Dr Anastasia Piliavsky, Fellow and Director of Studies in Social Anthropology at Girton College, Cambridge; Director of Studies in Social Anthropology at Newnham College, Cambridge; Newton-Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, CRASSH, Cambridge
Chair: Ajantha Subramanian,Professor of Anthropology and South Asian Studies, Harvard University
It is the central article of faith in Western political theory that democracy is an inherently egalitarian form. But in northern India democracy is decidedly hierarchical, both in practice and in local normative imagination. People look to hierarchical relations with politicians as a source of political responsibility, as the lever they use to get politicians to do what they wish to be done. Far from disempowering and humiliating, here voters see hierarchical ties of dependency as their chief political resource. Grasping the ‘vertical’ dimension of India’s democracy helps us not only to better understand the country’s politics, but also to rethink some of our deepest convictions about democracy, anywhere in the world.
Frank Heidemann,Professor, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
Chair: Richard Wolf,Professor of Music and South Asian Studies, Harvard University
In puja, a Hindu act of worship, the relationship between devotee and God is transformed and the space between them altered. Using case studies of the Badagas in the Nilgiri hills of South India, this presentation analyzes puja in light of the New Phenomenology and Gernot Böhme’s philosophy of atmosphere.
Atmosphere, according to Böhme, is the quality of a surrounding space, as perceived by all the senses and the felt body (Leib). It is an intersubjective, fluid, dynamic totality: a total social fact. The perceiving persons are co-producers and part of the atmosphere, but they consider it an external, “half thing” (Halbding). Atmospheres create social realities, contextual norms, and have an impact on the emotional state of individuals. Every society has specialists who strategically construct and monitor the process of creating atmospheres. Puja and other activities of priests produce particular religious atmospheres and contribute to a shared emotional state among devotees. In other contexts atmospheres contribute to what Heidemann calls “social proprioception.” He argue for an anthropology of atmosphere that investigates the production and perception of social atmospheres and their ontologies.
Cosponsored with the Department of South Asian Studies
Ian Holliday,Vice-President and Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Teaching and Learning), The University of Hong Kong
‘Altered State: Painting Myanmar in a time of transition,’ an exhibit of paintings will be on display Thursday, February 4 – Monday, February 22, 2016 in the Japan Friends of Harvard Concourse, 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge MA
Sponsored by the Asia Center and the South Asia Institute
Chair: Asim Khwaja, Sumitomo-FASID Professor of International Finance and Development, Harvard Kennedy School
The aid allocation literature reveals a negative association between the recipients’ income and aid inflows, implying that, all else equal, poorer nations receive more aid. This literature has assumed that two forms of aid flows – grants and concessional loans – are determined identically. Thus, its findings reflect average behavioral patterns based on an aggregate of these two distinct transfer types. This study unveils different incentive effects of grants and concessional loans. We show that the findings of the aid allocation literature apply to grants but not to concessional loans. In particular, the amount of grants decreases with income, whereas the amount of concessional loans increases with income. The analysis is also notable for using exogenous variations in remittances and temperature as instruments for income. Other econometric issues such as cross-sectional dependence and multiple endogenous variables are also taken into account. The implications of the findings for aid effectiveness debates will discussed. Further tests reveal a larger impact of concessional loans on investment.
Laila Bushra, Babar Ali Fellow, South Asia Institute
Chair: Sugata Bose, Gardiner Professor of Oceanic History and Affairs, Harvard University
Over the last three decades, Islamic educational institutions (madrassas) operating in Pakistan have witnessed a dramatic expansion in their numbers and geographical scope. Being more than simply the breeding grounds for militant groups and ideologies, madrassas are internally diverse and dynamic institutions. Using the urban milieu of Lahore as the framework, Bushra uses the term ‘Islamist civic infrastructure’ to analyze the vast array of functions and activities that madrassas perform in collaboration with other entities, both religious and secular. These include educational institutions of several types, publications and publishing houses, student and professional organizations, religious merchandise, and regular meetings and rituals. This infrastructure has a well-defined internal hierarchy, and has penetrated evermore arenas of social activity over time. The ideological and cultural reach of this civic Islamic component is arguably even more influential and resilient than the militant component usually associated with ‘jihad’.
Ranjit Kandalgaonkar, Visiting Artist, SAI Arts Program
Chair: Chitra Venkataramani, South Asian Studies Fellow, South Asia Institute
Kandalgaonkar’s art practice focuses primarily on unseen or ignored processes of urbanization. In his work, he draws upon contemporary visual arts media, archival documentation and historical artifacts to document, represent and critique urban flows. cityinflux is the name of his practice and an ode to the city’s urban condition that he is continuously invested in unlocking.
About Ranjit Kandalgaonkar’s work:
Since 2009, Stories of Philanthropic Trusts is a research project documenting all the communities living in 19th century Bombay and recording their philanthropic activities. Prior to that, Kandalgaonkar had collaborated with two architects on a project named Gentricity. It is a composite project covering urban planning, public culture, and visual art. The project has developed some multi-disciplinary paintings of localities in Mumbai, which represent narratives of the sites examined (old tenements and mixed-housing scenarios). build/browse looked at markets across London and Mumbai and aims to install an ongoing alternate archive of oral histories of objects found in markets. The online platform allows the public to engage in this project in the form of an interactive building game made with the help of web-coders. 7 isles unclaimed is a speculative/science fiction work imagining the original 7 island archipelago of Mumbai as never having become the reclaimed land form it is today. The stories, drawings and fictive maps re-imagine points in history where the city narrative could have gone either way.
The Arts at SAI initiative connects South Asia’s curators, museum administrators, artists, and art educators with Harvard faculty and students to support activity and research that advance understanding and appreciation of the tapestry of South Asian art and the heritage that defines its voice in the world.