Sai Balakrishnan completed her Bachelor of Architecture in India and holds a Masters in Urban Design from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and a Masters in City Planning from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is a fourth year PhD student at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. Sai has worked as an architect and planner in India and the UAE, and as an urban planning student researcher at UN-HABITAT, Nairobi and the local municipality of Durban, South Africa. Her Masters’ thesis at MIT looked at sanitation maintenance in public housing in India, and was awarded the “Outstanding Master of City Planning Thesis 2008.” Sai’s research interests are in the political economy of urbanization, planning theories for cities in the ‘global south’ and urban informality. Her dissertation focuses on the urbanization taking place along infrastructure corridors (highways) in India and the inventive institutional arrangements that are emerging to resolve the land conflicts between farmers and incoming businesses/property developers in these corridor villages.
Namita Dharia is a Ph.D. candidate at Harvard’s Department of Anthropology. She studies the workings of the building construction industry in India to understand processes of urban development in South Asia. Prior to joining the program, Namita practiced and taught architecture in India and worked as an architectural journalist in Bombay. Her research interests include political economy, spatial geography, material studies, skilling, and artistic practices. She is passionate about cities in general.
Sadaf Jaffer is a PhD student in the Indo-Muslim Culture Program of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Harvard. Before starting her PhD she spent two years in Lucknow, India on a Berkeley Urdu Language Fellowship. Her dissertation is an intellectual history of twentieth century India focusing on social justice in the work of Urdu writer and intellectual Ismat Chughtai.
Bilal A. Malik
Bilal A. Malik is a doctoral student at Harvard Graduate School of Education, concentrating in the Cultures, Communities & Education track. His research focuses on a contemporary Pakistani theological seminary. This seminary focuses on preparing ‘modern’ religious scholars through a curricular program that combines a study of classical religious texts with the curriculum of mainstream Pakistani public schools. Through a case-study of this seminary, based on year-long ethnographic fieldwork, Bilal hopes to explore how ‘religious’ and ‘secular’ forms of life are produced, embodied, and experienced in Pakistan, and the personal, social, and political consequences of these processes.
Shankar Nair is a sixth-year PhD candidate in the Committee on the Study of Religion. His research focuses on Hindu-Muslim intellectual interaction in pre-colonial South Asia. His dissertation treats three religious philosophers from the Mughal period — one of whom writes in Arabic, one in Sanskrit, and one in Persian — aiming to trace the interactions between the three figures across these three major languages of religious scholarship. His wider academic interests include Hindu and Islamic philosophy, Sufism, and Indian religions.
Harpreet Singh is a PhD candidate in the Committee on the Study of Religion in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. He studies the religions of South Asia in the early modern and modern period. He was awarded the Harvard University Certificate of Distinction in Teaching. Harpreet co-founded the Academic Room to promote “open-access” and democratize access to educational resources. He also co-founded the Sikh Coalition—the largest Sikh civil rights organization in the United States—in the wake of hate crimes against Sikh-Americans after the September 11, 2001 attacks. Harpreet received the M.T.S. degree from Harvard Divinity School and earned his B.S. in Computer and Systems Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Namita is an S.J.D student at Harvard Law School. Her doctoral dissertation examines how the Supreme Court of India has, over the last sixty years, managed tensions between the right to property and the state’s power to acquire property for the purposes of redistribution and economic development. During her S.J.D, Namita has worked on projects with PRS Legislative Research, New Delhi where she wrote papers on campaign finance and parliamentary reform for the first PRS Annual Conference and provided legal assistance to FishMARC, an organization seeking to protect traditional rights of fishermen against displacement by the Mundra Port and Special Economic Zone and other power projects in Gujarat, India. Prior to her S.J.D, Namita worked as a litigator at Davis Polk and Wardwell in New York, where she practiced primarily in the areas of bankruptcy, securities and pro bono criminal defense and asylum law. Namita has clerked with Justice R.C. Lahoti, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India. Her representative publications include “India: Citizens, Courts and the Right to Health: Between Promise and Progress?” Litigating Health Rights: Can Courts Bring More Justice to Health? (Harvard University Press, 2011) (coauthored with Sharanjeet Parmar) and “Human Rights Accountability of the IMF and the World Bank: A Critique of Existing Mechanisms and a Theory of Horizontal Accountability”, 12 U.C. Davis J. Intl L. & Poly (2006).