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Life after the Fellowship: Sonali Chowdhry

Throughout (my journey), I found frequent opportunities to engage in issues of power, empathy and activism with friends from YIF who keep me accountable and inspire me with their work.

Office of PR & Communications

1 December, 2017 | 6 min read

I graduated from the Young India Fellowship (YIF) in 2015. In fall of that year, I began reading for the MPhil in Economics at University of Oxford. During this period, I worked to grasp the foundational theories and methods that economists have developed to improve our collective understanding of the world.

My academic interest in economics grew around issues concerning trade – a complex adaptive network that emerges from our innate tendency to barter and exchange. I’m specifically drawn to its intersections with democratic outcomes, human development and technological progress. Did you know that even the history of timekeeping is intimately connected with trade? As I learnt with amazement in a museum basement one day, the invention of marine chronometers was driven by the need for ships to determine time and position at sea with greater precision. In preventing disastrous losses of life and cargo, this device would go on to catalyse the expansion of trade between nations and hence, play its part in fuelling the Industrial Revolution!

Going forward, my research will investigate how firms adjust in response to trade shocks, the distributional implications of integrating markets and how trade agreements shape the pattern of global transfers in goods, services and knowledge. To carefully examine these questions, I would like to learn from lawyers who’ve acquired expertise in international dispute settlement, political theorists who think deeply about global governance, historians with knowledge of trade collapses and mathematicians who understand the topological structure of networks. Consider this a shout out to anyone who knows where I can begin and what I should read! My work is supported by the European Commission’s Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions Programme and is based at the Ifo Institute in Munich, Germany.

Quite akin to my time at YIF, I was encouraged to pursue new avenues and experiences over these two years. I took tentative steps towards learning a new language, sought out the blackboard with Einstein’s written calculations and was nearly washed down a Welsh mountain (twice). I witnessed fierce women perform their poetry on hostile streets, observed the political upheaval of Brexit from Whitehall and contended with the colonial legacies of prestigious institutions.

Throughout, I found frequent opportunities to engage with issues of power, empathy and activism with friends from YIF who keep me accountable and inspire me with their work in sustainable farming, journalism, accessible design, gender equality, machine learning and conflict resolution amongst others. Belonging to this extraordinary community and finding it wherever I go has been wonderful.

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