Click to Subscribe & Stay Informed via Email!

Subscribe Here!

Subscribe and stay informed about our latest news and events!
  • Please List your Professional Affiliation
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

News Category: News

Q+A: Basir Mahmood

Still from 'A Message to the Sea'

Still from ‘A Message to the Sea

Basir Mahmood is the second Visiting Artist as part of SAI’s Arts Program. He will spend four days at Harvard next week, where he will give a public seminar, tour museums, meet with students and faculty, and attend classes.

Using video, film and 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.

SAI recently spoke to Mahmood about his work, and what he hope to learn during his time at Harvard.

SAI: What are your main influences and what are you inspired by when you’re creating your work?

Basir: For me it has been a process. I decided to be an artist quite late. My brother and sister actually wanted to be artists and were pursuing it but couldn’t live through it. So for art, my motivation was drawing. That’s how I got into it and I’ve fallen in love with it over time.

Drawing gave me the opportunity to put my skills on display, to see what I could do. Then I started to do sculptures. I went to the Beconhouse National University, which opened the doors of contemporary art, modern art and it made me realize that though I am working here, I am part of a bigger structure, and I realized the scale of it and tried to understand what was going on in the world.

I have been influenced by a lot of different things. My background is with sculptures and I started doing theatre performances and I started writing dramas for theatre, and then I started to film as well.

Continue reading →

    Beyond the madrassa

    IMG_7876 - Copy

    Laila Bushra, right, with Sugata Bose

    By Shajia Sarfraz, Ed. M Candidate, Harvard Graduate School of Education; SAI Student Coordinator

    How and why has the number of madrassas increased in Pakistan since the 1980s? Can we track this growth with any degree of accuracy?  Do we need to go beyond the traditional understanding of the madrassa? What do the various Islamic institutions in Pakistan have in common amongst them? The South Asia Institute hosted Dr. Laila Bushra, SAI’s Babar Ali Fellow, as she discussed these questions in her talk on November 5 titled “Beyond the Madrassa: Investigating the Civic Infrastructure of Islamist Groups in an Urban Setting,” moderated by Professor Sugata Bose.

    Over the last decade, the expansion in the number of madrassas (understood as the basic institution of Islamic education) in Pakistan has garnered a lot of attention in both academic and policy circles. These studies tend to treat madrassas as static and uniform entities whose only role has been that of training militant Islamists engaged in jihad. Bushra argued that the expansion in the number of madrassas is undeniable, but it is not possible to estimate their actual numbers with any degree of accuracy. Relatedly, existing studies do not do justice to the internal diversity of Islamic institutions of worship and instruction and their links to the surrounding environment. Madrassas in certain parts of Pakistan, especially Karachi and the northwestern regions, have certainly played an important role in the three-decade long jihad in Afghanistan and later Kashmir, but jihad is dependent more on state policies than madrassas. And the geographical scope and socio-economic role of madrassas in Pakistan goes far beyond jihad.

    Continue reading →

      Call for applications: Program for Emerging Artists from South Asia

      harvard art museums

      Visiting artist Ranjit Kandalgaonkar tours the Harvard Art Museums, November 2015

      About: The Harvard University South Asia Institute’s Arts Program welcomes applications from emerging artists in South Asia to come to Harvard University to participate in discourse with students and faculty on critical issues.

      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. SAI’s Arts Program serves as a resource across all disciplines to explore critical issues of South Asia through the lens of art and design.

      Two artists will be selected for the academic year, including one fall artist and one spring artist. Selected artists will be invited to Harvard University in Cambridge, Ma for four days (a mutually convenient time will be decided upon by the selected artist and SAI). While our visiting emerging artists are on campus, SAI will support events and exhibits organized in collaboration with specific Harvard departments and faculty, and aligned with undergraduate course-content within Harvard.

      In addition of $1,000 USD of discretionary funds for the artist’s exhibit related costs, the costs of each artist’s economy travel, accommodation for 4 nights, and meals will be provided.

      Continue reading →

        Unstable Constitutionalism: Law and Politics in South Asia

        61IAVI922ALBy Soujanya GanigEd. M Candidate, Harvard Graduate School of Education; SAI Student Coordinator

        On November 16, SAI and Harvard Law School hosted a book talk on Unstable Constitutionalism: Law and Politics in South Asia, a book edited by Mark Tushnet and Madhav Khosla. The panelists for the event were Mark Tushnet, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law, Harvard Law School, Rohit De, Associate Research Scholar in Law, Yale and Nick Robinson, Resident Fellow, Center on the Legal Profession, Harvard Law School.

        Tushnet started the discussion by talking about the genesis of the book, which provides a detailed examination of constitutional law and practice in five South Asian countries: India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bangladesh. Tushnet explained that the field of comparative constitutional law is heavily dominated by Atlantic scholarship (US, European and Commonwealth countries), with little contribution from other regions in the world. Hence, they thought it would be useful to hear from the scholars in the region.

        Continue reading →

          Update from the field: Exploring the craft sector in Odisha

          SAI’s Livelihood Creation project in underway on the ground in India. The research project, supported by the Tata Trusts, aims to build knowledge and capacity around three key areas: rural livelihood creation (emphasis on the handicrafts and handloom sectors); educational, social and economic empowerment of women; and science and technology-based interventions for poverty alleviation.

          By Shashank ShahProject Director

          An artisan working on a brass product in AnweshaLast week our SAI Team continued its journey to interact with organizations that have made a difference in the crafts sector in rural India. We journeyed to East India, and covered the culture and handicrafts-rich states of Odisha and West Bengal. In this post, we share our experience in Odisha.

          Odisha is the 9th largest state in India and 11th largest by population. It is known for its variety of temples and culture, handicrafts and handlooms. The field visits helped us understand the diversity and richness of crafts in the state.

          Continue reading →

            The future of mobile health

            photo 2 - CopyImagine being in an office in any major city – Mumbai, Lahore, or Delhi – and knowing the precise health situation in a remote village, and being able to deploy solutions immediately to any problem that arises.

            This is the goal that a SAI-supported team is trying to make a reality, by using digital tools such as mobile phones and iPads. They have piloted their idea at India’s Kumbh Mela festival, and believe this type of digital disease surveillance has significant potential for public health at future events, from natural disasters to refugee resettlements.

            Their research was the topic of a SAI webinar on November 17, titled ‘Mobile Health at the Nashik Kumbh Mela’ with Satchit Balsari, Chief at Weill Cornell Global Emergency Medicine Division, Faculty at the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and leader of the project.

            Continue reading →

              Call for Applications: Rural Livelihood Capacity Building Program

              ITC’s-e-Choupal-initiativeCall for Applications: Rural Livelihood Capacity Building Program


              Deadline: December 5, 2015

              The Harvard University South Asia Institute and the Tata Trusts are collaborating for a project with the overarching theme of Social Entrepreneurship and Livelihood Creation in India. The Rural Livelihoods component of this project focuses on strengthening the organizations in the handicrafts and handlooms sectors.

              Click here for more information about the Rural Livelihoods track.

              This track aims to address the current gaps in rural livelihoods in the handicrafts and handloom sectors through sustained interventions in the form of capacity building, networking support, and funding. Harvard SAI will partner with institutions and experts based in India to develop a capacity building curriculum aimed at generating and strengthening national capacity for social enterprises in these sectors.

              This project is calling for applications from organizations across India who are interested in participating in the capacity building workshop. The workshop is being provided free of cost to all selected organizations.

              The capacity building curriculum will be designed as per the requirements of the participating organizations and will equip them with practical skills, tools, and knowledge that they require to maximize and deepen the impact of their work and the scale of their activities. The organizations will also be eligible to apply for social innovation grants that will be awarded to those who demonstrate potential for innovation and impact.

              Continue reading →

                Updates from the field: The craft sector in Southern India

                SAI Team at Malkha, Hyderbad

                The SAI Team at Malkha, Hyderbad

                SAI’s Livelihood Creation project in underway on the ground in India. The research project, supported by the Tata Trusts, aims to build knowledge and capacity around three key areas: rural livelihood creation (emphasis on the handicrafts and handloom sectors); educational, social and economic empowerment of women; and science and technology-based interventions for poverty alleviation.

                By Shashank Shah, Project Director

                Last week’s field visits took our team to two states in Southern India. The first leg of this journey was to the capital city of the southern-most state of Tamil Nadu. Known for its rich culture and heritage that is visible in every aspect of daily life, Chennai is verily the capital of South Indian traditions and customs. The SAI Team met with two organizations focused on the crafts sector.
                Continue reading →

                  Alum Q+A: Using entrepreneurship to impact education in Pakistan

                  This is the first in a series of profiles of Harvard alumni who are young entrepreneurs in South Asia.

                  By Soujanya Ganig, Ed. M Candidate, Harvard Graduate School of Education; SAI Student Coordinator

                  ImranImran Sarwar is the Co-Founder & Managing Director of Rabtt, an organization based in Pakistan that aims to change the education landscape by connecting with students at a personal level, and catering to their individual talents through intensive summer programs and year-round workshops. The organization has already impacted 1600 school students and 350 university students. He founded Rabtt after graduating from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government with a masters degree in Public Policy.

                  SAI recently spike with Sarwar about his organization, and what it is like to be an entrepreneur in South Asia.

                  SAI: You’ve said that Rabtt has taught you the value of experimenting and taking first steps. How easy is it to take those first steps in Pakistan? Is there an entrepreneurship- friendly environment?

                  Imran Sarwar: It’s not easy to take those first steps. It is not easy anywhere in the world, and it is especially hard in South Asia. And even when we have taken those first steps, it takes so much convincing and explaining.  This is because there is a culture around failure and there is no value in experimentation. It is different; in the United States failure is respected.

                  Continue reading →

                    Lessons from the Kumbh Mela


                    From left: Meera Gandhi, Rahul Mehrotra, Dhruv Kazi, and Tarun Khanna Photo credit: Ellen Wallop

                    On the evening of Friday, November 6th, Kumbh Mela: Mapping the Ephemeral Megacity, a book consisting of collaborative research of a team 50 Harvard University faculty, students, and administrators, made its debut in New York at the Asia Society to an audience of over 200.

                    Meera Gandhi, founder and CEO of The Giving Foundation, chaired the faculty presentations and panel. She began by sharing her memorable moments from the Kumbh Mela, from dipping in the river with the team of Harvard researchers to capturing the immensity of the Kumbh Mela in photos.

                    Rahul Mehrotra, Harvard Graduate School of Design, kicked off the faculty presentations with a rapid display of photographs which captured the development of the ephemeral city. He discussed how a land parcel is prepared for the expected 80 million attendees. Furthermore, he explained that often times these urban planners do not have blue prints to use besides oral history shared by past organizers. The map he showed in the following slide may actually be the first of its kind in the history of religious migration. Next, Mehrotra shared the structures of the buildings. The cross sections revealed a simple, study, and sustainable structure that can be reused and resized for different purposes. In fact, the structure of the travelling Kumbh Mela exhibit outside the auditorium was inspired by this architecture. Finally, Mehrotra closed with the end and dismantlement of the Kumbh Mela. Farmers use the land for crops; materials such as street lights are sent across the country for reuse.

                    Dhruv Kazi speaks about mapping disease at the festival. Photo credit: Ellen Wallop

                    Dhruv Kazi speaks about mapping disease at the festival. Photo credit: Ellen Wallop

                    Next, Dhruv Kazi, Assistant Professor of the UCSF School of Medicine, spoke about the public health challenges at the Kumbh Mela. His team of medical students digitally tracked over 30,000 of hospital visit entries. The big data allowed his team to instantly discover the median age, problems to health access, and common ailments. To his surprise, the biggest complaint was not diarrhea, but in fact, respiratory problems. The median age of an attendee hovered around 40 years old. Furthermore, females were more likely to visit a central clinic versus a clinic located in the periphery. Visiting a clinic on the outskirts raised the risk of getting lost amongst the crowd.

                    For the third and final presentation, Tarun Khanna, Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor at the Harvard Business School and Director of SAI, summarized the kind of data and learnings from the interdisciplinary research and imagined the possible applications of the study. He believes the Kumbh Mela presented a ripe opportunity to learn about the beginnings and framework of a megacity, illuminating solutions to natural disasters that require temporary housing.

                    After the presentations, the speakers stayed for questions from an engaged audience.


                    Video of the event: