2015 Sardar Patel Dissertation Award Winner Announced

On May 21, 2016 Dr. Isabel Huacuja Alonso was announced the recipient of the prestigious Sardar Patel Dissertation Award for her dissertation titled "Radio for the Millions: Hindi-Urdu Broadcasting at the Crossroads of Empire."

On May 21, 2016 Dr. Isabel Huacuja Alonso was announced the recipient of the prestigious Sardar Patel Dissertation Award for her dissertation titled "Radio for the Millions: Hindi-Urdu Broadcasting at the Crossroads of Empire." Established in 1999, the Sardar Patel award is annually conferred by the Center for India and South Asia at UCLA. The award honors the best doctoral dissertation on any aspect of modern India in the fields of social sciences, humanities, education, and fine arts. 

The ceremony was hosted at the James West Alumni building at UCLA. The ceremony opened with remarks from Mr. Harkisan Vasa and Dr. Vandana SarDesai about the award's history as community founded and supported endeavor to raise the level of interest and initiate research in Studies of India in the U.S., and thereby contribute to a deeper and better understanding between the two countries. Following the opening remarks, Dr. Akhil Gupta, professor of Anthropology at UCLA, introduced Dr. Huacuja Alonso as the 2016 winner. Dr. Huacuja Alonso then gave a brief presentation on her dissertation, followed by a question and answer session.

Dr. Huacuja Alonso's dissertation “Radio for the Millions” is a transnational history of radio broadcasting in Hindi and Urdu in South Asia. Her research focused on specific moments of intense cultural and political change when debates about broadcasting came to the forefront across the late colonial period through the immediate post-independence era (1927-1971). Dr. Huacuja Alonso showed how in the decades following independence in 1947, the new leaders of India and Pakistan successfully and unsuccessfully attempted to foster allegiance to governments through state-run broadcasting networks—AIR and Radio Pakistan, respectively. After independence, she demonstrated how commercial stations such as Radio Ceylon changed the soundscape of the post-colonial subcontinent, making film music an integral part of people’s everyday lives. Huacuja Alonso argued that it was these stations, which contested state-run radio’s linguistic, cultural, and political campaigns, that won the hearts and minds of listeners in South Asia. Her research highlighted the varied ways in which radio made it possible for broadcasters and listeners alike to build lasting connections across state-imposed borders. 

Dr. Huacuja Alonso's presentation touched listeners in the room, many of whom who had grown up listening to Radio Ceylon and were reminded of the significance of the radio broadcasts in their lives. Listeners were delighted by clips played of Amin Sayani and Binaca Geetmala broadcasts. 

Dr. Huacuja Alonso is an historian of modern South Asia and sound media. She completed her PhD at the University of Texas Austin in August, 2015.She is currently writing a book on radio broadcasting in Hindi-Urdu in late colonial India and independent India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. More generally her scholarly work is concerned with the making and unmaking of borders and with individuals who have trespassed their societies’ geographical and intellectual boundaries.She completed an essay on the Indian anti-colonial leader M.N. Roy's political work in Mexico and an English translation of an Urdu-language radio travelogue on the Grand Trunk Road, a 2500-kilometers-long road that traverses the Indian subcontinent. Dr. Huacuja Alonso's research has been funded by the American Institutes of Indian and Pakistan Studies, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Institute for Historical Studies at UT Austin. Starting in September 2016, she will be an Assistant Professor of History at California State University - San Bernardino.

The ceremony closed with a memorial service for the late Dr. Damodar SarDesai, professor of history at UCLA, who helped found the Sardar Patel Dissertation Award. 

 

Published: Tuesday, September 06, 2016

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