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During January 8-10, 2017 the Centre for Experimental Social Sciences (CESS) Nuffield – FLAME University had the pleasure of hosting a delegation from NYU Abu Dhabi. The delegation visited FLAME University as part of a class called Gender Revolutions and the State in India taught by Rachel Brule, Assistant Professor of Politics at NYU Abu Dhabi. Prof. Brule’s class asks why states conduct top-down reforms for gender equality and what these interventions’ impact is. In the context of India, Prof. Brule’s class examines reforms that equalize women’s rights to land, a core economic and social commodity.

During the visit to FLAME University, the NYU Abu Dhabi delegation had the opportunity to interact with members of CESS Nuffield – FLAME University as well as a variety of other insightful individuals like FLAME faculty members and students. The activities organized by CESS Nuffield – FLAME University are described in more detailed below.

1. Workshop on Gender and Property Rights (NYU Abu Dhabi and FLAME University, in Hyderabad on 7 January, 2017)

The panel for this workshop included some outstanding legal practitioners from the Andhra Pradesh High Court, including Mr. Raghunandan Rao, Mr. Mahendar Resu, and Ms. Rachna Bollu. The co-Director of CESS Nuffield - FLAME University, Dr. Pavan Mamidi initiated the workshop with some introductory remarks, and Prof. Rachel Brule of NYU Abu Dhabi chaired the session.

The main theme of the session covered issues relating to the implementation of the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act of 2005, and the changing role of the state in empowering women to make successful legal claims of their inherited property rights. The session also made for an interesting discussion on the social dynamics of a patriarchal backlash against legislative and judicial changes.


2. Session on Experiments in Social Sciences (NYU Abu Dhabi and FLAME University, 9 January 2017)

The CESS Nuffield – FLAME University co-Directors, Dr. Sharon Barnhardt and Dr. Pavan Mamidi held a session on Experiments in Social Sciences for the NYU Abu Dhabi delegation. The session was held in the Vivekananda Library at FLAME University and included a demonstration of an experiment for ongoing research work by Dr. Mamidi and Prof. Tom Simpson from the University of Oxford.

Dr. Barnhardt and Dr. Mamidi gave an overview of the experimental method and explained in some detail the differences between lab and lab-in-the-field designs for social science research. Emphasizing the unique challenges and opportunities of the Indian context for this type of work, the CESS co-Directors explored the frontier of experimental social science research and the potential contributions of CESS to academia in India.


3. Viewing of ‘Dangal’ and Follow-up Discussion (NYU Abu Dhabi and FLAME University, 9 January 2017)

Aamir Khan’s most recent film ‘Dangal’ is the highest grossing Bollywood film to date, one that has sparked numerous conversations nationwide about gender roles in Indian society. Some of its most memorable scenes, including the talk about gender equality between Mahavir Singh Phogat (played by Aamir Khan) and Geeta Phogat were also shot on the FLAME University campus. Members of CESS Nuffield – FLAME University accompanied the NYU Abu Dhabi delegation to watch this historic film. After viewing the film, the NYU Abu Dhabi and the CESS co-Director Dr. Pavan Mamidi had an in-depth conversation about depictions of gender in the Bollywood industry. During the discussion, the NYU Abu Dhabi students raised many questions about expectations of Indian women in different parts of the country, including states like the film’s setting of Haryana. Not only was the delegation touched by the cinematography and the acting, but they were also deeply interested in exploring how different people across India reacted to the message of gender equality portrayed in the film.

4. NYU AD and FLAME University academics and students explore the nuts and bolts of a district court in India. (10 January 2017)

One of the key elements of Prof. Brule’s visiting class to FLAME University was an exploration of the Indian legal system, and the court setting in which matters related to the property of women get settled. FLAME University organized extensive interactions with court officials, including an animated conversation with Prithviraj Chauhan, the Principal District and Sessions Judge of the Pune District Court.

Senior advocates, including Shivraj Kadam and Satyajit Tupe, the Secretary of the Pune Bar Association interacted and engaged the students. The court visit was led by Dr. Pavan Mamidi and was followed by a de-briefing session that allowed students to think deeply about different issues raised during their visit.


5. Panel Discussion on Gender and Caste (NYU Abu Dhabi, and FLAME University, 10 January 2017)

The NYU Abu Dhabi delegation participated in a panel discussion on the intersection of gender and caste in India. The panel included Juhi Sidharth, Assistant Professor of Gender Studies and Public Policy at FLAME University; Ram Mahalingam, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and was moderated by Rachel Brule, Assistant Professor of Politics at NYU Abu Dhabi.

The panel discussion was also attended by all the members of CESS Nuffield – FLAME University, including FLAME students interning at CESS. Some of the topics covered during this event included: cellphones and women empowerment; masculinity and identity among different castes; love, arranged and inter-caste marriages; and media and gender in India.