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Alexander's gift

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By More and more Indians are now eyeing the fellowship offered by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. Vishnupriya Sengupta catches up with Ranjan Ghosh who bagged the fellowship recently in Gandhi
  • Published 8.02.07
The Munich University and (below) Humboldt fellow Ranjan Ghosh

When it comes to fellowships Indian research scholars, it appears, have started looking beyond the US and the UK. In fact, going by the statistics, Germany is fast catching up as a hot spot for research work. With more than 1,170 Indian Humboldt Fellows, India is in the third place in the general survey of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, behind the US and Japan.

The fellowship, which has a monthly grant ranging from 2,000 to 3,000 Euros, is open to scholars from all disciplines. But while 77.3 per cent of the Indians who bagged it are natural science scholars, 16.3 per cent are engineers and only 6.4 per cent come from the humanities and social science stream. Ranjan Ghosh, a topper from the North Bengal University, who bagged the Fellowship in November last year, belongs to the third category.

The incentives of a post-doctoral fellowship prompted Ghosh, at present on lien from the Darjeeling Government College, to apply. “During my tenure as professor at the University of Wroclaw (Poland), I was invited as a Visiting Fellow to the Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut (Institute for the Advanced Study of Humanities) at Essen in Germany. That is where I heard about the fellowship and decided to apply,” he recalls. A rolling deadline for the fellowship worked to his advantage.

But teaching at a university abroad is not mandatory. One needs to have a PhD to put in an application. As emphasis is placed on the quality of the candidate’s research publication, Ghosh says it is important to have a strong list of publications — peer reviewed research papers and books — to support his or her application. “The selection committee lays stress on the candidate’s proven ability for research and the quality of the project which s/he submits with it. Also, how one writes out the project to a large extent determines one’s chances of selection,” he says.

Ghosh was confident that his project — Contemporising the Philosophy of Vivekananda, Tagore and Gandhi: Understanding the Discourse of ‘Difference’ and ‘Identity’ in the World Today — was good enough to merit serious attention. And to support his claim, he also had a good list of publications spanning seven to eight years of research work.

“I have over 30 papers in international journals like The Oxford Literary Review, History and Theory, Angelaki, Nineteenth Century Prose, Rethinking History, among others,” he says. For books, the committee places a premium on international publishing houses which peer review manuscripts. As the author of (In)fusion Approach: Theory, Contestation, Limits (Lanham, Oxford: University Press of America, 2006) and Lover’s Quarrel with Clio (Oxford, New York: Berghahn Books), Ghosh had an edge over the other candidates.

English literature scholars have yet another reason to apply. While those from other disciplines need to know the German language, English literature scholars are exempted from this condition. However, now that he has been selected, Ghosh will be required to do a German language course which is funded by the Humboldt Foundation.

During the tenure — which is one year and subject to extension — the foundation also funds limited stays in other European countries and also bears the cost of the scholar’s journey from his home country.

Now that you’re armed with a set of useful tips, how about having a go at it?

How to go about it

Those below 40 years of age with a doctorate or equivalent academic qualification in any discipline are eligible to apply. Researchers, who have nearly completed their doctoral degree, may apply providing they submit the manuscript of their doctoral thesis or publications containing the results of their dissertation.

Applications along with the research project, a detailed list of publications and three-four reprints of published work need to be submitted.

One needs three recommendation letters from international experts. In addition to the application documents, a confidential statement must be submitted by the proposed German host (institution/university) which agrees to host the candidate if s/he is selected.

Duration of the application process is three to six months.

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