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News Category: Announcements


2017 SAI Symposium, MAY 3-4: Registration open


 

Migrations

 

Registration is now open for the the 2017 SAI Symposium, our annual flagship event, where we bring together scholars, practitioners and audiences to discuss, debate and dissect major South Asian themes from an interlocking variety of perspectives. This year, we are exploring migrations and transformations in society, from the points of view of visual arts, life sciences, and the study of displacement.

This year’s symposium takes place on May 3 and 5, 2017, in a variety of locations on the Harvard University campus. Registration and schedule details can be found here.

Our speakers include distinguished academics, artists and activists from Harvard and beyond. The event is free and open to the public and our guests in the audience are a vital component of the learning experience for all of us. It promises to be an enlightening, essential get-together.

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“The Social Texture of an Artist” – reflections on the 2017 SAI Mahindra Lecture


By Rajna Swaminathan, PhD candidate, Department of Music, Harvard University

In his Mahindra Lecture earlier this month, vocalist T.M. Krishna presented his philosophy on the possibilities for art to break through social habits and boundaries. Drawing on his experience as a person from a privileged background and rising to fame in the Carnatic music scene, Krishna illustrated the ways in which music led him from the personal to the public and political, advocating a spirit of questioning that is uncommon to most classical art forms. Focusing on aesthetics as a site of precipitation for the social, Krishna led those of us who identify as artists to ask: Are we really being creative? Or do we take creativity for granted, conditioning our minds along certain paths, and being very comfortable through all of it?

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(L-R) Homi Bhabha, Rajna Swaminathan, TM Krishna, Vijay Iyer

Krishna recounted his excursions into placing the privileged middle class of Chennai (the central locus of the Karnatik music scene) in dialogue with marginalized art forms, communities, and issues: the Jogappas (a community of transgender performers from Karnataka), Urur Olcott Kuppam (a fishing village in Besant Nagar, Chennai), and the environmental crisis surrounding Ennore Creek. He pointed to the mutual vulnerability that ensued in such encounters, as well as the general state of receptivity that artists must strive for, cutting through comfortable social tendencies.

After his talk, Krishna presented an unusual (and recently composed) Carnatic song in the vernacular Chennai dialect of Tamil — “Poromboke” (a derogatory word that was originally used to refer geographically to the ‘commons’ that became categorized as ‘unprofitable’ land under colonial powers), for which I accompanied on mrudangam. While singing, Krishna took breaks to explain certain words and intentions that were artfully worked into the song. During the ensuing conversation with Professors Homi Bhabha and Vijay Iyer, both honed in on the various textures of vulnerability at play in the cross-community encounters that Krishna had described. Krishna responded by outlining the gradual nature and tenuous micropolitics of having such polarized communities interact. According to him, having the privilege to start such conversations was only the first step, and subsequent encounters allowed for vulnerabilities and privileges to be exchanged in subversive ways.

The conversation ended by pointing toward the role of the “insider-outsider,” and being in a position to secure institutional support, subvert the power structures at play, and catalyze new kinds of dialogue that included marginalized voices. Professor Iyer connected this to a story related to him by jazz legend Muhal Richard Abrams: while traveling in Europe, a circuit that many jazz musicians depended on despite their difference being on display for consumption by predominantly white audiences, there was an unexpected empathy that took hold through the music. Something rung a bell somewhere, for both audience and performers, cutting through the social circumstances. Embracing a shared humanity through sensitively curated interventions, forming unlikely bonds through the collective experience of beauty, and always keeping a receptive mind and creatively questioning one’s context — these were the lessons and the persisting questions that will continue to resonate for everyone who was present.

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Looking Back, Informing the Future: The 1947 Partition of British India


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Professor Jennifer Leaning discusses forced migration at one of our Partition seminars

 

By Tarun Khanna (Director, SAI; Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor, Harvard Business School)

Both my mother’s and my father’s sides of our family migrated from what is now Pakistan. As a result of Partition, many of them had to leave their lives behind, with years of hard work quickly wiped out, when they moved to New Delhi and were forced to start again. Partition has always been part of my family’s folklore but my grandfather, who bore the brunt of it, passed away very early. I never had the opportunity to discuss it with him.

At the SAI, we have embarked on a major research project to understand the history, context and continuing impact of Partition, as its 70th anniversary approaches. There has, of course, always been a great deal of interest in this defining historical event from scholars at Harvard and elsewhere. Professor Jennifer Leaning’s team from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has been studying Partition for more than a decade — her ongoing work is central to our collective research.

At the SAI, we have already undertaken a major interdisciplinary project of a similar scale. Our work on the Kumbh Mela was a very successful collaborative effort involving dozens of faculty, students, graduates and undergraduates. We created a platform so that other people could participate; scholars from the region as well as other universities around the world. We produced scholarly papers, videos, architectural designs and ultimately, a book.

The SAI hosted a series of eight seminars at Harvard, beginning on Feb 1, in which Harvard faculty and visiting scholars presented research on various aspects of Partition’s legacy, influence and implications. These were free and open to the public. The seminars also formed the basis of a series of podcasts, also produced by the SAI, to bring this research and these conversations to a much wider audience.

We are also approaching the primarily historical and qualitative study of the Partition through alternative analytical lenses. This will involve attempts to quantify Partition and examine its magnitude, much as we did with the Kumbh Mela; this will add a new dimension to our collective understanding. A collection of us – Professor Asim Khwaja from HKS and Professor Prashant Bharadwaj from UC San Diego, both political economists, have teamed up with Professor Karim Lakhani, a crowdsourcing expert, and me for this part of the project – will use political speeches, crowdsourced oral histories and other data to analyze Partition in a way that has not been done before.

Partition is one of the most important events in human history; it is the largest migration that ever took place. Millions of people were affected, mostly negatively. Right now, huge numbers of people are forced to leave their homes in distressing circumstances and as academics, it is important for us to gain an understanding of the mechanics and impact of involuntary migration, particularly in the modern context. We are also studying how new countries are born. Pakistan was a brand new nation-state; India became smaller; Bangladesh eventually came into being. Through the lens of Partition, we are able to study the formation (and regeneration, in India’s case) of the institutions that are necessary for the functioning of a country. Again, these are modern issues and it is as important for us to understand them today as it was 70 years ago.

 

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SAI visiting artists’ reflections on time at Harvard


In March 2017, we welcomed our Spring semester Visiting Artists: Madhu Das (Mumbai, India) and Rabindra Shrestha (Kathmandu, Nepal). Both work in visual media; they displayed their work on campus, met with students, attended classes and gave public seminars from March 20-31. Applications are open until Monday, August 15, 2017 for the Fall program.

Madhu and Rabindra offered these reflections on their time at Harvard:

Madhu

I was able to Interact with people from different parts of the world and see how they responded to my work. This will help me to look at my work from a different perspective. I can now get a sense of India as an outsider as well as an insider. I haven’t been outside my home country and the unfamiliar landscape, weather and culture opened my mind.

Rabindra

I can’t fully express the power of the days I have spent here. People back home will be curious to see what I will do with this new exposure; it has given me fresh energy. Artists must come here with an empty mind; it’s almost like a holy place, where you have to absorb as much as you can.

 

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President of India honors Harvard Research Fellow


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Dr Satchit Balsari – a frequent and highly-valued South Asia Institute collaborator – received a prestigious Dr BC Roy National Award from Pranab Mukherjee, President of India, at a ceremony in New Delhi earlier this month. He was honored for outstanding services in the field of sociomedical relief.

Dr Balsari is a Research Fellow at the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University and Director of the Global Emergency Medicine Program at Weill Cornell Medical College/NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.

His inter-disciplinary interests in mobile technology, disaster response and population health have been informed by his clinical practice in New York City and his field work around the world including, more recently, in Jordan, Iraq, South Sudan, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India. His research has resulted in innovative applications of mobile, cloud-based technology to address public health challenges in mass gatherings, disasters and humanitarian crises.

At the FXB Center, Dr Balsari’s research has contributed to advocacy on behalf vulnerable populations affected by disasters and humanitarian crises, including children in Haiti, refugees in Jordan and the Rohingya in Bangladesh. He is currently part of Professor Jennifer Leaning’s team assessing the impact of the Syrian war on medicine and public health in the region

At Harvard, Dr Balsari co-teaches a university-wide course “Entrepreneurial Solutions to Intractable Social and Economic Problems,” led by SAI Director Professor Tarun Khanna; and “Societal Response to Disaster and War”, with Professor Leaning at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.

In the summer of 2017, Dr Balsari will join Harvard Medical School as faculty in emergency medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

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Student voices: Constructions of citizenship and belonging for the stateless Rohingya of Burma


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This is part of a series of reports from Harvard students who have traveled to South Asia with support from a SAI grant.

By Cresa Pugh, PhD Social Policy, 2022

I am immensely indebted to the South Asia Institute for their generous support of my winter session research project in Burma. Over the course of the 28 days that I was in the country I was able to successfully complete each of the activities outlined in my proposal, which included conducting archival research on colonial nation-building, field research such as interviewing and expanding my network of key research informants. In addition, I was able to visit culturally, historically and socially important sites and organizations relevant to my research topic.

When I applied for the research grant I had planned to explore the meaning of statelessness and citizenship for the Muslim Rohingya ethnic group. Once I arrived and began conducting interviews though, my interest shifted slightly to an understanding of the effects of Buddhist ultra-nationalism on ethnic minority groups, particularly Muslim communities such as the Rohingya. This slight tweak in my research question allowed me to have more expansive interviews and conversations as well as expanding the literature available to me to investigate this particular question.

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HBS Creating Emerging Markets and India Research Center host inaugural conference in Mumbai


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Read an interview with participants of this conference:
HBS Working Knowledge: Reputation is Vital to Survival in Turbulent Markets
Reputation and resilience are key ingredients that determine whether companies will survive tumultuous markets, according to a new paper byGeoffrey Jones, Tarun Khanna, Cheng Gao, and Tiona Zuzul.

By Rachael Comunale

The Harvard Business School Creating Emerging Markets project (CEM), in collaboration with the HBS India Research Center (IRC), hosted a two-day conference titled, “Creating Emerging Markets: Lessons from History” on February 13-14 in Mumbai. The event showcased the CEM archive, which includes more than 100 video interviews with business leaders in emerging markets conducted largely by senior HBS faculty, and it also marked the 10th anniversary of the IRC. Guest speakers included distinguished business leaders Rahul Bajaj, Ritu Kumar, Jerry Rao, Zia Mody, Anu Aga, and Yusuf Hamied. The event also attracted prominent scholars, including Gita Piramal, Mahesh Vyas, Chinmay Tumbe, and Shekhar Shah, and leading corporate archivists, including Vrunda Pathare, Rajib Lochan Sahoo, and Usha Iyer. Over 120 guests attended.

Lessons from History

The two-day conference in Mumbai sought to address – through two different forums – the question: what is the value of history in business? Day One of the conference explored the value of history for today’s practitioners and policy makers through the lens of four major issues currently facing businesses in South Asia and other emerging markets: spurring innovation, managing family business, navigating business-government relations, and promoting responsible business practices. Each discussion began with a series of short clips from the CEM archive that addressed the specific theme in more detail. For example, during the innovation panel, guests watched a short video of Yusuf Hamied discussing the necessity of incremental innovation in the pharmaceuticals industry in the 2000s.

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Listen to the Partition Podcast


Our podcast on the 1947 Partition of British India has launched! Partition is one of the defining events of the modern era and during this series, leading scholars – starting with Professor Sunil Amrith – will explore and analyze its continuing impact. The second episode features Professor Jennifer Leaning on the historical and humanitarian consequences of migration.

The episodes were recorded at SAI’s weekly seminar series on the 1947 Partition of British India.

Stay tuned for more.

 

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Highlights from the Harvard India Conference


unnamedThe annual Harvard India Conference, which SAI co-sponsors, was held at the Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Business School on February 11 & 12.

Videos from the event.

The following article was written by DiyaTV.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (Diya TV) — Two days, 90 speakers and over a thousand attendees at one of the largest student-led conferences about India in the U.S. For the last 15 years, every February, eminent personalities of India from political, entertainment, business and science milieus descend on the Harvard campus to share their stories, visions, challenges and missions to infect the young Indian diaspora in the US with an idea of a better India in the global context.

India Conference 2017 was aptly themed, ‘India – The Global Growth Engine.’ A United Nations report forecasted India to be growing at 7.7% in 2017 besides a global recession (just 2.2% in 2016). However, most speakers cautioned the audience from undue fervor as the country continues to reel in poverty—23.6% of the total population lives under $1.25 per day on purchasing power parity. Multitude of the panels like those discussing agriculture, entrepreneurship, urbanization and women’s rights, kept the focus firmly on the challenges with a smattering of success stories.

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Report: Exchanging Health Information


Network map of health data flow from paper records to consolidated databases, from the sub-center level upwards.

Network map of health data flow from paper records to consolidated databases, from the sub-center level upwards.

In September 2016, the Harvard South Asia Institute, with support from the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Studies, organized the two day seminar, Exchanging Health Information: Setting an Interdisciplinary Research Agenda. A new report contains a summary of the seminar deliberations and a roadmap for prioritizing research and policy formulation for health information exchange in India.

The seminar brought together experts in medicine, computer science, data science, public policy and law to identify a research and policy agenda that addresses implementation barriers to health information exchange. Building on international standards in health systems interoperability and learning from best practices from other industries, seminar exercises employed India as a use-case to anchor deliberations.

SAI recently spoke with seminar organizer Satchit Balsari, Fellow at Harvard FXB Center for Health and Human Rights and Chief at Weill Cornell Global Emergency Medicine Division, about the seminar and its potential impact.

SAI: Why was it important to bring together an interdisciplinary event, with experts from a variety of fields, to address implementation barriers to health information exchange?

Satchit Balsari: We have observed in many sectors that new technology best succeeds when it is in tune with user behavior and regulatory frameworks. When all three are in sync, we see widespread adoption. Problems come up when one of is out of step. The high level of provider dissatisfaction with some of the larger electronic medical records in the US, for example, is largely because front-line clinicians have had little input or control over the design and implementation of these EMRs. Standardization and interoperability to allow patients to move their records from provider to provider, or across institutions required legislation and incentivization. Retro-fitting has been expensive. Yet patients and doctors will tell you how incredibly important it is for health data to be more portable than they have typically been. Legitimate concern for data privacy thwarted portability in early years, when there may have always been technical solutions to legal concerns. Bringing together a wide range of stakeholders from clinical practice, law, policy-making and computer science allowed folks to understand the needs and limitations of each discipline, while formulating an inter-disciplinary approach to health information exchange in emerging economies.

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