Nobel laureates Abhijit Banerjee & Esther Duflo turn findings into fun – play, exhibition

The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), founded and directed by Nobel laureates Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, celebrates its 20th anniversary with an exhibition and performance by Aagaaz Theatre Trust at Bikaner House in Delhi.


Nobel laureates’ data-driven techniques are trying to be fun. For its 20th anniversary, the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, founded by Nobel laureates Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo and better known as J-PAL, switched things up. Academic research, notorious for gatekeeping and inaccessibility, was refashioned for mass consumption. Research on gender was made into a play, and the perils of poor air quality were expressed through mundane objects. Ambient air pollution was represented through a shirt wrapped in plastic.

The social sciences met the arts, and Delhi’s Bikaner House became an informal, three-dimensional learning space.

To conduct its research, J-PAL uses RCTs (randomised controlled trials), a method of study that previously belonged to the medical realm. From the formation of data sets to the ostensibly cold division of communities into control and treatment groups – J-Pal brought it all into the social sciences.

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