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About the South Asia Institute


The Harvard University South Asia Institute (SAI) engages faculty and students through interdisciplinary programs to advance and deepen the teaching and research on global issues relevant to South Asia. 


For the last 10 years, SAI has been tackling the topics of global health, water security, access to education, technology development, nuclear energy, and rapid urbanization. SAI facilitates complex conversations about the broad range of research being done internationally through the Institute. Engaging faculty members and students through interdisciplinary programs, SAI seeks to advance global issues relevant to the region. SAI is informing policy change, improving and disseminating better practices, and working to blend the traditions and cultures of the past with the technologies and possibilities of the future.

With 2 billion people facing similar challenges throughout South Asia, there is a critical need for solutions and systems to support such a significant global population. SAI programs and projects are working to actively address issues of equity, sustainability, and livability. Through research conducted by students and faculty to partnerships with governments and organizations to seminars held on campus and across the world, SAI is working to improve the lives of all people throughout the region and beyond.

With offices in Delhi, Dhaka, Karachi and Mumbai, SAI aims to be a catalyst and bridge between Harvard faculty and students and the region. 



View the South Asia Institute video


The South Asia Institute’s goals are to:

  1. Facilitate scholarly exchanges among Harvard faculty and students, international South Asia specialists, visiting academics, and public figures from South Asia.

  2. Sponsor lectures and conferences at Harvard and in the region by distinguished academic, governmental, and business leaders whose work contributes to a better understanding of the challenges facing South Asia.

  3. Support Harvard students with grants for language study, research, and internships in-region.

  4. Bring knowledge from South Asia to Harvard by supporting faculty with grants for research.

  5. Build a community of stakeholders committed to building scholarship on South Asia at Harvard and in-region.


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Welcome Letter from the Director

Tarun Khanna

Tarun Khanna


Spring 2014

Dear Friends,

SAI is uniquely situated to encourage scholarship from multiple disciplines to have a measurable impact on the lives of those in South Asia. Despite recent rapid growth in the region, a large part of South Asia remains mired in poverty. Billions are searching for a path to a better future. Harvard has the capacity to empower billions of people living in South Asia for many years to come, through its collaborations in Harvard, the US and South Asia.

The 2013–2014 academic year saw a landmark for the Harvard South Asia Institute. SAI is excited to have celebrated its tenth anniversary in September 2013, and continues its tradition to foster scholarly collaboration between Harvard and South Asian nations. In its tenth year, SAI serves as a premier center on South Asian studies and a cross-disciplinary forum and platform for myriad ef­forts in South Asia, including programs related to science, social entrepreneurship, gender justice and criminal law, public health and more. Over the past year, SAI has increased its educational ef­forts and outreach initiatives in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, as well as in other countries throughout the region.

Much has been accomplished over this milestone year. The tenth-anniversary retreat, held on September 27, 2013, focused on the fu­ture of SAI and South Asian studies. Scholars and participants from across Harvard and other institutions gathered to discuss SAI’s fo­cus on South Asia studies through the lens of governance, health and education in South Asia. SAI’s recent Mapping India’s Kumbh Mela project was highlighted as a model for future SAI coordinated interdisciplinary research projects.

SAI has launched new and fostered ongoing projects over the past year. This year, SAI initiated its visiting fellows program, funding two scholars from the region to ‘reside’ at Harvard for the academic year to support their research on South Asia. The South Asian Stud­ies Fellowship focuses on research in the humanities and social sci­ences and the Aman Fellowship supports the research on develop­ment issues related to Pakistan.

In January, SAI released its inaugural publication, Health and South Asia, which presents innovative perspectives on a wide range of health issues facing South Asians, from health care financing and patent law to trauma service and on-the-ground care. The publica­tion, which incorporates the work of faculty, students and profes­sionals from Harvard and around the region, serves as a site for initiating discussions on health in South Asia at Harvard.

SAI’s multi-year research projects—including the Harvard Gender Violence Project, which investigates violence prevention and intervention, as well as female education, in the region; and the Resonance Proj­ect, a Harvard-MIT-IIT science and technology project, which this past summer took form as an introduction to neuroscience pro­gram in Delhi—continues to represent a range of important re­search initiatives in South Asia.

This past academic year, SAI hosted over 50 seminars and confer­ences in Cambridge, Delhi, Dhaka, Karachi, Lahore and Mumbai; as well as a series of webinars, which provide essential, cross-insti­tutional conduits for connecting to the region. SAI continues to support and engage in larger international assemblies, as well. In January 2014, SAI co-sponsored the Contemporary South Asian City Conference in Karachi, in partnership with the Government of Sind and Punjab, and the Pakistan Institute of Architects. This mega-conference attracted over 3,000 participants including politi­cians, scholars and professionals, as well as citizens from Pakistan and other parts of South Asia. Harvard faculty and graduate stu­dents presented at several panels on topics varying from housing and urban planning to public health and policy.

In February 2014, SAI and the World Bank held a corporate social responsibility summit in Mumbai on Non-State Players in Human Development: Achieving India’s Goals. This workshop, attended by executives and upper management of both public and private sec­tor companies based in the region, focused on a corporate code of ethics and its ensuing long-term profits and benefits.

Earlier, in October 2013, Raghu Rai, the famous Indian photogra­pher and photojournalist, presented the 2013 Mahindra lecture, as well as a photo exhibit featuring his work from over the years. In April 2014, SAI welcomes Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, founder and chair of BRAC, the world’s largest NGO and SAI’s affiliate organization. Sir Fazle delivers the 2014 Harish C. Mahindra lecture on Poverty and Development in South Asia.

SAI has awarded 47 student grants this year, and continues to spon­sor fellowships and serve as a vital platform and launching pad for young scholars from across the globe to convene and research fields from anthropology, government and law, to architecture, medicine and technology. Harvard students and fellows, as well as SAI faculty and staff, remain an integral part of the Institute’s composition and contribute greatly to its current and future initiatives.

With an eye toward the future, SAI inaugurates its second decade of strengthening South Asian Studies at Harvard. We acknowledge the efforts of each you who continue to engage with SAI. Togeth­er we can fulfill our expanding mission to facilitate scholarly ex­change, support faculty and students, and build a community of scholars and professionals devoted to scholarship and progress in South Asia.


Tarun Khanna
Director, Harvard University South Asia Institute
Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor, Harvard Business School