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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. 

About SAI | View the South Asia Institute video

Upcoming Events

Wed, December 2, 2015 from 04:00pm - 05:30pm  /  CGIS Knafel, K262

A memory, a monument, a material

Arts Seminar

Basir Mahmood, Visiting Artist, SAI Arts Program

Chair: Jennifer Leaning, François-Xavier Bagnoud Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights; Director, FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, Department of Global Health and Population, Harvard School of Public Health

Basir Mahmood, recipient of South Asia Institute 2015 Emerging Artist Award, will be offering insights into his practice as he has developed over the last few years, and will attempt to meaningfully engage audiences to mutually construct new narratives around his works. Using video, film or photographs, Mahmood’s work weaves together various threads of thoughts, findings and insights into poetic sequences, building various forms of narratives. In order to engage with situations around him, he ponders upon embedded social and historical terrains of the ordinary, as well as his personal milieu.

In “My father” 2010, an upright sewing needle appears in sharp focus as the blurred image of an old man attempting to thread the needle fills the screen. The agonizing process evokes a sense of humility and empathy through a personal connection suggested by means of the work’s title, as the man fails each attempt at the task. His work titled “Missing Letters” revolves around a collection of ashes from Returned Letter Office (RLO) at Pakistan Post Office, Lahore. Prior to Pakistan’s independence, and during the British Raj era, the RLO was known as “Dead Letters Office”, wherein undelivered letters were kept for thirty days before eventually being burnt. In this work, Mahmood drew some of the ashes of burnt undelivered letters, and reduced these ashes to the point where they cannot be burned anymore.

The Arts at SAI initiative connects South Asia’s curators, museum administrators, artists, and art educators with Harvard faculty and students to support activity and research that advance understanding and appreciation of the tapestry of South Asian art and the heritage that defines its voice in the world.

Wed, Dec 2, 2015 at 04:00pm

Wed, Dec 2, 2015 at 05:30pm

CGIS Knafel, K262
Harvard University

1737 Cambridge Street
Cambridge MA 02138

Wed, December 2, 2015 from 06:00pm - 08:00pm  /  CGIS S001

Reflections on Migration and Indentured Servitude: A Talk by Gaiutra Bahadur

Student Event

Gaiutra Bahadur, Author

Chair: Sunil Amrith, Mehra Family Professor of South Asian Studies, Professor of History, Harvard University

In this talk, Bahadur will offer her reflections on migration and indentured servitude. Gaiutra Bahadur is an award-winning American journalist who writes frequently about migration, literature and gender. Her reportingcriticism and essays have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, Dissent, History Today, Washington Post Book WorldThe Nation, Foreign Policy Magazine, The Virginia Quarterly ReviewThe (London) Observer and Ms., among other publications.

Her first book Coolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture was shortlisted for the 2014 Orwell Book Prize and won the 2014 Gordon K. and Sybil Lewis Prize. The book provides a stunning analysis of indentured servitude while raising critical questions regarding the relationship between history and literature, space, indentured servitude, slavery, free labor, and migration, gender, etc.

Wed, Dec 2, 2015 at 06:00pm

Wed, Dec 2, 2015 at 08:00pm

CGIS S001, 1730 Cambridge Street

CGIS S001, 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA

Thu, December 3, 2015 from 04:00pm - 05:30pm  /  CGIS South, S153

Aid and poverty: Are grants and loans different?

South Asia Without Borders Seminar

Javed Younas, Aman Fellow, South Asia Institute

Chair: Asim Khwaja, Sumitomo-FASID Professor of International Finance and Development, Harvard Kennedy School

The aid allocation literature reveals a negative association between the recipients’ income and aid inflows, implying that, all else equal, poorer nations receive more aid. This literature has assumed that two forms of aid flows – grants and concessional loans – are determined identically. Thus, its findings reflect average behavioral patterns based on an aggregate of these two distinct transfer types. This study unveils different incentive effects of grants and concessional loans. We show that the findings of the aid allocation literature apply to grants but not to concessional loans. In particular, the amount of grants decreases with income, whereas the amount of concessional loans increases with income. The analysis is also notable for using exogenous variations in remittances and temperature as instruments for income. Other econometric issues such as cross-sectional dependence and multiple endogenous variables are also taken into account. The implications of the findings for aid effectiveness debates will discussed. Further tests reveal a larger impact of concessional loans on investment.

Thu, Dec 3, 2015 at 04:00pm

Thu, Dec 3, 2015 at 05:30pm

CGIS South, S153
Harvard University

1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

Thu, December 3, 2015 from 08:30am - 09:30am

Webinar: Handcrafted aesthetic goods and markets

SAI and the Tata Trusts invite you to a webinar on ‘Handcrafted aesthetic goods and markets: Bridging paradigms for livelihood regeneration’

Mukti Khaire, Associate Professor, Harvard Business School.

The webinar will address:

  • India’s handicrafts and handlooms crisis
  • Approaches to regenerate the sector
  • How the gap between the handcrafted paradigm and business paradigm can be bridged

This webinar is for practitioners in the handicrafts and handlooms sectors and all those who are interested in knowing more about the current state of the sector and the immense potential it holds for rural livelihood creation.

This is the first of a series of monthly webinars on the handicrafts and handlooms sector until December 2016 as part of the Livelihood Creations Project.

Every webinar in this series is completely free of cost and is open to global participation.

Please register here.

7.00 pm to 8:00 pm IST (8.30 to 9.30 am ET)


Thu, Dec 3, 2015 at 08:30am

Thu, Dec 3, 2015 at 09:30am


Q+A: Basir Mahmood

Mahmood uses video, film, and photographs to build various forms of narratives. He will be at Harvard next week as SAI’s second Visiting Artist.

    Beyond the madrassa

    Based on her research in the city of Lahore, Laila Bushra, SAI’s Babar Ali Fellow, discussed the connection between the influence of Islamist groups in Pakistan and civin Islamist infrastructure in a seminar on November 5.

      The future of mobile health

      A SAI webinar on Nov. 17 showed how this type of health intervention has significant potential for public health at future events, from natural disasters to refugee resettlements.

        Lessons from the Kumbh Mela

        At the Asia Society in New York on November 6, faculty leaders discussed how the Kumbh Mela is an opportunity to learn about megacities, possibly illuminating solutions to natural disasters that require temporary housing.

          Storytelling, Learning and Human Communication

          On October 26, SAI hosted Musharraf Ali Farooqi, author, translator and storyteller for a Muslim Societies in South Asia Seminar. The masterful storyteller enthralled the audience with his fascinating stories and gave a flavour of all the dimensions of his work.

            Earthquake in South Asia

            The South Asia Institute is saddened to hear about the earthquake that struck South Asia earlier today. Our thoughts are with all of the people affected by the disaster.

              The potential of mobile technology

              On Sept. 21, students from SAI’s summer program on mobile technology presented their final projects on campus, which focused on using cell phones to improve education and public health in India.

                Fellow profile: Javed Younas

                While at Harvard, Dr. Younas will focus his research on two areas: 1) The connection between education and political violence, and 2) the perspectives of the recipient country in situations where donor countries provide grants and loans.