Ravina Aggarwal, Ford Foundation

TITLE: Program Officer

FUNDING AREAS: Media rights and access to media in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka

CONTACT: R.Aggarwal@fordfoundation.org, +91 11 4710 5300

IP TAKE: Aggarwal has a history of championing women's rights causes. Most of her years as a scholar comes from a feminist perspective. 

PROFILE: Ravina Aggarwal is a program officer at the Ford Foundation's Advancing Media Rights and Access initiative and is based at Ford's New Delhi offices. Her grantmaking aims to "...promote the right of communities to shape media policies that best represent, support, connect and advance the needs of their citizens." Before Aggarwal signed on with Ford in 2006, Aggarwal's career was primarily an academic one. She earned her Ph.D. in anthropology from Indiana University and taught for more than a decade at Smith College in Massachusetts.

The overall goal of the Advancing Media Rights and Access initiative is to work with organizations that advocate for fair media policies and a participatory media system for eveyone—especially traditionally poor and marginalized populations. Ford specifically seeks to partner in achieving this by advancing competition, openness, innovation, and universal access to high speed internet.

Ford has awarded grants to groups such as Brazilian Consumer Defense Institute in support of its work in advocating for regulatory framework in telecommunications that protects the public interest, as well as the Digitial Emplowerment Foundation, in support of its pilot project to not only develop, but also build a wireless network aimed toward providing Internet connections for India's rural poor.  

Though it is a big focus of the program, the Internet by no means represents the only type of media that interest Aggarwal and Ford. Other programs that have recently received funding from Aggarwal's area work with both television and radio as well.

Aggarwal's scholarship is impressive and exciting. For her dissertation at Indiana University, published in 1994, Aggarwal spent five months living in Leh, the capital of the Ladakh region of India, and several other nearby locales. During this time, she took "language lessons and interview[ed] local and religious and political leaders." She also spent some time teaching English.

In 1995 she published "Shadow Work: Women in the Marketplace in Ladakh, India" in Anthropology of Work Review. The paper uses several ethnographies to document the way in which female "sellers carve a place for themselves under conditions of exile and forces of transnational capitalism" in the Ladakh region. In a footnote, Aggarwal describes it as a piece of a larger project of hers "on women's histories marketing, and the politics of place in Leh."

Aggarwal wrote several reviews of anthropology books in American Ethnologist during the late 1990s. She then published the next major article of her own scholarship in 2000 for a journal called Feminist Studies. In "'Points of Departure': Feminist Locations and the Politics of Travel in India," Aggarwal changes scenery a bit and talks about a New Delhi airport. She "incorporate[s] several episodes revolving around the interaction between passengers and airport bureaucrats" that occur as they await a delayed flight to Leh.

In 2004 Duke University published Aggarwal's second book, Beyond Lines of Control: Performance and Politics on the Disputed Borders of Ladakh, India. Beyond Lines draws on her experiences in the region to talk about the ongoing national border conflicts between India and Pakistan. On the theme of borders, Aggarwal cowrote another piece in 2009 that criticizes a relief operation undertaken by Indian military after the Kargil War in 2001 known as Operation Sadbhavna.

Beyond her scholarship, Aggarwal is an editor and one of the founding members of Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism, a journal at Smith College, published by the University of Indiana, that comes out biannually. In addition, Aggarwal serves as founding trustee of LAMO, an organization based in Ladakh, India. LAMO is a non-profit arts project that consists of two restored historical houses. They screen documentary films and host lectures. She is also involved with other gender-related projects, such as the Gender and Citizenship in the Information Society Research Programme in New Delhi.

Aggarwal also can be contacted at Ford's New Delhi office at ford-delhi@fordfoundation.org.

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