Four fellows of the India Institute have had major research projects funded by Marsden Grants of the Royal Society of New Zealand.
Sekhar Bandyopadhyay's Marsden project (2012–2014) looks at the 1947 Partition of India, which unleashed unimaginable violence and triggered the greatest exodus of people in human history. Among those refugees were thousands of Dalit or low caste Hindus who fled from East Pakistan to West Bengal between 1947 and 1951. These remained almost totally excluded from the narratives of Partition.
By using oral history methods and archival research this project looked to restore the voice of the Dalits in the history of Partition in eastern India. It significantly contributed to the newly-developing field of South Asian studies in New Zealand.
Piers Locke's 2013 Marsden project was concerned with historical photography, colonialism, and human-elephant relations in South Asia.
Throughout Indian history the state has sponsored practices of elephant husbandry, maintaining populations of captive elephants as expert labour for forestry and logging, for capturing and taming wild elephants exchanged as valuable commodities, and for political and religious ceremony. The era of the British Raj retained and adapted this tradition, recognising elephants' material utility as a source of labour and semiotic utility to signify imperial power through pomp and pageantry.
This project was concerned with archival photographs representing the various events and practices through which colonial actors forged personal and political relations with this companion species and their attendants.
Clemency Montelle's Marsden project (2011-2013) looked at the development of computational procedures and numerical tables in Sanskrit mathematics in the second millennium.
Numerical tables, a significant yet often overlooked source in the history of mathematics, not only hold intrinsic mathematical interest with respect to the computational techniques they embody, but also more broadly as they speak to scientific practices, assumptions, and aspirations of those that compiled them. Typically the results of massive computational enterprise, tables are a testament to the practical achievements of the society that produced them as well as the cultural and social contexts that define it.
However the significance of mathematical tables and computational techniques often goes unnoticed, due largely to their subordinate role in classical and modern mathematics. Neglect of these subjects in the history of mathematics has led to a widespread failure to understand the role of computational practices in shaping scientific ideas. This study undertook to remedy this situation by an in-depth investigation of tables and computation algorithms in the mathematics of India in the second millennium, documenting and analysing the growing importance and eventual dominance of computational mathematics in the Sanskrit exact sciences.
Rick Weiss's Marsden project (2011-2013) explored the important shifts in religious authority, leadership, and community among Hindus in nineteenth-century India. The experiences of Hindus at this time were varied, yet all sought, and sometimes struggled, to make sense of rapid social and political change.
His principal aim was to consider the impact of colonialism, missionary activity, and new technologies on the ways that Hindus reconceived their traditions at the beginning of the modern era, through a focus on a South Indian Tamil mystic, Ramalinga Swamigal, and his efforts to create a new religious community.