advertisement for RA selection   Date: 11/09/2023

Applications are invited for the position of ONE Research Assistant for the University of Chicago-Presidency University collaborative project, titled, “The Conch and Its Communities: Climate Change and the History of a Hindu Sacred Object in Bengal”

The Conch and Its Communities: Climate Change and the History of a Hindu Sacred Object in Bengal

Conches have long been held as most sacred objects by Hindus. In Bengal, the object is especially consecrated. Perforated conches are ritually sounded every dusk in Hindu Bengali homes, and married Bengali women customarily wear a pair of conch-bangles. In both these uses, the conch is believed to protect Hindu homes and their bearers from all possible precarities. These centuries-old practices in Bengal remained, till recently, the proxy-evidence of the stability in the production and consumption cycle of conches. Yet, conch-life is now itself becoming a vulnerable existence, owing to changing conditions of the sea, its rising temperatures, frequent natural disasters, and so on; conditions which, despite current inadequate knowledge, have started being attributed to climate change, by affected communities. Two diametric scales of conch history—natural and cultural—are thus coalescing in an unprecedented manner, through recently felt imbalances in the physical supply and social demand for conches. While the impact of climate change on culture is itself a bourgeoning field of inquiry, its relationship with the future of religion and ritual is wanting, and this project aims to understand how everyday Bengali cultural lives themselves would be endangered by planetary forces far beyond their immediate circumstances. The project aims to study conch-lives from two fresh perspectives which are deeply connected with their ritual worlds: first, concerning its sensory lives among different castes and communities associated with its collection, processing, sale, and use; and second, about how the object, the marginal communities centering it, and an entire sacred cultural universe, are being affected by climate change concerns.

The first phase of the project aims to focus singularly on ethnographic data collection and transcriptions, since there are many places and people whose lives need to be documented. This shall involve intensive fieldwork in both cities and remote rural areas of West Bengal and other relevant Indian states.

Project Investigators:

Prof. Dipesh Chakrabarty, Lawrence A. Kimpton Distinguished Service Professor of History, South Asian Languages and Civilizations, and the College, Department of History, Division of the Humanities (University of Chicago)

Dr. Sukanya Sarbadhikary, Assistant Professor of Sociology (Presidency University)

Application Procedure

Applicants are requested to email their CVs and a brief note (300 words) about their thoughts on the question of climate change and culture.

The CV and the note should be emailed to:

Eligibility: M.A. in any discipline of the Humanities and Social Sciences

Deadline: 18.09.2023.

Project duration: October 2023-June 2024

Remuneration: INR equivalent of $400 per month.

Selection Procedure:Short-listed applicants will be interviewed. The details of the interview will be notified to them over email.

How to Find Us

Presidency University
(Main Campus)

86/1 College Street
Kolkata 700073

Presidency University
(2nd Campus)

Plot No. DG/02/02,
Premises No. 14-0358, Action Area-ID
New Town
(Near Biswa Bangla Convention Centre)
Contact details Presidency University Students Corner