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News Category: Alumni

American Council for Southern Asian Art Symposium XVIII

ACSAA Symposium web banner

October 12 – October 15, 2017

Harvard South Asia Institute is proud to co-sponsor the biennial American Council for Southern Asian Art Symposium. ACSAA symposia serve as opportunities to meet colleagues, reconnect with mentors and graduate school cohorts, and share one’s current research with the field. From senior scholars to graduate students, ACSAA symposia are one of the primary ways ACSAA members gather and support one another, share ideas with a group of like-minded colleagues, and participate in the ACSAA community. We are looking forward to welcoming you all in Boston/Cambridge, MA!

ACSAA 2017 Organizers

Jinah Kim, Gardner Cowles Associate Professor of History of Art & Architecture
Laura Weinstein, Ananda K. Coomaraswamy curator of South Asian and Islamic Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

About the ACSAA

The American Council for Southern Asian Art (ACSAA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the study and awareness of the art of South and Southeast Asia and the Himalayan regions. In addition to periodic symposia, usually held every two years, ACSAA pursues these goals through various projects, including its annual bulletin, bibliographies, a color slide project, a microfiche archive and outreach materials. Since its incorporation in 1967, ACSAA has grown from its original fifteen members to an organization of some three hundred individuals and institutions. ACSAA is formally affiliated with the College Art Association (CAA) and the Association of Asian Studies (AAS).


For more information about this conference, please visit our website:

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Looking back, informing the future: Reflections on Partition

20170203_183238By Apoorva Gupta

The Harvard South Asia Institute (SAI) organized a focused group discussion to reflect upon the mass dislocations during the Partition of British India in New Delhi on February 3, 2017 at the India International Centre, New Delhi. Titled ‘Looking Back ‘Looking Back, Informing the Future – The 1947 Partition of British India: Implications of Mass Dislocations Across Geographies,’ the discussion was focused on facilitating a personalized dialogue about Partition. The event was a part of an ongoing SAI project to create an accessible archive to digitize the stories, records, and reflections of the 1947 Partition of British India in crowd proportions.

Meena Hewett, Executive Director, SAI, introduced the session and shared the background of the project and the ongoing efforts. She talked about Prof. Jennifer Leaning’s work on demographic and humanitarian consequences of conflict, which led to the birth of this project and shared Prof. Tarun Khanna’s (Director, HSAI) idea of collecting personal stories with regard to Partition through a crowdsourcing format. This project, she said, will not only provide crucial perspectives about the past but also be instrumental in giving insights about the future, especially with respect to the patterns of migration. Hewett invited the participants to share their impressions of the Partition and how they remember the event. She introduced the speaker and facilitator for the discussion, Prof. Uma Chakravarti, noted Historian and Professor of History.

Prof. Chakravarti deftly contextualized the project and highlighted the importance of documenting personal stories and recollections of Partition and sharing them with the community. Providing the historical background of the Partition of India, she established its importance as the largest exodus in human history and underlined the urgency of collecting stories of survivors, as very few of them remain. She also emphasized the relevance of the work in order to enrich historical knowledge and realities experienced. Prof. Chakravarti also highlighted how these stories connect us to our present and inform our understanding of history, nation, community and religion. She elaborated upon the importance of archiving and following the paper-trail in government records to understand how the events of Partition were documented. This also helps us in identifying the gaps in the narration of history. The other point of emphasis was on the significance of including stories of Partition from the Eastern border, which have largely been absent from the mainstream accounts of Partition, especially its consequences in the form of economic displacement.

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SAI to host weekly seminar series on Partition of British India

0126 Partition Seminars_The Harvard South Asia Institute is pleased to announce a weekly seminar series focusing on the Partition of British India every Wednesday evening through February and March. The series, part of the SAI research project ‘Looking Back, Informing the Future: The 1947 Partition of British India – Implications of Mass Dislocations Across Geographies’ will explore issues that have often been ignored in the context of the Partition as well as discuss their relevance and impact today, both in South Asia and in other parts of the world. Through two-hour seminars spread over eight sessions, faculty, students, and community members will be brought together to explore the various facets of this complex historic event.

SAI will produce a podcast series based on the seminars, in which distinguished faculty and visiting scholars explore the history, context and continuing impact of the Partition.

All seminars will be from 5:00 – 7:00PM in CGIS S050, 1730 Cambridge street, Cambridge, MA. Add to your calendar. *Locations subject to change, please check our site for updates.*

The seminars are free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served.

Seminar resources.

Letter by SAI Director Tarun Khanna: “We are embarking on a major research project to understand the history, context and continuing impact of Partition”

Join the conversation: #SAIPartition.

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SAI responds to Executive Order

The South Asia Institute (SAI) fully endorses Harvard President Drew Faust’s response to the Trump Administration’s executive order restricting travel to the United States.

We offer our full support to Harvard students, faculty, staff and affiliates, regardless of their country of origin or religious background, alongside the Harvard International Office and the university’s Global Support Services. We encourage all South Asia scholars to apply for our programs.

The work of universities in the world has never been more vital. The SAI is committed to the advancement of global scholarship and understanding, and our work in this fascinating, important region will continue. Across many borders, our diverse students and scholars are aiming to generate knowledge and insights that transcend and outlive any temporary barriers to progress.

Harvard President Drew Faust: We Are All Harvard


Harvard International Office

Harvard Global Support Services

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South Asia In The News: India’s Cash Crisis November, the Indian government announced, with little warning, that the country would be withdrawing the legal status of its 500 and 1000 rupee notes, over 80% of the current currency in circulation. The effort to curb corruption has left many Indians in a state of chaos, with long longs forming as citizens wait to exchange their old notes for new ones. Below, are a series of articles written by SAI and Harvard affiliates.

Please note: The views expressed here belong to the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the South Asia Institute.


India Wants a Cashless Society. But There’s a High Cost. – Slate
“There are long, debilitating queues for banks and ATMs. Wages and bills have not been paid. Rural Indians often have to travel a long way to reach a bank, and an estimated 300 million people don’t have the official ID that’s required to process a cash exchange. In some places, a barter economy has even re-emerged. That’s a marker of ingenuity, perhaps, but hardly the modernity that India is striving for. India’s most decorated economist, the Nobel Laureate and Harvard Professor Amartya Sen, says: ‘The move declares all Indians — indeed all holders of Indian currency — as possibly crooks, unless they can establish they are not.’ Meanwhile, the people with the most black money—the people the policy was intended to target—are unlikely to have wads of cash under their mattresses. Their money will be safe in foreign bank accounts and property holdings.”

Hasit Shah, SAI Research Affiliate


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Alum Q+A: Lessons from Dadabhai Naoroji

9780198076667Dinyar Patel, currently an Assistant Professor at the University of South Carolina, completed his PhD at Harvard and was previously a SAI Graduate Student Associate. His Harvard dissertation focused on the political thought of Dadabhai Naoroji (1825-1917), perhaps the most prominent Indian nationalist figure prior to Mohandas K. Gandhi. With S.R. Mehrotra, he recently co-edited a volume of selected correspondences from the Dadabhai Naoroji Papers, which was published by Oxford University Press over the summer. Many of the over 500 letters have never been published before.

SAI recently spoke to Patel about the project and why Naoroji is still so relevant today.

SAI: Why are these writings so important?

Dinyar Patel: This individual, Naoroji, kept in his collection as many as 50,000 documents, but only about 30,000 have survived up until today. What the collection ended up being was a lot of letters exchanged with prominent Indian and British political figures of the time. A lot of these figures are not terribly well-remembered in either country, but at the time they were leading political figures. For example, a socialist leader named Henry M. Hyndman exchanged a lot of colorful letters with Naoroji about socialism in Great Britain, Europe, and India. There were letters exchanged with people such as William Wedderburn, who was one of the founders of the Indian National Congress along with Naoroji. Both of them would talk about the need for political reform in India, and specifically, the need for Indians to contest parliamentary elections in Great Britain in order to reform India from within.

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Alum Q+A: Saving the environment and improving women’s lives, one pad at a time

ruralgirls2This is part of a series of profiles of Harvard alumni who are young entrepreneurs in South Asia.

Menstrual hygiene is an obstacle for women in many developing countries, including India. Even as the use of sanitary pads becomes more widespread, new environmental problems have emerged for proper disposal.

Saathi, founded by several MIT/Harvard graduates who met while studying mechanical engineering, is trying to change that. They have developed an eco-friendly pad made entirely from local banana fiber that is fully compostable and bio-degradable.

SAI recently spoke with three of the founders, Kristin Kagetsu, CEO, Amrita Saigal, CFO, and Grace Kane, CTO, to learn more about the product and how they hope it improves the lives of women in India.

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In their own words: Why I support the arts

IMG_9103 - CopyRepresenting Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan, the members of the SAI Arts Council provide financial support and advisement for SAI’s Arts Program. The program connects South Asia’s artists with Harvard faculty and students to support research that advances the understanding of cultural, political, social, and economic issues of the world through art.

SAI recently welcomed Omar Saeed, based in Lahore, to the council. Mr. Saeed came to SAI as an in-kind supporter 5 years ago. He has been the Chief Executive Officer of Service Industries Ltd. since July 31, 2011. Mr. Saeed served as Chief Operating Officer of Premier BPO Inc. He ran Service Sales Corporation as Chief Operating Officer from 2002 to 2010. He founded Ovex Technologies (Private) Limited in 2003 and served as its Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Saeed has served as President of Harvard Business School Club of Pakistan and is an adjunct faculty member at LUMS. He is a graduate of Brown University and did his Masters in Business Administration from Harvard Business School.

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SAI in Nepal

IMG_5229On July 29, Meena Hewett, Executive Director of SAI, visited the monthly meeting of the Harvard Alumni Group in Nepal to learn more how SAI can engage more with the country. She began by sharing the mission of SAI, saying that SAI has been working with Harvard students and faculty to increase awareness on Nepal-related issues at Harvard and strengthen the Harvard alumni community in Nepal. Harvard is interested in catalyzing positive change in Nepal through SAI programs such as capacity building workshops, internship programs for Harvard students, and visiting fellowships for Nepali scholars.

Alumni who attended the meeting shared several topics that would be important to explore in future scholarship, including: women’s issues, child labor, public administration design, rural health, small and medium enterprise promotion, climate change, entrepreneurship and leadership education. One critical issue that surfaced several times was  the socio-political transition that Nepal is undergoing as the country implements a new constitution.

Click here to learn more about the Harvard Alumni Group in Nepal.

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Hindi version of Kumbh Mela book launched in Lucknow

FR3A8536On Monday, August 1, the Harvard University South Asia Institute (SAI) launched the Hindi edition of the book and the exhibition Kumbh Mela: Mapping the Ephemeral Megacity in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh at the Vivanta by Taj, in partnership with the Uttar Pradesh (UP) Government.

The event drew a large crowd and included Harvard alumni, community members, government officials, students, and members of the public.

The Kumbh Mela: Mapping the Ephemeral Megacity book and exhibition consolidate research findings of the world’s largest religious festival, and serve as an example of interdisciplinary research conducted at Harvard.

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