Rockefeller Archive Center

Rockefeller Archive Center Research Reports are created by recipients of research travel stipends and by many others who have conducted research at the RAC. The reports demonstrate the breadth of the RAC's archival holdings, particularly in the study of philanthropy and its effects. Read more about the history of philanthropy at resource.rockarch.org. Also, see the RAC Bibliography of Scholarship, a comprehensive online database of publications citing RAC archival collections.
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The Gift of Fellowship: India, Modernism, Abstraction, and New York City

December 15, 2023

From 1963, first through the JDR 3rd Fund and then from 1979, through the Asian Cultural Council (ACC), several Indian painters were granted time, stipends, materials, resources, and travel budgets to explore the United States. Krishen Khanna, Tyeb Mehta, Akbar Padamsee, Avinash Chandra, Jyoti Bhatt Natvar Bhavsar, Bal Chhabda, V.S. Gaitonde, K.G. Subramanyan, Paritosh Sen, Bhupen Khakhar, Ram Kumar, Paritosh Sen, and Rekha Rodwittiya each went on to have remarkable careers. My research at the Rockefeller Archive Center was to look at the artists' articulation of their practice, and their desire to expand it, at the moment of their applications. Using fellowship materials and correspondence from a range of Indian artists, art historians, and critics from 1960 and 1990, I reconstruct here the significance of a year's travel and study in New York City and its implications for artistic education and practice. At the same time, I explore the breadth of correspondence between Indian artists and the ACC, which offers rare primary source materials for the reconstruction of the history of abstraction and the history of art history in postcolonial India; and indicates the significance of the shared experience and memory of applying and experiencing the fellowship as creating bonds of solidarity between Indian artists.

Asian Cultural Council; JDR 3rd Fund; Mass Communications; Rockefeller Foundation

The Rockefeller Foundation and Scientific Collaboration in Late Colonial India

May 24, 2022

After submitting my doctoral thesis, I studied documents on public health research in colonial India at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC). The visit, from the end of September to early December 2019, allowed me to expand my research on medical infrastructure and sanitary regulations in colonial India. My thesis looked at the sanitary interventions by the British colonial state and Christian missionaries in British Indian port cities in the nineteenth century for protecting the health of European seamen. In my follow-up research, I wanted to explore the development of the study of health and disease in the twentieth century. The governance of public health in this phase was arguably driven by new explorations into bacteriology and virology in various institutes across India. The Rockefeller Foundation (RF) was substantially involved in many of these disease research centers as part of its global fight for public health. It was instrumental in establishing the All-India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health (AIIHPH). As a scoping study for my pile-up project on public health in the first half of the twentieth century, I read reports and correspondence regarding the planning and early years of the institute. I spent a highly fulfilling two months with the RAC, reading important documents on the RF's medical philanthropy and its role in shaping public health research in British India. The stint also enabled me to connect with researchers working on similar subjects.

Medicine and Healthcare; Rockefeller Foundation

Designing Agricultural Programs in Mexico and India: Challenges, Successes, and Missed Opportunities

January 7, 2022

While several scholars have examined the foundation and agricultural innovation of the initial 1943 Office of Special Studies (OSS or OEE, the abbreviation in Spanish), this research focuses on, first, the impact of this knowledge on domestic science and rural Mexican development, and, second, the production of agricultural science techniques designed for domestic experimental stations yet implemented beyond Mexico. Consequently, this research examines how these Mexico-based ideas, distinct practices and scientific knowledge looked on the ground in the 1960s when knowledge practices —and seeds—developed in Mexico, arrived in India. In addition to research at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC), as well as in national and state archives in Mexico and India, oral histories of farmers and scientists were conducted. This research report briefly examines the sunsetting of the OEE and its fusion into a new, wholly Mexican institute (INIA) which would become vital for later international networks. Simultaneously, the Rockefeller Foundation was expanding its presence in rural India.

Agrarian and Rural; Agriculture; Rockefeller Foundation

Methods and Motivations: Philanthropic Science in Decolonization-Era India, 1919-1964

October 6, 2021

How did the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations and the Population Council work with independent India to undertake unprecedented interventions in the agricultural and nutritional sciences in the context of decolonization? Contrasting with recent historical scholarship on the changes that swept the world food economy in the mid-twentieth century, this research centers on the connections between late colonial and post-independence understandings of famine, population growth, and development in South Asia. Contributing to a doctoral dissertation, this work also sheds light upon the link between the concerns of colonial-era eugenics and the debate between population regulation advocates and agricultural and nutritional scientists that would unfold over how to best address independent India's development priorities. Pursuing a broader framing of the Green Revolution of the 1960s, this project tracks the influence of the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations and the Population Council in inaugurating programs of rural development, nutritional research, and resource management, uncovering the colonial area roots of their interventions in the 1950s and 1960s. Efforts led by Indian nationalists, British colonial officials, and American philanthropists and scientists in the context of colonial development and a global population "crisis" generated institutions and ideas vital to the later Green Revolution. They receive close readings in my work to understand the underlying motives of philanthropic investment and the strategic planning involved in launching new and unprecedented programs. The motivations and inaugural planning behind these early activities reveal how far decolonization shaped the demographic and agricultural theories central to development discourse across independent South Asia.

Agriculture; Food and Nutrition; Population and Reproductive Sciences; Rockefeller Foundation

Paul Ylvisaker, “Indigenous Leadership,” and the Origins of Community Action

July 21, 2021

This report examines how Paul Ylvisaker developed his view that the development of "indigenous leadership" represented the key to solving the urban problems of the 1960s. It also looks at how that view shaped the development of the community action programs at the Ford Foundation and in the Johnson administration. I argue that his conception of what "indigenous leadership" meant and the role it should play in US urban politics was formed through a brief stint working on a Ford Foundation project in Calcutta. This conception then affected his management of early conflicts in the Ford Foundation's Gray Areas program, where community action originated. Ultimately, I argue, this story illuminates one way in which debates about community action, antipoverty policy, and urban politics in the early to mid-1960s were conditioned by Americans' competing visions of decolonization and the postcolonial world.

African American Studies; Ford Foundation

The Ford Foundation and India’s Planning Commission

April 8, 2021

I consulted the records of the Ford Foundation at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) in January 2015 as part of research for my dissertation titled "Planned Democracy: Development, Citizenship, and the Practices of Planning in Independent India, c. 1947—1966." My research at the RAC focused on the Ford Foundation's grants towards certain projects in India. These included ones supporting research on development, the training of economists, and the funding of a computer center at the Planning Commission. These archives offered me new insights into the depth of the Ford Foundation's involvement in postcolonial India's early experiments in economic development. They were especially useful in throwing light on how non-government institutions partnered with the Indian state in its quest to ramp up its research and data capacities.

Economics; Ford Foundation; Social Sciences

The Green Revolution’s Alignments with American Agribusiness

February 4, 2021

During the past fifteen years, a wave of Western-led development efforts has aimed to transform agriculture across Africa under the banner of the Green Revolution in Africa. These efforts build directly upon a longer history of American-led Green Revolution development projects, that began with the Rockefeller Foundation-sponsored efforts in Mexico in the 1940s and 1950s. While the early Green Revolution programs that began in Mexico and expanded throughout much of Latin America and Asia during the 1960s were largely public sector-led projects, today's Green Revolution involves a growing number of public-private partnerships between national and international development organizations and multinational corporations. My research at the Rockefeller Archive Center aimed to provide historical context for the development of the "partnership paradigm" in contemporary agricultural development. In what ways, I ask, do public-private partnerships either extend or depart from previous Green Revolution projects? While today public sector researchers often collaborate with colleagues in the private sector, how did the early Green Revolutionaries understand their efforts in relation to commercial agribusiness? While scholars have persuasively argued that the Green Revolution was resolutely capitalist in its orientation—indeed, the "Green" in Green Revolution was originally coined to suggest that American-led capitalist agricultural development would serve as a buffer against the expansion of a "Red" communist revolution in the Third World—few scholars have traced how and where early Green Revolution programs aligned with US agribusiness interests. In this research report, I survey some initial findings from my archival research along these lines.

Agriculture; International Basic Economy Corporation; J. George Harrar Papers; Rockefeller Foundation

Primates and Population in Postcolonial India

January 5, 2021

In May 1963, Dr. Sheldon Segal convened a meeting of reproductive biologists at the Population Council's offices in New York City. He had called them there to consider "the possibility of concentrating efforts to increase fertility control research by means of establishing a large primate center in India." The proposal was an outgrowth of Segal's consultancy work for the Ford Foundation in New Delhi, and he was keen to pursue it. Segal regarded India – "a country with an abundant monkey supply" – as an ideal place to establish a cost-effective primate center for contraceptive research.   

Biology and Medical Research; Ford Foundation; Population Council; Population and Reproductive Sciences

The Ford Foundation and Post-Independence Indian Theatre

July 15, 2020

With the research stipend from the Rockefeller Archive Center, initially, my intended research was to focus on theatre in Palestine. While Palestinian theatre is a worthwhile subject, I found that the Rockefeller Archive Center had a greater volume of archived records pertaining to theatre in India. As a result, I embarked on research with a concentration on the work of philanthropic organizations and their role in the India's cultural development in the latter half of the twentieth century. Thus, I reconstructed a narrative of the history of the Indian theatre.

Ford Foundation; Performing Arts; Theatre

Management, Modernity and Nation-Building: The Contested Histories of Management Education in India

June 17, 2020

The United States has been at the forefront of globalization of research and education in the field of Management. US business schools and philanthropic foundations, most notably the Ford Foundation, have led the institutionalisation of management research and education institutions across the globe. In the global histories of Management, there has been a long-standing interest in interrogating US influence on management theory, curricula, pedagogy, and practices of knowledge production. Commonly understood as Americanization, these global histories of management have mapped the diverse and particular historical trajectories of the field in various parts of the globe, most notably western Europe, the Mediterranean, Brazil, and India. (See, for example: contributions to a symposium issue of Journal of Management Inquiry, led by Üsdiken 2004; also see Gemelli 1998, Srinivas 2008, among others.)

Academic Research and Education; Ford Foundation

The Ford Foundation and Visions of Urban Development in 1960s India

March 26, 2020

My PhD dissertation, "Global Townscape: The Rediscovery of Urban Life in the Late Twentieth Century," is a history of the Townscape movement, a British urban planning movement that emerged in the 1940s and 1950s and emphasized mixed-use planning, urban density, and the "life of the street." In its focus on vernacular, human-scale urbanism, Townscape echoed the ideas of American scholar and activist Jane Jacobs, whose 1961 book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (published the same year as Townscape, the movement's seminal text), outlined a similar vision of urban intricacy.

Ford Foundation; Urban and Suburban; William H. Whyte Papers

Environment, Disease and Medicine in Eastern India, 1900-1950s: Changes in Bengal’s Western Frontier

August 19, 2019

Since the 1990s, there has been considerable research on the histories of the environment and of medicine in India. These studies address wide-ranging issues such as environmental change since pre-colonial times, changing livelihoods, contestations and negotiations between 'Western' and 'Indian' medical practices, the treatment of epidemics, women's health, British colonial medical policies and the history of medical institutions. However, there has been much less research on health and disease among India's Adivasi or 'tribal' population. Similarly, there have been few studies which explore the interaction of environment, health and medical history of people living in the margins.  My research project seeks to address this lacuna and investigates the relationship between environmental change, emerging diseases, and health practices in eastern and central India. Specifically, it concentrates on the Chotanagpur Division and Santal Pargana districts which formed part of the Bengal Presidency under British colonial rule, and which today are incorporated within the Indian state of Jharkhand. Taking a long-term view, the project explores the fluid connection between landscape and health in pre-modern Adivasi society and analyses the interface between indigenous cultural beliefs and the state's medical intervention in colonial and post-colonial India.

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