it is found in the literature and the arts in Malaysia, and the use of Ramayana in different art forms. There are three areas of focus: the different versions of the story; the performing arts; and the visual arts.

Project Leaders: Ghulam-Sarwar Yousof (University of Malaya) and Fiona E Chiong Wong.


The Hainan Boatbuilder of Pangkor Island

This CRCDM collaborative, transdiscipinary research-creation project was undertaken to digitally capture, archive and preserve the traditional livelihood of the Hainan Boatbuilder of Pangkor Island, Perak, Malaysia thereby contributing to the cultural heritage of the country. Through the use of archived tangible and intangible cultural heritage content this project begins to mediate a narrative to educate and advance transmedia research. The Hainan Boatbuilder brings to light a deeply personal story of a fading Malaysian heritage and presents it for a contemporary audience to experience. It is dedicated to Mr. Goh and his team of talented craftsmen.

Project Leader: Prof. Harold Thwaites, CRCDM, Sunway University


The Gig Economy, E-Hailing Taxi Transport Industry

A comparison of the experience of grab drivers in Kuala Lumpur and Uber drivers in Bengaluru. The first comparative study of its kind in Asia. The project aims to distinguish and generalise about the impact of the e-hailing transport industry in different social settings. The purpose is to ascertain how effectively this flexible service meets the social and economic needs of drivers and can best be sustained in the future. The project is being undertaken in collaboration with ASAFAS in Kyoto University and is part-funded by grants from the Japan Society for Promotion of Science (JSPS) and the Elasticities Research Cluster in the School of Arts.

Project leaders: Prof. Crispin Bates and Aya Ikegame (AFASAS, Kyoto University)


Bloomsbury Cultural History of South Asia

This six-volume series, for which Prof Crispin Bates is the lead editor, involves a team of 30 leading academic experts from South Asia, Europe, and North America. Intended to be a definitive source of reference, A Cultural History of South Asia will examine the human experience in South Asia, from ancient times to the twenty-first century. It will explore 3500 years of history from the rise of civilisation in South Asia to the advent of modernity, independent nations and globalisation. The collaboration will develop over the next three years with a view to publication in 2025.


Global South Asians Book Series

This book series from Cambridge University Press, with Prof Bates as series editor, explores the distinctive contributions made by migrants from the Indian subcontinent to world history in the modern era. Placing the achievements of labourers, traders, thinkers and activists at the centre of the analysis, it examines a range of important economic, political, and cultural activities. By highlighting the agency of South Asians, the series seeks to craft new narratives of globalisation that reshape our understanding of the modern world. Those interested in contributing should contact the editor. For further details of the series please click here.


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