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News Category: Faculty


“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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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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Mentoring of entrepreneurs is missing in India: Tarun Khanna, Harvard Business School


This interview with SAI Director Tarun Khanna was published in The Times of India.

The entrepreneurship ecosystem in India needs to evolve beyond ecommerce and mcommerce and into areas such as education and healthcare, said Tarun Khanna, Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor at Harvard Business School .

Khanna is involved with the startup ecosystem in India as investor and entrepreneur and is also an advisor to the Niti Aayog. Khanna, who was recently in Mumbai, spoke to ET on the deeper structural issues facing entrepreneurs.

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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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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 concludes Tata Trusts Livelihood Creation project with conference in Delhi


Professor Khanna

Professor Khanna

The Harvard South Asia Institute (SAI), in collaboration with Tata Trusts, concluded the 18-months project on ‘Livelihood Creation In India’ at an event hosted in New Delhi on Jan. 23. Nearly 200 people attended the event at the Taj Mahal Hotel, representing institutions including the World Bank, UNDP, Government of India, IIT Delhi, and many other top academic, corporate and civil society institutions.

The program showcased the work of the ‘Livelihood Creation in India’ project, with a focus on two key areas: Rural Livelihood Creation in the handicrafts and handloom sectors; and Science and Technology-based Social Entrepreneurship.

Dr. Shashank Shah, Visiting Scholar, Harvard Business School and Project Director at SAI, provided an overview to the 18 month project. “This project has involved rigorous research work with over 100 social enterprises across 15 states of India to study the challenges and capacity gaps,” he said. “The Harvard SAI Team and faculty then conducted 5 capacity building workshops with 125 participating enterprises, and 10 webinars involving Harvard faculty and subject experts from India.”

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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

Resources:

Harvard International Office

Harvard Global Support Services

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