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Environmental Studies

Today, more than ever, our well-being and that of our fellow creatures depends on how we think and act upon the biophysical world we share. Fundamental changes in the earth’s climate and oceans threaten basic survival.  Rivers, forests and grasslands are shrinking.  Cities are collapsing into chaos.  Meanwhile millions of people still lack adequate food, water, energy and shelter.  Environmental Studies (EVS) provides the concepts, methods and modes of analysis to understand and address this range of critical issues.  By offering rigorous training that combines classroom teaching with field research, and by bringing together the humanities, social and natural sciences, EVS equips students with the intellectual and practical resources for achieving social and ecological justice.

 

The department’s faculty members work on a variety of subjects—from wildlife conservation to sustainable food systems, urban planning to air pollution, collective action and environmental movements.  They approach problems from a range of disciplinary perspectives—biology and ecology, cultural geography and history, sociology and anthropology.  Their research draws on experimental methods, quantitative modelling, geographical information systems, field-based observation, ethnographic and archival methods.  Much of this work is cross-disciplinary and collaborative.  It speaks to wider scholarly and public debates, both Indian and global, about environmental issues and policies. Cutting-edge, empirically rich, and theoretically rigorous inquiry and teaching is the hallmark of Environmental Studies at Ashoka. 

Courses Offered
In addition to the Foundation Courses in Environmental Studies that each student is required to take, the department offers a wide range of courses.  While some of these introduce students to a sub-field of the discipline, others provide more specialised training to advanced students.  All the courses draw upon the research expertise of the instructors. 
 
SPRING 2021
SN
Title
LS  Code
Faculty
1
Introduction to Earth Sciences
ES-2105
 
2
Theoretical Ecology
ES-4101
 
3
Exploring Life in the Neighbourhood Lab
ES-2301
 
4
Ecology and Evolution Lab
ES-3301
 
5
Field Methods in Ecology and Conservation Science
ES-3302
 
6
Ecology and Unrest
ES-3433 (old ES3406)
 
7
Environment and Social Exclusion
ES-3435 (old ES3405)
 
8
Cities, Ecology and Equity
ES-3441 (old ES3404)
Amita Baviskar
9
Introduction to Political Ecology
ES -2431 (old ES2403)
 
10
Nature and Nation
ES-3420 (old 3020)
Mahesh Rangarajan
11
Environment and Empire
ES-4420 (old 4001)
Mahesh Rangarajan
12
Political Ecology and Modes of Resistance
ES-2432
Mitul Baruah
13
Political Ecology of Food
ES-2442
Amita Baviskar
14
Environmental Economics
ES-3601
 
15
Introduction to Ecocriticism: Climate Fiction
ES-3701
 
MONSOON 2020
SN
TITLE
LSCODE
FACULTY
1
Evolutionary Biology (Theory)
BIO-2010/ BIO-6010/ ES-3101-1
 
2
Ecology
BIO-3020/ BIO-6020/ ES-2101-1
 
3
Plant Biology
BIO-3453/ BIO-6453/ ES-4301-1
 
4
Seminar: Human-Wildlife Conflict
ES-1001-1
Meghna Agarwala
5
GIS 1
ES-1901-1
Meghna Agarwala
6
Wildlife conservation
ES-2102-1
Divya Karnad
7
Agriculture, Food and Sustainability
ES-2401/ SOA-2502/ POL-2022-1
Aniket Aga
8
Understanding Conflict and Cooperation over Natural Resources
ES-2402/ ECO-3702-1
Divya Karnad
9
Indian Environmental Politics
ES-2433/ POL-3052-1
Mukul Sharma
10
Decoding Genetically Modified Crops: The Global Politics of Agriculture and Biotechnology
ES-3411/ SOA-3502-1
Aniket Aga
11
The Right to Water
SOA-312/ ES-305-1
Mitul Baruah
SPRING 2020
SN
TITLE
LSCODE
FACULTY
1
Exploring Life in the Neighborhood Lab
BIO-1002/ ES-2901-1
 
2
Computational/Mathematical Biology
BIO-3008/ BIO-6013/ CS-2370/ ES-4102/ PSY-3018-1
 
3
Plant Biology
BIO-3453/ BIO-6453/ ES-4301-1
 
4
Environmental Economics
ECO-3700/ ES-3701-1
 
5
Introduction to Ecocriticism: Climate Fiction
ENG-3038/ ENG-5038/ ES-3701-1
 
6
Wildlife conservation
ES-2102-1
Divya Karnad
7
Introduction to Earth Sciences
ES-2105/ BIO-2033-1
 
8
Agriculture, Food and Sustainability
ES-2401/ SOA-2502/ POL-2022-1
Aniket Aga
9
Environment and Social Exclusion
ES-3405/ POL-3049-1
Mukul Sharma
10
Ecology and Unrest
ES-3406/ SOA-3503-1
Aniket Aga
11
Field Methods in Ecology and Conservation Science
ES-3902/ BIO-3023-1
Divya Karnad
12
Environment and Empire in the Early Modern World
HIS-4505/ ES-4001-1
 
13
Cities, Ecology and Equity
SOA-3207/ ES-3404-1
Amita Baviskar
Undergraduate Minor in Environmental Studies

The minor programme at Ashoka trains future scholars and professionals to be rigorous analysts and effective communicators who can understand and address the complexity of environmental issues and interventions.  

 

Requirements:  Students must take at least six courses in EVS, for a total of 24 credits. Of the 6 required courses, at least 2 have to be in a different stream from what the student intends to focus on. That is, a student must take either 4 social sciences and humanities courses and 2 biophysical sciences courses, or 2 social sciences and humanities courses and 4 biophysical sciences courses. These may include courses offered by other departments that are cross-listed with EVS. 

 

For a Concentration in EVS, students are required to take at least 4 courses (16 credits) offered by the Environmental Studies department or cross-listed with it.    

Ashoka Scholars Programme Honours Thesis
Eligibility: Ashoka Scholar's Programme (ASP) students intending to write a thesis must have taken at least 6 courses offered by, or cross-listed with, EVS.  They should also have taken at least one methods course related to their field of interest. 
 
Timeline: Students should identify a potential supervisor by December in Year 3 to discuss thesis prerequisites and draft a research proposal.  The preliminary proposal (1000 words) should be submitted by 31 May.  The final proposal to be presented at the start of Monsoon term.   
 
The summer between semesters 6 and 7 should be used for preliminary fieldwork.  
 
The research proposal should be defended in August in Year 4.
 
The final thesis should be no more than 15,000 words and cover 8 credits (4 each
semester). The thesis will be evaluated by the faculty advisor and, potentially, another Ashoka faculty member.
 
The thesis should be submitted by the beginning of April.
Teaching Assistantship - Openings

The Department of Environmental Studies is looking for 2 Teaching Fellows (TFs) to assist with the Foundational Course for the Monsoon semester (August-December) 2021. This course attempts to provide a holistic understanding of the environment around us, including its biophysical and socio-cultural elements. It will provide students with the understanding and tools to be able to critically examine environmental problems and their solutions in the world today. 

 

Click here to view the job description

Faculty
EVS Colloquium 2021-22

Title:  "Ecological and Social Impacts of Large Dams: The Case of Sardar Sarovar Project"

Speaker: Nandini Oza, Social Worker & Former Activist, Narmada Bachao Andolan

Date: Wednesday, 8 September 2021, 1:30-2:45 pm  (IST)

 

The Department of Environmental Studies, Ashoka University, invites you to a Seminar on "Ecological and Social Impacts of Large Dams: The Case of Sardar Sarovar Project"  by Nandini Oza, Social Worker & Former Activist, Narmada Bachao Andolan to be held on Wednesday, 8 September 2021, 1:30-2:45 pm  (IST)

 

Video: Click to Watch 

 

EVS Colloquium 2020-21

Title: Operationalising OneHealth Science in India to Combat Emerging Zoonoses   

Speaker: Dr. Abi Tamim Vanak

Convener, Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) 

Date: Wednesday, 7 October 2020, 1.30-2.30 pm 

 

 

Abstract:  The combination of high biodiversity, human population density, and close proximity with domestic and wild animals makes India highly vulnerable to the threat of emerging and re-emerging zoonotic diseases. A OneHealth approach to surveillance, preparedness and control has been advocated for effectively tackling these threats. However, given the historic, “siloed” nature of research and institutions in India, there have been multiple challenges to effectively operationalise OneHealth research. Here, I outline two examples of integrated OneHealth research that have helped generate novel insights in to disease dynamics for rabies and Kyasanur forest disease in India, and highlight how this can be a useful template to operationalise OneHealth research in India. Finally, I will showcase a new National initiative that will provide critical funding for team science and OneHealth surveillance systems in India.

 

Short Bio: Dr. Abi Tamim Vanak is a Senior Fellow (Associate Professor), and Convener of the Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation with the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) . He is also a Fellow of the DBT/Wellcome Trust Clinical and Public Health Program. His research areas include animal movement ecology, disease ecology, OneHealth, savanna ecosystems, invasive species and wildlife in human-dominated systems. Much of his research work focuses on the outcome of interactions between species at the interface of humans, domestic animals and wildlife in semi-arid savannas and agro-ecosystems. He also studies dynamics of rabies transmission in multi-host systems and the role of small and medium mammals in the transmission dynamics of Kyasanur forest disease. Abi Vanak has a Master’s in Wildlife Biology from the Wildlife Institute of India and a Ph. D. in Wildlife Science from the University of Missouri. 


Title: Are Environmental Histories of South Asia Still Possible in the Epoch of the Anthropocene?     
Speaker - Rohan D’Souza
Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies
Kyoto University 
Chair: Amita Baviskar, Ashoka University
 
 
Abstract: Most writings on the environmental histories of South Asia have been informed by either of two dominant frameworks. The first ─ widely called the ‘colonial watershed thesis’ ─ claimed that British colonialism profoundly undermined the ecological harmony that previously characterized social organization in South Asia. In contrast, advocates for the ‘continuities-with-change’ approach argued that, while the ‘pace of change’ was undoubtedly ‘rapid and epochal’, radical environmental transitions were not entirely new to the Indian subcontinent, pointing to the need for long term histories about human-nature relationships.
 
Whilst these two dominant frameworks have generated a rich and productive scholarship, recent concerns about climate change urge us to reconsider whether such conventional plot lines for environmental histories on South Asia are still possible. 
 
In particular, I discuss how notions of the ‘Anthropocene’ have begun to unsettle some of the assumptions that characterized earlier writings in environmental history. Notably, concepts such as the ‘Great Acceleration’ and Earth Systems Sciences now urge us to reconsider periodization and emphasise threats at the planetary scale. Will saving the planet require us to obscure and side step local and regional histories about South Asia’s experience with colonial resource extraction and environmental changes brought on by European modernity? Will the task of ‘saving the future’ via unequal limits on carbon access turn the present into a hostage of the future? Can environmental histories of South Asia survive the loss of the regional, the local and, above all else, the colonial in their narrative design? 
 
Bio: Rohan D’Souza is Associate Professor at the Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies, Kyoto University. His research interests and publications cover themes in environmental history, political ecology, sustainable development and modern technology.
 
He is the author of Drowned and Dammed: Colonial Capitalism and Flood Control in Eastern India (2006) and has jointly edited with Deepak Kumar and Vinita Damodaran, The British Empire and the Natural World: Environmental Encounters in South Asia (2011). He has also curated and edited Environment, Technology and Development: Critical and Subversive Essays (2012) for the Economic and Political Weekly Series.  

Title: "From 'Man Will Defeat Nature' to 'Ecological Civilization': Reflections on China's Policies and Practices Toward Nature in the Past 50 Years" 

Speaker: Jim Harkness, National Geographic Society

Date: Monday, 1 February 2021, 6.30-7.45 pm  (IST)

 

Abstract:  China's post-Mao economic boom has pulled hundreds of millions out of poverty, but at what cost to the planet? Jim Harkness has worked on environment and development in China since the early 1980s and witnessed its transformation -- for better and worse -- from up close. He will draw on his experience as both a practitioner and researcher to illuminate efforts by China's government, civil society, and international NGOs to protect the environment amidst the boom.

 

Bio:  Jim Harkness holds a Bachelor's degree in East Asian Language and Literature from the University of Wisconsin and a Master's in Development Sociology from Cornell University. Over a 17-year period between the early 1980s and mid-2000s, he worked in China as a field biologist, environmental educator, grantmaker and as country representative for the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF). From 2006 to 2014 he was President of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, based in Minnesota, USA. For the next five years he worked on environment and regenerative agriculture projects with US and Chinese NGOs and foundations. He is currently the China Country Director for the National Geographic Society.  


Title: Thinking Ecologically about Cities: A Global South Perspective

Speaker: Professor Harini Nagendra, Azim Premji University  

Date: Wednesday, 31 March 2021, 1.30 pm (IST)
 
 
Click here to PLAY THE VIDEO

 

Abstract:

Across the global South, cities are on a breakneck path to growth. Cities are engines of prosperity and promise, but also concentrations of pollution, stress, and disease. Episodes of flood, drought, heat waves, and smog tell us why we must begin to think ecologically about a new global urban future, which will be driven by cities of the global South, amongst which Indian cities will play a prominent role. I draw on our research over the past 15 years, on Bengaluru and other cities in India, to discuss how human populations have transformed the original ecology of the city beyond recognition. We cannot go back to the ecology of the past, but must instead look at the critical role that ecology plays in the social-ecological systems of contemporary and future cities, to collectively reimagine and redesign a better urban future.

 

Bio:

Harini Nagendra is an ecologist and Professor of Sustainability at Azim Premji University. Her research examines conservation in forests and cities of South Asia from the perspective of both landscape ecology and social justice. For her interdisciplinary research and practice, she has received a number of awards including the 2009 Cozzarelli Prize from the US National Academy of Sciences, the 2013 Elinor Ostrom Senior Scholar award, and the 2017 Clarivate Web of Science award. Her publications include the books “Nature in the City: Bengaluru in the Past, Present and Future” and “Cities and Canopies: The Tree Book of Indian Cities” as well as recent papers in Nature, Nature Sustainability, and Science.

Harini Nagendra writes a monthly column ‘The Green Goblin’ in the Deccan Herald, and a fortnightly column ‘Nature in the City’ in Hindustan Times Bangalore. She is a well known public speaker and writer on issues of urban sustainability in India. Professor Nagendra has been a Lead Author on the IPCC AR5 reports, and a past Science Committee member of DIVERSITAS and the Global Land Programme. She engages with international science and policy through her involvement as a Steering Committee member of the Future Earth


Title: When Lions Roamed Ashoka University and Other Wild Tales from the Past

Speaker: Raza Kazmi, Conservationist, Wildlife historian, Researcher, and Writer

Date: Wednesday, 14 April 2021, 1.30 pm (IST)

Click here to PLAY THE VIDEO

Abstract:

Have you ever wondered what places you are familiar with today might have looked like in past? This fascinating thought, this desire to know what places and landscapes we know well today were like before us, has driven much of Raza Kazmi's research as a wildlife historian. And so He found out, for instance, that not too long ago lions roamed what is now the Ashoka University campus, tigers prowled the roads leading from the campus to Delhi and Sonipat, and that the Delhi airport at Palam was once a favourite hunting ground for blackbucks.


After a decade of poring over thousands of archive sources spanning over more than 200 years and spread across many disciplines in its scope, Kazmi has added a significant amount of new information in the field of wildlife history of India, especially those related to the history of the Asiatic lion and the now extinct Indian Cheetah. Using anecdotes from the past, Kazmi will trace in his talk the broad arcs of Indian wildlife history from the colonial period to contemporary times, the factors and processes that affected the rapid decline of flora and fauna in modern India. Kazmi will also look at the ever-changing dynamics of land utilization resulting in drastic alterations of landscapes just as it happened with the land where Ashoka stands today -- from a lion playground to a state-of-the-art university. 

 

Short Bio:

Raza Kazmi's fields of expertise include wildlife history of India, conservation policy, and conservation issues in the country's ‘Red Corridor’ landscape. His writings appear in The Hindu, The Indian Express, The Wire, Sanctuary Asia, RoundGlass Sustain, Journal of Bombay Natural History Society, and other natural history and wildlife journals. He has also contributed essays to edited anthologies. Raza currently works as a consultant with the Ashoka Archives of Contemporary India, Ashoka University.

EVS 2019-20 Annual Report

Click here to view the Department of Environmental Studies Annual Report 2019-20