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Decolonizing Collections: Investigating Knowledge Formation Networks in Colonial India with specific reference to Numismatics, History Ph.D. studentship (Funded)

College of Humanities

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Prof Nandini Chatterjee , Dr N Thomas No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
Exeter United Kingdom Asian Studies History Geography Philosophy

About the Project

The University of Exeter and Oxford University’s Ashmolean Museum are pleased to announce the availability of a fully funded PhD studentship, from 1 October 2021 under the AHRC’s Collaborative Doctoral Partnership Scheme.

The studentship is offered as a Positive Action Targeted Studentship for UK researchers from ethnic minority background/s, as a route for addressing identified under-representation in doctoral training for the cultural and heritage sector (see Students from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds have been under-represented in our doctoral programme within the College of Humanities, University of Exeter, in recent years. To encourage more students from these backgrounds to apply, we are offering this studentship as a positive action measure under s. 158 of the Equality Act 2010. Eligibility is restricted to candidates from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds who meet the eligibility criteria for UKRI studentships (

‘Decolonizing collections’ is a collaborative project of the University of Exeter and the Ashmolean Museum, funded by the AHRC CDP. It offers a PhD studentship to study the history of four collections of Indian coins, currently held in major museums of the UK, including the Ashmolean, the British Museum and the Fitzwilliam. The principal collections to be studied in this project are those of Jose Gerson da Cunha, H. Nelson Wright, Alfred Master and R. B. Whitehead – all of them professionally associated with the British empire in India.

While each of these collections is named after a European male collector, the aim of the project is to uncover the role of indigenous Indian scholars and collectors in creating the collections, and in producing expert knowledge about the Indian past on their basis. The project arises in response to calls to ‘decolonize’ UK museums, and intends to do so by uncovering a fuller story of the history of South Asian coin collections.

The PhD student will study the coins themselves, related hand lists and the archival materials consisting of detailed correspondence among collectors – European and Indian – in order to reconstruct the collectors’ networks that lie obscured behind these collections. While focussing on the four name collections, they will link these to further collections and networks, enabling richer and more inclusive narratives for UK cultural repositories. They may use spreadsheets and other data collation and visualisation tools in order to reconstruct such networks.

The project is in partnership with the Ashmolean Museum, and the student will be co-supervised by a multi-disciplinary team, consisting of the HEI first and second supervisors Prof. Nandini Chatterjee (History, Exeter) and Prof. Nicola Thomas (Geography, Exeter), and by the Lead Ashmolean Museum supervisor, Dr Shailendra Bhandare, Senior Assistant Keeper of Oriental and Far Eastern Coin Collections.

The student will be expected to spend time at both the University of Exeter and the Ashmolean, as well as becoming part of the wider cohort of CDP funded students across the UK. The successful candidate will be eligible to participate in CDP Cohort Development events. All new CDP students will be expected to attend the CDP Student Launch Event in September 2021.

The student will need to work intensively onsite with collections in the Ashmolean and the other relevant museums. The student will also be encouraged to interact actively with the repositories that hold these collections, listening to their needs and priorities, and feeding back into the project as it progresses.

The most important outcome of the project will be a doctoral thesis, which may subsequently be published as a monograph. Parts of it may be published as articles in peer-reviewed journals pertaining to History, South Asian Studies or Museum Studies. The student will have the opportunity to organise at least one workshop at the Ashmolean, with the help of the supervisors, which will bring together staff at the other museums that hold parts of the core collections, or associated collections and scholars concerned with these. Part of this workshop may be opened to the public. The student will have the opportunity to write a regular (once every two months) blog post about their research and findings, and work with the Ashmolean to produce User guides for the materials on which they conduct research.

The studentship is for 45 months (3.75 years) or part-time equivalent. This studentship has the possibility of being extended for an additional 3 months to provide professional development opportunities, or up to 3 months of funding may be used to pay for the costs the student might incur in taking up professional development opportunities.

The award pays tuition fees up to the value of the full-time home UKRI rate for PhD degrees. Research Councils UK Indicative Fee Level for 2021/22 is £4,500.  The University of Exeter will cover the difference between the UK fee and International fee, if applicable. The award pays full maintenance for all students, both home and international students. The National Minimum Doctoral Stipend for 2021/22 is £15,609, plus a CDP maintenance payment of £550/year.  Further details can be found on the UKRI website:

The student is also eligible to receive an additional travel and related expenses grant during the course of the project courtesy of Oxford University Gardens, Libraries and Museums (GLAM) worth up to £2,000 per year for 3.75 years (45 months).

Candidates will need to have familiarity with colonial South Asian history and fluency in at least one Indian language, of which Marathi and Gujarati are preferred. They will have the opportunity to receive tuition in Marathi from Dr Bhandare, as required. If pandemic permits, they will need to undertake research in Indian archives and libraries. 

Funding Notes

UK rate tuition fees and an annual maintenance allowance at current Research Council rate of £15,609 per year (UKRI stipend rate for 2021/22). Award holders will also receive a Collaborative Doctoral Partnership maintenance payment of £550 per year. The University of Exeter will cover the difference between the UK home fee and the International fee. The Ashmolean will provide research-related expenses of up to £2,000 p.a., including, but not limited to, travel between the University of Exeter and the Ashmolean in Oxford, and to libraries and collections containing relevant material.
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