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The Harvard University South Asia Institute (SAI) engages faculty and students through interdisciplinary programs to advance and deepen the teaching and research on global issues relevant to South Asia. 

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Upcoming Events

Fri, March 27, 2015 from 12:15pm - 01:45pm  /  CGIS South, S153

Myanmar’s Delicate Imbalance: the predicament of the short game vs the long game in a complicated neighborhood (or, why the ‘environment’ gets a back seat)”

Robert Anderson, Development & Sustainability Program, Faculty of Environment, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver

Late this year Myanmar will stage elections, again. There are welcome changes which make this time quite different from the earlier two contests. Reflecting further back ten years, however, even those limited changes were very hard to foresee. Anderson will review some of the factors which brought about the new political phase (2010-2014), risk an analysis of the next nine months, and try to forecast the long game. However, the Asian neighborhood in which Myanmar’s development occurs has become even more complicated than it was during the ‘new phase’ (2010-2014). As a specialist in the political-economy of resources and environment, Anderson will explain why Myanmar’s long game has to depend on a very different approach, even if environmental policy and law are currently taking a back seat.

Anderson will also briefly describe the creation of an Environmental Studies Program at the University of Yangon, and a national Climate Change Working Group. These efforts reveal that although it is difficult to negotiate change, it is nevertheless possible.

Robert Anderson (PhD in anthropology, University of Chicago, 1971) is working to build a network of young environmentalists in Myanmar. He has spent a month in the country every year since 1999. His published work includes books on tropical forestry in India and the World Bank, rice cultivating systems and the green revolution in Asia, and the nuclear history of India.

Lunch will be served.

Cosponsored with the Harvard Asia Center Modern Asia Seminar

Fri, Mar 27, 2015 at 12:15pm

Fri, Mar 27, 2015 at 01:45pm

CGIS South, S153
Harvard University

1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

Fri, March 27, 2015 from 04:00pm - 05:30pm  /  CGIS South, S354

The Prisoner

SAI Book Talk

Omar Shahid Hamid, Author

Chair: Anila Daulatzai, Visiting Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies and Islamic Studies, Harvard Divinity School

Omar Shahid Hamid has served with the Karachi police for twelve years, most recently as head of counterterrorism. During his service, he has been actively targeted by various terrorist groups and organizations. He was wounded in the line of duty and his office was bombed by the Taliban in 2010. He left Karachi for a sabbatical when there were too many contracts on his life. He has a master’s in criminal justice policy from the London School of Economics and a master’s in law from University College London.

Much like the protagonist in his police procedural, The Prisoner, Hamid was forced to navigate the byzantine politics, shifting alliances, and backroom dealings of Karachi police and intelligence agencies. In his novel, Hamid exposes that dark side of Karachi, as only a police officer could. His writing has garnered praise for rejecting a romanticized take on slum life—as is characteristic in Pakistani English literature—in favor of gritty realism.

A thinly veiled fictional interpretation of real-life events, the novel follows Constantine D’Souza, a Christian police officer charged with rescuing kidnapped American journalist Jon Friedland (a.k.a., 2002 captured Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl). With no leads, D’Souza recruits Akbar Khan, a rogue cop imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit (modeled on Pakistan’s famed take-no-prisoners officer Chaudhry Aslam Khan). Caught between Pakistan’s militant ruling party and the Pakistani intelligence agencies, D’Souza finds himself in a race against time to save a man’s life—and the honor of his nation.

Book sale to follow.

Fri, Mar 27, 2015 at 04:00pm

Fri, Mar 27, 2015 at 05:30pm

CGIS South, S354

1730 Cambridge Street
Cambridge MA 02138

Tue, March 31, 2015 from 06:30pm - 08:00pm  /  CGIS South, S050

Transnational Urbanism and Post-colonial Challenges Planning and design processes under the aegis of transnational organizations: case studies in India and in the South-East Asia region

Urbanization Seminar

Speaker: Maristella Casciato, Associate Director, Research – Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA), Montreal.

Chair: Rahul Mehrotra, Professor of Urban Design and Planning and Chair of the Department of Urban Planning and Design, Harvard Graduate School of Design.

The lecture Transnational Urbanism and Post-colonial Challenges sheds light on the complex processes of decolonization after WWII, which ushered in a new obligation for recently-formed countries to oversee the social and material welfare of their people. While nations independently responded to these issues, a variety of global actors intervened, crossing political, economic, and social boundaries to pioneer methods in territorial planning, as well as urban and architectural design.

With the end of WWII in Western countries and the violent struggles for independence across large regions in East Asia, the Mediterranean, and Sub-Saharan Africa, a transnational planning and design expertise emerged that operated within networks far more diverse than those of the colonial era. Planners, urban designers, architects, and engineers transitioned towards broader transnational practices, designated by terms such as “technical assistance” and “development aid,” whose strong paternalistic agenda was at the time discreetly endorsed. Within this multi-layered scenario, missions, reports, and projects commissioned by transnational organizations, such as the United Nations, and NGOs such as the Ford Foundation and Red Cross, in addition to state-owned planning offices and companies, took place against the backdrop of the Cold War. Well-known urban planners including Constantinos Doxiadis, Otto Koenigsberger, Jane Drew and Maxwell Fry, Le Corbusier, Jaqueline Tyrwhitt, Albert Mayer, and Michel Écochard were important players in these complex transnational planning and design processes. An aperçu of these issues was presented in the exhibition I curated with Tom Avermaete, How architects, experts, politicians, international agencies and citizens negotiate modern planning: Casablanca Chandigarh, which was displayed in the CCA galleries between November 2013 and April 2014.
Grounded on such a weaving of technical knowledge, managerial skills, and political visions, case studies from the new Punjabi capital, known as Chandigarh, to Etawah rural projects in India, to missions in Karachi and Islamabad, will be discussed with new original documents from fresh research work.

Co-sponsored with the India GSD.

Tue, Mar 31, 2015 at 06:30pm

Tue, Mar 31, 2015 at 08:00pm

CGIS South, S050
Harvard University

1730 Cambridge Street
Cambridge MA

Tue, March 31, 2015 from 04:00pm - 06:00pm  /  CGIS South, S030

Digital Archives and Public History: Documenting and Exhibiting South Asian American Stories

SAI and MIT-India present: Lecture Series: South Asia and Its Diasporas

Samip Mallick, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the South Asian American Digital Archive

Pawan Dhingra, Founding Curator of the Smithsonian Institution exhibition: Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation Professor and Director, Department of Sociology, Tufts University

Moderated by Vivek Bald, 2014-15 Harvard University Charles Warren Center Fellow Associate Professor of Comparative Media Studies & Writing, MIT

Samip Mallick, co-founder and director of the first extensive public digital archive documenting the stories and histories of South Asians in the United States, and Pawan Dhingra, founding curator of the first large-scale national exhibition devoted to the lives and pasts of Indian Americans, will discuss the goals, approaches, challenges, and reception of their respective initiatives at a moment in which South Asians have reached a new level of presence in the U.S.

Co-sponsored by: Charles Warren Center Seminar on Multimedia History & Literature

Join the Facebook event.

Tue, Mar 31, 2015 at 04:00pm

Tue, Mar 31, 2015 at 06:00pm

CGIS South, S030
Harvard University

1730 Cambridge Street
Cambridge MA 02138

Thu, April 2, 2015 from 04:00pm - 05:30pm  /  CGIS South, S250

Empire from the Edges: Shi‘i and Messianic Challenges to Mughal Authority

Muslim Societies in South Asia Seminar

Samira Sheikh, Associate Professor of History; Associate Professor of Asian Studies Program; Affiliated Faculty, Islamic Studies Program; Co-Director Vanderbilt History Seminar, Vanderbilt University.

Chair: Ali Asani, Professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic Religion and Cultures, Faculty of Arts and Sciences; Director, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program, Harvard University

Shi`i and messianic groups in Gujarat evolved an often uncomfortable coexistence with Mughal political authority, one that was eased by occasionally imperial diktat but was regularly punctuated by bouts of violence and repression. This seminar will examine Mughal relations with three such groups from the late sixteenth century to the early eighteenth, paying attention to local politics and raising the question of whether Akbar’s supposed “tolerance” and Aurangzeb’s assumed “bigotry” are useful frames for discussion of empire, religion, and region.

Co-sponsored with the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program

Thu, Apr 2, 2015 at 04:00pm

Thu, Apr 2, 2015 at 05:30pm

CGIS South, S250
Harvard University

1730 Cambridge Street
Cambridge MA

Fri, April 3, 2015 from 04:00pm - 05:30pm  /  CGIS Knafel, K262

Language of Metaphysics, Language for Politics: Some Lessons from Allama Prabhu’s Vacanass

South Asia Without Borders Seminar

Prithvi Datta Chandra Shobhi, Assistant Professor of History, Karnataka State Open University.

Chair: Parimal G. Patil, Professor of Religion and Indian Philosophy, Committee on the Study of Religion, FAS, Chair of the Department of South Asian Studies

Fri, Apr 3, 2015 at 04:00pm

Fri, Apr 3, 2015 at 05:30pm

CGIS Knafel, K262
Harvard University

1737 Cambridge Street
Cambridge MA 02138

    Thu, April 9, 2015 from 05:00pm - 06:30pm  /  CGIS South, S250

    The People’s Hero? Jayaprakash Narayan Reconsidered

    SAI Student Event

    Mircea Raianu, PhD Candidate, Harvard History Department; Graduate Student Associate, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs

    Benjamin Siegel, Assistant Professor of History, Boston University; former Predoctoral Fellow, Harvard Academy for Area Studies; former Graduate Student Associate, South Asia Institute

    Anand Vaidya, South Asian Studies Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard South Asia Institute; former Graduate Student Associate, South Asia Institute

    Lydia Walker, PhD Candidate, Harvard History Department; Graduate Student Associate, South Asia Institute and Weatherhead Center for International Affair

    Chair: Carolien Stolte, Niels Stensen Postdoctoral Fellow, History Department, Harvard University; Assistant Professor of History, Leiden University

    Four current and former Graduate Student Associates at the South Asia Institute and the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs will present a panel on the place of Jayaprakash Narayan (1902-1979) in modern Indian and international history. A complex and elusive political thinker, J.P. was a central figure both within and outside of post-independence India. As Gandhi’s supposed political heir, he was deeply invested in Indian domestic development, the Bhoodan Movement, and land reform. As a socialist personally connected to India’s leading business houses, he played a key role in the intellectual and institutional origins of “corporate social responsibility” in the 1950s and 1960s. As a leader of the international advocacy for anti-colonial nationalism, he lent his prestige to African nationalists like Jomo Kenyatta, Julius Nyerere, and Kenneth Kaunda. As the figurehead for the student-led “J.P.” movement, he catalyzed both the 1975 Emergency and the political movements, left and right, that have marked India’s post-Emergency political landscape.

    J.P. Narayan was active in diverse, and often seemingly contradictory, contexts. There is a lack of comprehensive and synthetic scholarship on his life and work, which spanned most of India’s twentieth century. Combining cutting edge interdisciplinary projects on different facets of J.P.’s politics and anti-politics, this panel will put into conversation the many sides of J.P., generating a fruitful and invigorating discussion on the man known as Loknayak – The People’s Hero.

    Co-sponsored with the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs

    Thu, Apr 9, 2015 at 05:00pm

    Thu, Apr 9, 2015 at 06:30pm

    CGIS South, S250
    Harvard University

    1730 Cambridge Street
    Cambridge MA

    Mon, April 13, 2015 from 04:00pm - 06:00pm  /  CGIS South, S020 Belfer


    Arts Initiative and Muslim Societies in South Asia Seminar

    Speaker: Rohail Hyatt, Producer, Coke Studio; actor; film composer; rock music artist; and keyboardist

    Chair: Ali Asani, Professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic Religion and Cultures, Faculty of Arts and Sciences; Director, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program, Harvard University.

    Hyatt will discuss the laws of nature in contrast to the current state of global music standards. Like genetically altered food, our sense of what is considered ’musical’ seems to have been altered too. In the eastern world, music is considered to be the ’food for the soul’. Do we know what are we feeding our souls lately? Has organic music completely died, or will there be a resurgence in this field as in the case of the food industry?

    Co-sponsored with the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program

    Mon, Apr 13, 2015 at 04:00pm

    Mon, Apr 13, 2015 at 06:00pm

    CGIS South, S020 Belfer
    Harvard University

    1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge MA 02138


      Annual Symposium: April 16 and 17, 2015

      The 2015 Annual Symposium will bring together scholars and practitioners for a series of workshops on SAI’s ongoing research projects and see the launch of an exhibit and book on Mapping the Ephemeral City: Kumbh Mela 2013.

        Q+A with Asma Jahangir

        In an interview with SAI, Jahangir discusses women’s empowerment, freedom of expression, and Pakistan’s complicated political relationships with India and the US. Jahangir delivered the Asia Center’s Tsai Lecture on Mar. 4

          A literary colossus

          The Murty Classical Library of India hopes to introduce a vast corpus of literature, thought, and science to fresh audiences across the world. “It’s completely transformative,” said Parimal Patil, Chair of the Department of South Asian Studies and SAI Steering Committee member.

            Innovative healthcare solutions

            Read highlights from SAI’s roundtable discussion in the Bay Area on India’s healthcare system organized in collaboration with USAID and the South Asian Healthcare Leadership Forum.

              The City and South Asia Podcast: Floating on Waste Islands

              The processes of urbanization, globalization, and climate change have made traditional methods of waste management difficult for the Maldives. In this podcast, SAI talks with Krishna Matturi, recent GSD graduate, about the country’s “unique culture of waste” and its possible solutions.

                Update from the Harvard Club of Nepal

                On Feb. 10, the Harvard Club of Nepal (HCN) hosted an event in Kathmandu with two newspaper editors who discussed the current political situation in the country and the role that media could play in resolving the chaos of constitution-making. The HCN, a group of Harvard alumni, has recently been reactivated.

                  International Photo Contest Winners

                  Congratulations to Gillian Slee, Harvard College ’16, and Sara Melissa Theiss, Harvard College ’15, who were chosen by SAI as winners for the Office of International Education’s Annual International Photo Contest.

                    A US-India comeback?

                    In an op-ed for The Boston Globe, SAI Steering Committee member Nicholas Burns, HKS, explains how President Obama’s visit to India for Republic Day is an important symbolic gesture that may kickstart the revival both countries have been looking for.

                      Kashmir’s women in wait

                      “More than the political aspect, it is understanding how women cope with the phenomenon of disappearances that appealed to me as a filmmaker,” says director Nilosree Biswas in an interview with SAI on the unique culture of Kashmir.

                        The City and South Asia

                        In SAI’s second annual publication, The City and South Asia, experts from a variety of fields, at both Harvard and elsewhere, have come together to hold up a cross-disciplinary lens to urban centers in South Asia.

                          Report on the Harvard US-India Initiative Conference

                          “If yesterday’s events urged participants to immerse themselves in the world of ideas, today’s panelists gave us diverse and exceptional examples of how to apply these ideas in practice,” writes Zeenia Framroze, Harvard College ’15, about the conference.

                            Creating a better India

                            SAI recently talked to Namrata Narain, Harvard College ’15, one of the organizers of the Harvard US-India Initiative’s (HUII) Annual Conference, to learn more about how HUII is working to increase discussions on important issues by connecting young academic communities in India and the US.

                              2014 Student Grant Report

                              In 2014, SAI awarded 46 grants to students to do a variety internships and research projects in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Read first-hand experiences from students in SAI’s Grant Report.

                                Tragedy in Pakistan

                                “This is a day of deep reflection. War strategy against extremists, whether through drone strikes or carpet-bombing, must factor in the lives of children beyond collateral damage and prepare especially to protect the most vulnerable in society on both sides.”

                                  Ayesha Jalal: The Struggle for Pakistan

                                  In a SAI Book Talk on Dec. 3, renowned Pakistani historian Ayesha Jalal, Tufts University, spoke about her new book and highlighted the need for a comprehensive historical interpretation of Pakistan’s narrative and encouraged members of the audience to view the history of the country through a geopolitical lens rather than a religious one.

                                    SAI Fellowships

                                    The South Asia Institute offers several opportunities for scholars and practitioners to continue their research at Harvard University in Cambridge. Deadline to apply: January 15, 2015 for Academic Year 2015-2016.

                                      2015 Student Winter Grant Recipients

                                      SAI has awarded 18 grants to support undergraduate and graduate student projects over the Winter Session in January, 2015. These include 6 undergraduates and 12 graduate students who will be traveling to India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka for research and internships.

                                        Shaping problem-solvers

                                        A Harvard Gazette article looks at SAI Director Tarun Khanna’s Gen Ed course, which spans disciplines to address social, economic challenges in South Asia.