Transregional Collaborative Research Grants


This study will provide the first large-scale comparative ethnographic study of the reorganization of multilingualism in the context of mobility brought about due to ecological change. The study will examine four sites across South and Southeast Asia where ecological change has led to the displacement, migration, and resettlement of multilingual communities: the Narmada valley in western India, the highland regions of Laos, Nagaland, and the Nicobar islands. It will document and analyze the changing language ideologies and the emergence of new multilingual practices in the context of climate-driven mobility. In doing so, it aims to theorize the ways in which language(s) mediate the relations between society and ecology across the Indian Ocean.

Principal Investigators

Nishaant Choksi

Assistant Professor, Indian Institute of Technology, Gandinagar

Nishaant Choksi received his PhD from the University of Michigan in 2014 and is currently an assistant professor in the social sciences at the Indian Institute of Technology, Gandinagar in Gujarat, India. His research interests include the study of script, writing, language ideology, education, semiotics, and indigenous communities in Gujarat (Western India), West Bengal, Jharkhand (Eastern India), and Northeast India. His work has been published in peer-reviewed journals such as the Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, Language and Society, and Modern Asian Studies, and he also has edited or co-edited three volumes, including Tribal Literature of Gujarat (2010, CIIL Mysore), A Course in Mundari (2015, JSPS Tokyo), and Expressives in the South Asian Linguistic Area (2020, Brill). In addition, his monograph, Graphic Politics in eastern India: Script and the Quest for Autonomy has been published by Bloomsbury this year (2021). Choksi’s research has been supported by various fellowships including the Social Science Research Council, the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), American-Scandinavian Foundation, Fulbright fellowship, and SPARC (Scheme for the Promotion of Academic Research Collaboration), and the government of India.

Nathan Badenoch

Associate Professor of Japanese and Asian Studies, Villanova University

Nathan Badenoch received his PhD from Kyoto University in 2006 in Southeast Asian Area Studies. He is currently an associate professor of Japanese and Asian studies in Villanova University’s Department of Global Interdisciplinary Studies. His research career has spanned the fields of environmental governance, community based resource management and field linguistics, working in academia, international think-tanks and bilateral development aid. His current research interests include the poetics of daily language use, multilingualism, traditional ecological knowledge and inter-ethnic relations in the mountains of Southeast Asia. He has conducted in-depth field-based research with ethnic minority communities in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and India, focusing his linguistic research on Austroasiatic and Tibeto-Burman languages. He is the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Southeast Asian Studies and is an executive editor of Asian Ethnicity. Nathan has recently published in peer-reviewed journals such as Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, Journal of Contemporary Asia, and Journal of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society. He has co-edited works such as Expressives in the South Asian Linguistic Area (2020 Brill), A Dictionary of Mundari Expressives (2019 Tokyo University of Foreign Studies) and Water Rights and Social Justice in the Mekong Region (2011 Earthscan/Routledge). He has received multiple Grants-in-Aid from the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science, and was the recipient of Kyoto University’s Hakubi Fellowship.

Sommork Phanyavong

Researcher and Instructor, National University of Laos

Sommork Phanyavong is currently a researcher and instructor at the Faculty of Letters, National University of Laos, and will begin a PhD program at that institution in August 2021. She obtained her master’s of Lao Language at the National University and has been engaged broadly in issues of language policy, national language pedagogy, and curriculum development for primary education, secondary education and teacher training courses. With field-based experience in these areas of research and policy, she has worked with numerous international projects, including the Asia Foundation-funded project looking at multilingualism and value chains among vulnerable upland peoples, Room to Read-funded project looking at developing short stories for children and teaching Lao language to ethic students, World Bank-funded project looking at assessing reading ability of early primary school students in Laos nationwide, and UNICEF-funded project looking at teacher training for teaching primary school students who need special guidance in Lao language subject nationwide. Her research interests include education, language policy, cultural change in ethnic minority communities and traditions of oral literature. In addition to her formal education, she was selected for training in methods for working with ethnic minorities in curriculum development. She has conducted fieldwork with the Nyuan people, her own ethnic group, as well as Tai Dam, Tai Nyo and others.