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News Feed: Students at SAI

India Student Group hosts Fall Mela

The Fall Mela 2015, a one of its kind community initiative planned by the Harvard India Student group, was held at Harvard’s Science Center Plaza on September 20, and was cosponsored by SA. The event, attended by over 300 students, helped spread awareness about Association for India Development (AID), a volunteer movement for improving the standard of living of the underprivileged in India with initiatives in diverse spheres like education, women’s empowerment, and health.

Students visited various stalls through the plaza, which made for a lively afternoon: showcasing the essence of Indian art forms like henna (hand painting), art of living (pranayam and yoga), and a photo booth with Taj Mahal in the backdrop.

The event featured captivating performances by the trainers of BollyX, a Bollywood dance fitness club, which was showstopper. Sharanya Chandran, a classical dancer from India’s Natya Vriksha Academy performed a beautiful Bharatanatyam routine. The Harvard World Music Ensemble members sang a Sanskrit composition accompanied by the tabla, which enthralled the crowd.


    Nepal – In Memoriam: Exhibit and Fundraiser

    Ongoing exhibit through October 29, 2015 in the CGIS Knafel Concourse, 1737 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA

    “There is no greater sorrow than to recall in misery the time when we were happy.” – Dante Alighieri

    Photographs by Grzegorz Ekiert, Professor of Government, Director of the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies and Senior Scholar at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies

    Closing reception and fundraiser: Thursday, October 29, 5:00 p.m.

    Crowned by eight of the world’s highest mountains, Nepal is a very special place. Its capital, Kathmandu, is a living museum that is home to ancient, yet still very vital cultures. Today’s city encompasses three historic towns of the Kathmandu Valley – Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur. Their palaces and temples, built by many generations of Newari craftsmen, are unique treasures of world architecture and art. The city’s three Durbar Squares and its sacred places of worship, the Hindu temple of Pashupati and the Buddhist stupas of Swayambhu and Bauddhanath, are all UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Each day there begins and ends with prayer as it has been for centuries.

    The recent devastating earthquake killed thousands of Nepalese. Tens of thousands more were injured and made homeless. Many of the city’s magnificent buildings and places of worship were destroyed or seriously damaged. Nepal needs our generosity and assistance to help its people to rebuild their lives and restore the country’s historical heritage.

    This exhibit is designed to raise funds for SAI’s Nepal Research and Reconstruction Fund, which provides support for projects in Nepal developed in partnership with local organizations, with a focus on Nepal’s long-term reconstruction.

    Sponsored by the Harvard University Asia Center, the South Asia Institute, the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies, the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, and the Korea Institute


    To purchase photos:

    If you would like to purchase a photo to support the fundraiser, please fill out this Google Form.


    Small prints: $60 (framed: $120)

    Large prints: $200 (framed: $500)

    Please note: The photos will be shipped unframed, at the buyer’s expense. They are printed on museum-quality paper by Digital Silver Imaging. If you would like to purchase a framed photo, you can pick it up at the closing reception event on October 29.

    Photo gallery (Photos 88 through 95 are large prints, the rest are small prints):

      Sept 22 – Sept. 25: Rahul Roy Film Festival

      Cosponsored with the Department of South Asian StudiesHarvard Asia Center, Political Anthropology Working Group, The Sensory Ethnography Lab, and The Film Study Center

      Tuesday, September 22
      When Four Friends Meet & Majma
      4:00pm – 6:00pm, CGIS South, S010, 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA

      Wednesday, September 23
      The City Beautiful
      Q+A with Rahul Roy
      4:00pm – 5:30pm, Yenching Auditorium, 2 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge, MA

      Thursday, September 24
      Till We Meet Again Screening &
      Panel on Masculinity and Gender Violence in South Asia
      Geeta Aiyer, Founder, Direct Action for Women Now Worldwide (DAWN)
      Elora Halim Chowdhury, Associate Professor and Chair of Women’s and Gender Studies, U-Mass Boston
      Beena Sarwar, Editor, Aman ki Asha, Jang Group Pakistan; former Nieman Fellow and Fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Harvard Kennedy School
      Rahul Roy, Director
      Chair: Parimal G. Patil, Professor of Religion and Indian Philosophy, Committee on the Study of Religion, FAS, Chair of the Department of South Asian Studies
      4:00pm – 6:30pm, Yenching Auditorium, 2 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge, MA

      Friday, September 25
      The Factory Screening and Q&A with Rahul Roy
      Rahul Roy, Director
      Chair: Shankar Ramaswami, Lecturer on South Asian Studies, Harvard University
      4:00pm – 7:00pm, CGIS South, S010, 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA

        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 Gupta RingwalaPhD 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.