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News Category: Graduate Student Associates


GSAS Research Workshop: Borders in Modern Asia


There has never been a more critical time for studying borders. Contemporary political events across the world have awakened us to their direct presence in our lives. For scholars in the humanities and social sciences, borders are particularly rich sites for critically examining a variety of questions, from the global flow of capital to everyday practices of border-crossing.

Recognizing the political and academic exigencies of our times, the new GSAS Research Workshop “Borders in Modern Asia” will be a forum for critically synthesizing works on border making and border crossing in terrestrial and maritime Asia. Throughout the year, the program will host a range of graduate students and senior scholars whose work address this theme. We use the term “modern” loosely to indicate the period from the eighteenth century to the present day, but we shall be open to incorporating innovative work on such themes even before this period. Within this broad historical framework, we will welcome papers that adopt a variety of perspectives and disciplinary methodologies, including but not limited to archival work, textual analysis, the use of visual and material cultures, and ethnography.

Borders in Modern Asia, capaciously understood for our purposes, geographically encompass both terrestrial and oceanic frontiers within and around the Asiatic landmass. Focusing on “Modern Asia” also transcends the boundaries of area studies which divide academia. This is a border-crossing urgently needed in our field. Disciplinary training continues to sector our fields into “South Asia,” “South-east Asia,” “East Asia,” “the Middle East,” and the like, and nothing can be more unfortunate. A growing number of graduate students naturally feel frustrated and dissatisfied with such divisions. We therefore invite papers from disciplines including, but certainly not limited to, History, Anthropology, History of Science, Political Science, Literature, Sociology and all the area studies programs. Papers can creatively address several issues related to borders, including territoriality, ecology, political economy, resources, sovereignty, national and ethnic identity. The workshop emphasizes thematic convergence over an “area studies” approach.

Graduate Students interested in presenting papers over the 2017-18 session should contact Aniket De (aniket_de@g.harvard.edu), at the earliest possible. Please note that the audience will be thematically oriented and regionally diverse, so papers should be prepared to address implications beyond their immediate fields.

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Meet our Graduate Student Associates


Every year, SAI supports Graduate Student Associates from across the different schools at Harvard whose research focuses on South Asia. The goal of the program is to establish a community of peers to support original and independent research in South Asia. Each GSA will give a seminar throughout the academic year – check our website for updates. 

Mou BanerjeePhD Candidate, Dept. of History, Harvard University
Mou is a fifth-year graduate student in the History Department at Harvard, specializing in Modern South Asian History. Her research explores the dialogues and debates of Indian intellectuals with evangelical Protestant Christianity and missionaries in the nineteenth century, especially in the Bengal Presidency in India. In her analysis of these debates, Banerjee charts the development of a complex relationship of overt repudiation and covert fascination, where Christianity was perceived as a religion and a philosophy, a discursive and dialectical category, a denominator of racial and social difference, and as a repository of Enlightenment ethos and modernity. Banerjee investigates the way in which this examination of Christianity represents a philosophical engagement, leading to contestation over the nature of faith’s socio-political implications, and of the political responsibility of the colonized subjects.  Banerjee’s dissertation research was made possible with the generous help of grants from the Harvard History Department, SAI and the SSRC-IDRF dissertation research fellowship which she received in 2013. Banerjee was a visiting scholar at the Center for History and Economics at Magdalene College, Cambridge University, in the academic year 2014-2015.

Rosanna Picascia, PhD candidate in the Study of Religion focusing on South Asian philosophy of religion
Her dissertation examines interreligious debates between Buddhist and Brahmanical philosophers on the epistemology of testimony, and in particular, the epistemic status of scripture. Rosanna’s research examines these debates through the lens of a 9th century Kashmiri Nyāya intellectual, Jayanta Bhaṭṭa. Not only is Jayanta a strong proponent of the authority of scripture, but also, he provides a lucid and comprehensive account of the multiplicity of views on the subject. In doing so, Jayanta provides a vivid picture of the key players and issues in the debate surrounding testimony as a source of knowledge as it occurred in India during the 6th-9th centuries. Although taking place over a thousand years ago, this conversation has important insights to share concerning the relationship between reason and tradition. Rosanna holds an MTS from Harvard Divinity School and a BA from The George Washington University. She has served as a Teaching Fellow in both FAS and the Extension School for courses on world religions (particularly South Asian religions), philosophy of religion, and the Sanskrit language. She also co-taught a J-term course in January 2014 on conceptions of the soul in Indian religious and philosophical traditions.

Mircea Raianu, PhD Candidate, Dept. of History, Harvard University
He is completing a dissertation charting the historical trajectory of the Tata Group, India’s largest business firm since the early twentieth century, in a global and comparative context. From one of many merchant families in the age of empire, involved in the opium and cotton trades in the 1860s, Tata expanded and diversified into key sectors of the emergent Indian national economy (with interests in steel, hydro-­‐electricity, chemicals, and civil aviation) by the time of independence in 1947. Raianu’s dissertation explores the unique modes of corporate governance made possible by the Tatas’ philanthropic bequests, educational initiatives, welfare programs, and deployment of expertise in urban planning and scientific research. The aim is to present Tata as a foundational case study for addressing the contemporary ethical challenges for business within and beyond South Asia. During the academic year 2013-­‐14, Raianu conducted archival research in India for 10 months, supported by a Fulbright-­‐Nehru Fellowship and a Frederick Sheldon Travelling Fellowship. He has also spent time in India as a language student, participating in the American Institute of Indian Studies Urdu summer program in Lucknow in 2010.

Sarika GuptaPhD candidate, Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School
Sarika is a 4th year doctoral student in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. Her general areas of interest are development economics and political economy. Specifically, her research focuses on public service delivery, citizen empowerment, and gender issues in South Asia. With her current research in India, she hopes to identify barriers citizens face in selecting into social benefit programs and also highlight the welfare impact of social pensions (i.e. cash transfers), particularly on women and their extended families. Prior to joining Harvard, she worked for the Jameel Poverty Action Lab in India. She has also worked for Plan USA and the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington D.C. She holds an Honors BA in Political Science and International Studies, as well as an MSc in Development Studies from the London School of Economics.

Priyasha Saksena, SJD Candidate, Harvard Law School 
Priyasha’s dissertation is a historical examination of the manner in which sovereignty was constructed in colonial South Asia, with the primary focus being the princely states. The international status of the princely states was deeply nebulous; the result was that the very idea of sovereignty was highly contested, and became a site of conflict with British officials, indigenous lawyers, nationalists and princes using the language of international law to articulate alternative visions. Since current histories of international law focus primarily on legal texts, Priyasha proposes to use archival research into colonial-era juridical disputes between the princely states and the colonial authorities to expand the historical frame. Her dissertation explores both intellectual arguments as well as legal practice to trace the evolution of alternative visions of sovereignty, and develop insights into the relationship between international law and colonialism.

 

 

 

 

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Meet our Graduate Student Associates


Meet our Graduate Student Associates, 2014-2015

Every year, SAI supports Graduate Student Associates from across the different schools at Harvard whose research focuses on South Asia. The goal of the SAI Graduate Student Associate program is to establish a community of peers to support original and independent research in South Asia. The GSA program is headed by Parimal Patil, Professor of Religion and Indian Philosophy, and Chair of the Department of South Asian Studies, and SAI steering committee member. GSAs participate in monthly workshops in which they present their thesis research to one another. In the spring, GSAs organize an end of year conference to showcase their research.

 

MARIAM CHUGHTAI  
Ed.D. Candidate, Harvard Graduate School of Education
Field of Study: Education, Religion and Nationalism
Dissertation: Religious Nationalism and History Education in Pakistan
Mariam’s thesis examines identity politics and religious nationalism fostered through the Pakistani education system. She has two Masters degrees, also from Harvard, in International Education Policy and Education Policy and Management, and has a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Rice University.  Mariam founded the Harvard Pakistan Student Group in 2009 with a small community of less than 20 people. Three years later and with over 600 members, HPSG became the first university‐wide student organization recognized by Harvard University.

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GSA program deadline: March 7


The goal of the SAI Graduate Student Associates is to establish a community of peers to support original and independent research on South Asia by doctoral students at Harvard.

Each Graduate Associate is awarded a research stipend, and offered a desk space and computer as space permits, on the 4th floor of the CGIS South Building. SAI invites proposals in any discipline, field, or school in South Asian Studies and encourages work in/on all of South Asia as well as the study of South Asia in larger connective contexts.

The deadline to apply is this Friday, March 7 at 3:00 PM.

Click here for application details.

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GSAs in their own words: Dinyar Patel


Every year, the South Asia Institute supports Graduate Student Associates from across the different schools at Harvard whose research focuses on South Asia. The goal of the SAI Graduate Student Associates is to establish a community of peers to support original and independent research on South Asia by doctoral students at Harvard.

Dinyar Patel is a PhD candidate in the Department of History. His dissertation is on the evolution of the political philosophy of Dadabhai Naoroji (1825-1917), a prominent early Indian nationalist leader and the first Indian elected to the British Parliament (in 1892). Dinyar’s dissertation traces the development of this declaration through Naoroji’s early economic work, his engagement with semi-autonomous Indian princely states, and attempts to build alliances for Indian reform with British Liberals and socialists.

Dinyar has just returned to Harvard after three years of archival research in India and the United Kingdom where he was supported by an IIE Fulbright-Nehru and Fulbright Hays DDRA fellowship.

Listen to him describe his dissertation, his research in India, and what he hopes to accomplish now that he is back at Harvard:

 

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SAI Welcomes 2012-2013 Graduate Student Associates


On Friday, September 14, SAI held a welcome meeting for the six Graduate Student Advisors: Mariam Chughtai, Bridget Hanna, Bilal Malik, Benjamin Siegel, Anand Vaidya and Namita Wahi. Parimal Patil Professor of Religion and Indian Philosophy, Chair of the Department of South Asian Studies, and head of SAI’s GSA program, introduced the program.

Click here to read more about the GSA program, including profiles of past and current GSAs.

 

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