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April 16: Kumbh Mela: Mapping the Ephemeral Megacity Book Launch and Exhibition

Kumbh Mela: Mapping the Ephemeral Megacity Book Launch and Exhibition


Thursday, April 16, 4:00 pm
Harvard University Loeb House

Over fifty Harvard professors, students, administrative staff, and medical practitioners made the pilgrimage to Allahabad, India, to the Kumbh Mela site in 2013, to analyze issues that emerge in any large-scale human gathering. The Kumbh Mela: Mapping the Ephemeral MEGACITY book and exhibition consolidate research findings and serve as an example of interdisciplinary research conducted at Harvard.

Welcome: Tarun KhannaDirector, Harvard South Asia Institute; Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor, Harvard Business School

Remarks: Drew FaustPresident and Lincoln Professor of History, Harvard University

Panel Discussion: One Harvard: Working Across Disciplines

Diana EckProfessor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies, FAS; Member of the Faculty of Divinity, Harvard Divinity School

Tarun KhannaDirector, Harvard South Asia Institute; Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor, Harvard Business School

Jennifer LeaningFrançois-Xavier Bagnoud Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Director, FXB Center for Health and Human Rights

Rahul MehrotraProfessor of Urban Planning and Design and Chair of the Department of Urban Planning and Design, Harvard Graduate School of Design

Reception and book sale to follow.

Space is limited. Please RSVP to Meghan Smith,


This book launch and exhibit are in conjunction with SAI’s Annual Symposium ‘South Asia: Local Solutions with Global Impact.’ Visit the conference website for more information and to register for the two day event

    Annual Symposium: April 16 and 17, 2015

    The 2015 Annual Symposium will bring together scholars and practitioners for a series of workshops on SAI’s ongoing research projects.

    The symposium will also see the launch of an exhibit and book on Mapping the Ephemeral City: Kumbh Mela 2013, SAI’s flagship multiyear, multi-school research project on the world’s largest religious festival that occurs every twelve years, lasts 55 days, and draws millions of visitors to a temporary, purpose-built tent city on the banks of the Ganges and Yamuna.

    Go to the conference website.

    All events take place at the Loeb House, 17 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA 02138


    Thursday, April 16, 2015

    10:00 – 12:00 pmMobile Technology to Access Healthcare Services – Case Studies from the Global South

    Satchit Balsari, Cornell Weill and Harvard FXB Center for Health and Human Rights
    Tarun Khanna, South Asia Institute, Harvard Business School
    Nathan Sigworth, PharmaSecure

    Great strides have been made in the field of global health and medicine. Yet, common challenges in the developing world remain. Lack of access to basic health care in indigenous and rural communities, low expenditure on research and development, and rising instances of epidemics have become a pressing cause of concern. Mobile technology, with its wide reach and lower costs, maybe the panacea to these common global health challenges. This workshop will present innovative mobile technology solutions from South Asia to improve access to affordable health care, in a comparative context with solutions other regions in the global south. The speakers will also discuss transferability of knowledge and technology and what it would take for countries to implement these solutions at scale.

    1:00 – 3:00 pm: Role of South Asian Arts in Education

    Jinah Kim, Faculty of Arts and Sciences
    Mukti Khaire,  Harvard Business School
    Megan Panzano, Harvard Graduate School of Design
    Doris Sommer, Faculty of Arts and Sciences

    SAI’s new Arts Initiative will focus on training mid-career museum directors, curators, museology students, and artists on conservation and preservation in South Asia.

    4:00 – 4:30 pm: Mapping the Ephemeral City: Kumbh Mela 2013 Book and Exhibit Launch

    Remarks by Drew Faust, President of Harvard University, Lincoln Professor of History

    4:30 – 5:30 pm: One Harvard: Working Across Disciplines

    Diana Eck, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard Divinity School
    Tarun Khanna, South Asia Institute, Harvard Business School
    Jennifer Leaning, FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, Harvard School of Public Health
    Rahul Mehrotra, Harvard Graduate School of Design
    Faculty leaders will discuss lessons learned from the Kumbh Mela project,  an example of sophisticated cross school research, documented in the publication Mapping the Ephemeral City: Kumbh Mela 2013.

    5:30 – 6:30 pm: Mapping the Ephemeral City Reception and Exhibit



    Friday, April 17, 2015

    10:15 – 12:15 pm: Water and Poverty in Urban Slums

    Sharmila Murthy, Suffolk University;  Harvard Kennedy School
    Ramnath Subbaraman, Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Partners for Urban Knowledge, Action, and Research (PUKAR), Mumbai, India

    For a rapidly urbanizing South Asia with competing – and often conflicting – demands for water, which problems, when addressed, have the greatest potential to make an impact? Building on our 2014 SAI Symposium panel Water from SAARC to Slums, we will focus on the challenges of expanding water access in urban slums. Who bears the burden, at what cost, and at what scale?  For example, in Mumbai, 55% of the city’s 12 million people live in slums with poor water access, but women and children bear the disproportionate burden of water poverty.  The complexity of urban water access is influenced by a range of contextual and contingent factors including the legal exclusion of large populations from the city water supply, the role of informal water vendors (i.e., the “water mafia”), the challenges of aging and inadequate infrastructure, and the disconnect between cost, price, and value of water.  Drawing on case studies of urban water poverty from South Asia and other regions, we seek to engage the panelists — and the audience — in a conversation about how to diagnose, characterize, and intervene to address water poverty in urban slums.

    1:15 – 3:15 pm: Mental Health and Disasters

    Ruth Barron, Harvard Medical School
    Jennifer Leaning, Harvard FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, Harvard School of Public Health
    Saadia Quraishy, Aman Foundation
    John Torous, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School

    Given the high volume of trauma and the likelihood of increased exposure to major disasters in South Asia, senior decision makers and first responders need specific training. Due to their extremely high levels of stress, there is a tremendous amount of turnover among crucial emergency personnel. This creates a knowledge gap in proper response methods, which increases the risk of psychological trauma and mental health distress in emergency and disaster response situations.

    Using examples from their work, panelists will discuss the acquisition of knowledge about the emotional impacts of overwhelming events, research on acute disasters around the world and how do you address people’s mental and physical health in such situations. How can recent developments in mobile mental health tools help with rapid response in disaster situations? The workshop will look at research and practice from other parts of the world that could be effective and relevant in South Asia.

      Highlights from the India Conference at Harvard

      The annual India Conference at Harvard was held on March 7th and 8th at the Harvard Kennedy School and the Harvard Business School. The conference hosted over 100 speakers and more than 600 guests. The theme of the conference, India’s Path to Global Leadership, included panels that covered a range of topics from healthcare to education to investing and finance.

      Saturday, March 7th kicked off with a keynote address on the role of New Politics in the Age of New Media with ex-chief minister of Maharashtra, Prithvi Raj Chavan and Ram Madhav, National General Secretary of the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP). Other keynotes on Saturday included Kiran Bedi, Rahul Bose, and Renana Jhabvala of SEWA Bharat.

      Sunday, March 8th, started with an engaging keynote address by Sajjan Jindal, Chairman and Managing Director of JSW Group, moderated by Tarun Khanna, the Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor at the Harvard Business School and Director of the Harvard South Asia Institute. The day was filled with a number of exciting panels and closed with a keynote by R. Gopalakrishnan of Tata Sons. (Photos on homepage and SAI newsletter by Shripad Kanaskar.)

      SAI Student Coordinator Divya Sooryakumar, Ed. M Candidates, International Education Policy, Harvard Graduate School of Education, took over SAI’s Instagram account for the weekend. See highlights below:

        Pakistan from crisis to crisis

        By Mehjabeen Zameer, M.Ed Candidate in International Education Policy, Harvard Graduate School of Education; SAI Student Coordinator

        Jahangir, left, with Arthur Klenman, Jennifer Leaning, and Asad Ahmed

        On Wednesday, March 4, renowned Pakistani human rights activist Asma Jahangir, spoke about the state of Pakistan moving from one crisis to another at the Harvard Asia Center’s Tsai Lecture in a talk titled ‘Pakistan: From Crisis to Crisis.

        Q+A with Asma Jahangir

        She highlighted efforts that needed to be taken to bring Pakistan out of this series of crises: redefining the foreign policy enabling the state to become a part of the international community, marginalizing the military establishment and strengthening the legal system of the state.

        The event was moderated by Professor Arthur Kleinman, Director of the Harvard University Asia Center with Professor Asad Ahmed from the Department of Anthropology and Professor Jennifer Leaning from the Harvard School of Public Health participating as discussants.

        Ms. Jahangir started off her talk by briefly touching upon the reasons that had led to Pakistan moving from one crisis to another, with the primary concern being the lack of consensus about the basic political direction the country must take. There exists confusion in the country about whether it is an Islamic state or not.

        Ms. Jahangir made the case that if all that united the people in Pakistan was religion, then the state would have been able to retain East Pakistan, not marginalized Balochistan, or would have had better relations with other Muslim countries. Moreover, the strategic position of the country in the world had made the country a target of negative interventions. Strong leadership was needed by Pakistan to define the nature of the state and negotiate with the world with dignity and equality.

        After this brief overview of Pakistan’s crisis situation, Ms. Jahangir presented her perspective on whether the country had the chance to get better. She made the case that based on the dysfunctional way the state had been functioning, things should have been much worse. All credit for this went to the committed civil society in Pakistan, which, even though less vibrant than it had been in the past, still had a presence.

        Ms. Jahangir commended the civil society for making itself economically viable through help from each other, despite no help from the state. She urged the civil society today to further rejuvenate itself and regain the spirit of the past by throwing off the “iron cap” of religion and nationality being forced on it by the state. Furthermore, she stressed the need for increasing tolerance of diversity and breaking the mindset of thinking that diversity of any form threatened survival.

        Speaking about the human rights situation in Pakistan, Miss Jahangir said that the situation had gotten better, but new challenges had emerged. Hundreds of young men had been picked up by the security forces in Balochistan, with some having been returned after being brutally tortured. She mentioned the indoctrination of state institutions against the Baloch as they had been against East Pakistanis in the past.Moreover, she stated that the state had forgotten that arbitrary detention, which thousands had undergone in Swat, was against the law.

        She went on to highlight the injustices against women, in the form of honor killings, by asking the audience to think about what the media was not telling people. However, Ms. Jahangir stated that in some cases the judiciary had made oppression less painful. In the case of the blasphemy law, the parliament had approved it, but the judiciary stepped in and hence, more people had not been convicted.

        Overall, the lecture presented Asma Jahangir’s argument that in Pakistan, there was a state within a state. She stressed the need for greater clarity about the nature of the Pakistani state. The lecture was followed by comments by Professor Asad Ahmed on the need for a pluralistic analyses of crisis, and by Professor Jennifer Leaning on the threadbare state of Pakistan after the partition in 1947.

          Mar. 13: Understanding the Changing Indian Voter with Milan Vaishnav

          Understanding the Changing Indian Voter


          A lecture by Milan Vaishnav, associate in the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, as part of the South Asian Politics seminar series

          Friday, March 13, 2:00 P.M.

          Harvard University
          CGIS Knafel Building, Room K354
          1737 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

          This seminar series is co-sponsored by the Watson Institute at Brown University, the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University and the MIT Center for International Studies