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Fall 2016

Dea Busk Larsen, Masters student in Social Anthropology at Lund University; and Nashfa Hawwa, Masters student at the Environmental Management and Policy programme, also Lund University, were selected by SASNET for a scholarship to be carried out in South Asia with the assistance of CREST, Centre for Research and Education for Social Transformation, in Kozhikode, Kerala, India.

Dea Busk Larsen

Dea carried out her masters thesis work during early 2017, on a project entitled ”Living Caste: Educated Rural Dalit Women’s Lived Experiences in Urban South India”, focusing on the informal sphere of young educated dalit women’s lived experiences especially the aspect of migrating from rural to urban India. Dea has previously lived in the Indian states of Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu for 16 months in total.

Dea wrote some words about her trip: 

"In the beginning of 2017 I spent two months at CREST in Kerala doing fieldwork for my master’s thesis in social anthropology. Through participant observation and semi-structured interviews I studied young dalit women’s resistance to the caste system. My informants were in their early and mid twenties and had completed their further education. Many of them are the first in their family to have a university degree. They were about to be part of the middle class and I am interested in what this class journey has meant to their caste identity and their relationship to the caste system. I lived with my informants at their hostel and joined them during their classes and in their free time. I interviewed nine key research actors twice. The first interview was held after three-four weeks of my fieldwork, and the second at the very end of my stay. My main findings are that these young women are extremely pragmatic in their relationship to their caste and that is how they fight against the caste system - even if it looks like they do not. Their resistance is subtle, often invisible to others and might even look like acceptance of the system; nonetheless they navigate the caste system by hiding and highlighting their caste status always to their advantage. I studied this by looking at education, marriage and their perception of the opportunities they have as dalits."


Nashfa Hawwa

Nashfa has carried out her field work during the summer 2016. After a few weeks staying at CREST in Kozhikode, she has spent time in Male, the capital city of the Maldives, working on a project entitled ”Establishing a Deposit-Refund System in the Maldives – an ex-ante Evaluation”, The project deals with the management of polyethylene-terephthalate (PET) plastic waste, a complex issue for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) such as the Maldives. This is because of the geographical complexity, small landmass, and  lack of infrastructure and resources. Furthermore, changes from subsistence lifestyles to increased consumerism, increased imports, and population growth has escalated the number of PET bottles in the waste stream. While PET is deemed as the most optimal plastic for beverage bottles, and for recyclability, the Maldives lacks vital technical infrastructure to manage the PET waste in an environmentally sound manner. For her thesis, she seeks to conduct a research assessing the feasibility of implementing a deposit-refund system in the Maldives. 

Nashfa wrote some words about her trip: 

"During the months of June and August in 2016, I was conducting research and fieldwork for my master's thesis for the program in Environmental Management and Policy. My travel was covered by SASNET, and it allowed me direct contact and access to fieldwork in the Maldives, where I was researching about the potential introduction of a deposit refund system for plastic bottles in the Maldives, the smallest South Asian country. I interviewed relevant government authorities, private institutions, and private actors that were key to introducing a potential deposit refund system policy in the Maldives. I was able to map out a potential blueprint for the deposit refund system to be implemented in the Maldives, using case studies of two other island nations on the Pacific.

As part of my travel grant, I was also obliged to travel to CREST and volunteer at the Centre. It was hard not to fall in love with the students, even for the week that I was there. I felt really connected to a bunch of smart and outgoing individuals who had so much passion and drive for excellence, that it was truly inspiring for me. What struck me was the importance of access to opportunity and it was a truly humbling experience for me, to realise that a lot of the students were already in their graduate studies, some were on their way to do PhD studies, and there were a few engineers. However, the difference was the lack of opportunities they are given due to their caste. This is why institutions like CREST are so important because it exists and strives to ensure that these dedicated and bright students deserve equal opportunity to excel and achieve their dreams. I’m also glad that I could share my story with them, and share a little bit of my country with them. It was very interesting since most of the students, even if they were from Kerala, which is the state closest to the Maldives, did not know of its existence. I do believe that my presence of being a fellow South Asian who very much looks like them was inspiring for the students, and that my stories of being an international student helped them be more confident of their dreams and ambitions, as they could see that a girl from the Maldives has been able to travel and study in all these countries abroad for her education. I had three study sessions with them, where we played games and strengthened conversational and language skills, and I also gave a presentation about my research, and we had a discussion about the importance of plastic waste, what it does to the ecosystems around them, and to their health, and the need for concrete policies on how to deal with the issue of rampant global plastic waste. They expressed that it made them think of the "life cycle" impacts of buying plastic bottles and discarding them so easily, and moreover we talked about what they can do in their own communities to avoid the issue of plastic waste. Overall it was a truly fulfilling experience. My only regret was that I couldn't stay there for the full two months. I did also really enjoy the lovely interns from Canada. Overall I had a very fulfilling experience at CREST and I would urge students from all fields who are interested in doing research in South Asia in general to apply."