A public reading and discussion with British-Indian author Rana Dasgupta. Rana is a novelist and essayist, and the winner of the 2010 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for his novel Solo. He currently lives in Delhi and his nonfiction book Capital constructs an intimate oral history to unfold the possibilities and catastrophes of the city’s elite class. Rana is in the United States to lecture this month at Brown University.
Mark Tushnet, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law, Harvard Law School
Rohit De, Associate Research Scholar in Law, Yale
Nick Robinson, Resident Fellow, Center on the Legal Profession
Cosponsored with Harvard Law School
Although the field of constitutional law has become increasingly comparative in recent years, its geographic focus has remained limited. South Asia, despite being the site of the world’s largest democracy and a vibrant if turbulent constitutionalism, is one of the important neglected regions within the field. This book remedies this lack of attention by providing a detailed examination of constitutional law and practice in five South Asian countries: India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bangladesh. Identifying a common theme of volatile change, it develops the concept of “unstable constitutionalism,” studying the sources of instability alongside reactions and responses to it. By highlighting unique theoretical and practical questions in an underrepresented region, Unstable Constitutionalism constitutes an important step toward truly global constitutional scholarship.
Chair: Madhav Khosla, Ph.D. Candidate in Political Theory, Department of Government, Harvard University
On April 25, Nepal was hit by a devastating earthquake. Almost 5000 people have died and the numbers are steadily increasing. The full scale of losses in terms of human casualties, homes destroyed and cultural heritage reduced to rubble is still not known. The earthquake has tested the already limited resolve of the Nepali state, which is struggling to cope and respond to the disaster – especially in rural areas. In this backdrop, what is the current situation on the ground and challenges ahead for the government? How did Nepal get here and could a functional political order have equipped the country to deal with this better? What will be the possible political implications of this disaster – in terms of the quest for a new constitution? What has been the role of India in relief efforts – and in general in Nepal? Where does the rest of the international community come in? The talk will focus on these and related issues.
Note: This event was originally scheduled to be titled ‘Remaking a nation: Nepal’s tryst with peace, constitutionalism and sovereignty.’
Chair: Anila Daulatzai, Visiting Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies and Islamic Studies, Harvard Divinity School
Omar Shahid Hamid has served with the Karachi police for twelve years, most recently as head of counterterrorism. During his service, he has been actively targeted by various terrorist groups and organizations. He was wounded in the line of duty and his office was bombed by the Taliban in 2010. He left Karachi for a sabbatical when there were too many contracts on his life. He has a master’s in criminal justice policy from the London School of Economics and a master’s in law from University College London.
Much like the protagonist in his police procedural, The Prisoner, Hamid was forced to navigate the byzantine politics, shifting alliances, and backroom dealings of Karachi police and intelligence agencies. In his novel, Hamid exposes that dark side of Karachi, as only a police officer could. His writing has garnered praise for rejecting a romanticized take on slum life—as is characteristic in Pakistani English literature—in favor of gritty realism.
A thinly veiled fictional interpretation of real-life events, the novel follows Constantine D’Souza, a Christian police officer charged with rescuing kidnapped American journalist Jon Friedland (a.k.a., 2002 captured Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl). With no leads, D’Souza recruits Akbar Khan, a rogue cop imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit (modeled on Pakistan’s famed take-no-prisoners officer Chaudhry Aslam Khan). Caught between Pakistan’s militant ruling party and the Pakistani intelligence agencies, D’Souza finds himself in a race against time to save a man’s life—and the honor of his nation.
Sanchita Saxena,Director of the Chowdhury Center for Bangladesh Studies, Berkeley; Executive Director, Institute for South Asia Studies, UC Berkeley
Fauzia Ahmed, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies, Miami University; SAI Research Affiliate
Chair: John A. Quelch, Charles Edward Wilson Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School; Professor in Health Policy and Management, Harvard School of Public Health
By analyzing the garment sector through the lens of domestic coalitions, Made in Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Sri Lanka: The Labor Behind the Global Garments and Textiles Industries presents new and innovative ways of conceptualizing the garment and textiles industries that include the possibility for change and resistance from a vantage point of cooperation among key groups, rather than only contention. The book utilizes the established policy networks framework, which has traditionally only been applied to the United States and European nations, but expertly adapts it to countries in the global South. Saxena’s domestic coalitions approach, which can be thought of as a precursor to a full policy network, differs from the policy network approach in crucial ways by highlighting the importance of other actors or facilitators in the network, recognizing that interactions among stakeholders are just as important as interactions between groups and the state, as well as the incentives associated with expanding the existing coalition.
V.V. (Sugi) Ganeshananthan, Bunting Fellow, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University; Author of Love Marriage
Chair: Charles Hallisey, Yehan Numata Senior Lecturer on Buddhist Literatures, Harvard Divinity School
Book sale to follow event.
For three decades, Sri Lanka’s civil war tore communities apart. In 2009, the Sri Lankan army finally defeated the separatist Tamil Tigers guerrillas in a fierce battle that swept up about 300,000 civilians and killed more than 40,000. More than a million had been displaced by the conflict, and the resilient among them still dared to hope. But the next five years changed everything.
Rohini Mohan’s searing account of three lives caught up in the devastation looks beyond the heroism of wartime survival to reveal the creeping violence of the everyday. When city-bred Sarva is dragged off the streets by state forces, his middle-aged mother, Indra, searches for him through the labyrinthine Sri Lankan bureaucracy. Meanwhile, Mugil, a former child soldier, deserts the Tigers in the thick of war to protect her family.
Having survived, they struggle to live as the Sri Lankan state continues to attack minority Tamils and Muslims, frittering away the era of peace. Sarva flees the country, losing his way – and almost his life – in a bid for asylum. Mugil stays, breaking out of the refugee camp to rebuild her family and an ordinary life in the village she left as a girl. But in her tumultuous world, desires, plans, and people can be snatched away in a moment.
The Seasons of Trouble is a startling, brutal, yet beautifully written debut from a prize-winning journalist. It is a classic piece of reportage, five years in the making, and a trenchant, compassionate examination of the corrosive effect of conflict on a people.
Jocelyne Cesari, Senior fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, Visiting Associate professor in the Department of Government, Georgetown University; Director of Islam in the West, Harvard University
Chair: Asad Ahmed, Assistant Professor, Social Anthropology Program, Harvard University
In this book, Jocelyne Cesari explores the relationship between modernization, politics, and Islam in Muslim-majority countries. She contends that nation-building in these environments has produced national ideologies rooted in the politicization of Islam, rather than liberal democracies following the Western model. Cesari’s historical examination covers the post-WWII period to the Arab Spring and informs the book’s consideration of the role of Islam in contemporary Middle Eastern emerging democracies.