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Spring 2015 courses with SAI Fellows

SAI’s current South Asian Studies Fellow, Anand Vaidya, and former Fellow, Shankar Ramaswami, will be teaching courses in the spring 2015 term in the South Asian Studies department. Here is a preview:


South Asian Studies 188: South Asian Political Ecology (New Course)

Instructor: Anand Vaidya, SAI South Asian Studies Fellow

Meetings: Spring 2015, Wednesdays, 3-5 pm

Despite great efforts, scientists and activists have found themselves unable to bring about political changes that might reverse environmental degradation. This degradation has been caused by humans, but humans have not able to stop the processes behind it. South Asia is exceptionally vulnerable to the effects of environmental degradation and critical to any global solutions to it. This seminar examines case studies of environmental politics in South Asia to explore fundamental questions about human agency and historical change, to understand how the environment is understood, why efforts to prevent its degradation have failed, and to explore interventions that might succeed

Course iSite

Co-taught by Ajantha Subramanian, Professor, Social Anthropology Program, Harvard University  



South Asian Studies 196: Capitalism and Cosmology in Modern India

Instructor: Shankar Ramaswami, Lecturer on South Asian Studies, Department of South Asian Studies, former SAI South Asian Studies Fellow

Meetings: Spring 2015, Wednesdays, 1-3 pm, One Bow Street, Room 330

This course will explore the lives, politics, and cosmologies of working-class persons in modern India. The course will examine contemporary debates on globalization, development, and ecology; workers’ experiences of factory work, informality, and agitations; and workers’ religious practices, theologies, and cosmological visions. Core concerns of the course will include inquiries into the appropriate categories for understanding workers’ lives and visions, and the possibilities for autonomous, nonviolent politics among working people in India. The course will draw upon a range of sources, including anthropology, history, religious studies, epics, and Hindi cinema.

Note: Offered jointly with the Divinity School as 3529.

Course iSite.




South Asian Studies 193. Class and the City in Indian Cinema (New Course)

Instructor: Shankar Ramaswami, Lecturer on South Asian Studies, Department of South Asian Studies, former SAI South Asian Studies Fellow

For Undergraduates and Graduates

Meetings: Spring 2015, Mondays, 1-3 pm

This course will examine imaginaries and understandings of class and cities in Indian cinema. How are struggles for earnings and mobility in the city – of migrants, workers, and middle classes – represented in Indian cinema? In what ways is the city viewed as a space of ethical deviations and compromises? How does class shape experiences of friendship, family, and erotic love? What visions of politics, justice, and hope arise in Indian cinema? The course will explore these questions in commercial, art, and documentary films (in Bengali, Hindi, and Marathi, with English subtitles), along with readings in history, anthropology, and cinema studies. Screenings will include films by Satyajit Ray, Guru Dutt, Raj Kapoor, Yash Chopra, Muzaffar Ali, and Anand Patwardhan.

Course iSite



    Contribute to SAI’s blog!

    SAI’s blog welcomes submissions from Harvard students, faculty, alumni, and affiliates on an array of topics pertaining to South Asia.

    Take a look at some past posts:


    Interested in contributing? Email Meghan Smith, SAI Communications Coordinator,

      2015 Student Winter Grant Recipients

      SAI has awarded 18 grants to support undergraduate and graduate student projects over the Winter Session in January, 2015. These include 6 undergraduates and 12 graduate students who will be traveling to India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka for research and internships.

      The projects cover topics from many disciplines, for example: Using microfinance to alleviate poverty, sustainable housing, the “Islamization” of Divorce Law in Pakistan, vernacular literature of Indian Christians, changing education in the third world countries using cheap computing devices, and internships at health ministries in Sri Lanka.

      Graduate Students

      Arthur  Bauer, MPA-ID, Harvard Kennedy School
      Assessing microfinance’s effectiveness in alleviating poverty, India

      Jeffrey Bryant, MPP/MBA, Harvard Kennedy School/Harvard Business School
      January Term Research Position with HKS Evidence for Policy Design (EPoD) India Team, India

      Ishani Desai, MPA-ID, Harvard Kennedy School
      Understanding the factors that influence adoption: A study on menstrual practices and sanitary pad adoption in Gujarat, India

      Hardeep Dhillon, PhD, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
      Research project seeks to retrieve the history of the women’s movement in the 1970’s through the collection of oral histories. Following the guidelines established by the Oral History Association, Dhillon intends to interview prominent members of the 1970’s women’s movement, India

      Joshua Ehrlich, History, PhD, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
      The East India Company and the Politics of Knowledge, 1772-1835, India

      Michael Haggerty, M.Arch 1, Graduate School of Design
      Vernacular Construction for Urban Housing: New Structures for Architectural Practice to Deliver Sustainable Housing in Bangladesh

      Madiha Irfan, MTS. Harvard Divinity School
      Debates over the “Islamization” of Divorce Law in Pakistan

      Rakesh Peter Dass, Th.D., Harvard Divinity School
      Why Hindi? Translation Choices and Vernacular Literature Among Indian Christians, India

      Jonathan Phillips, PhD,Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
      Who Implements Programmatic Education Policies? Researching Surprising Patterns in Indian States, India

      Sarika Ringwala, PhD in Public Policy
      Empowering Citizens Through Service Delivery Reforms, India

      Divya Sooryakumar, Ed. M, Harvard Graduate School of Education
      Creating an SMS-based solution to an information gap for mothersto enhance their early childhood education and development practices for infants through the first 3 years of their lives, India

      Hector Tarrido Picart, MAUD & MLA, Graduate School of Design
      Remote Sensing Mumbai, India

      Maria Qazi, MPA-ID, Harvard Kennedy School
      Social protection and state legitimacy – the Case of Benazir Income Support Program



      Chesley Ekelem, Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and Health Policy, Harvard College ‘16
      Internship with St. Jude ChildCare Centres, Mumbai, India

      Angela Leocata, Harvard College ’18
      Little Stars Internship to Develop English and Writing Program, Varanasi, India

      Fei (Michelle) Lin, Human Developmental and Regenerative Bio, Harvard College ‘17
      Internship at Heal Asia’s inaugural project – Sri Lanka Medical Relief Program, Sri Lanka Ministry of Health, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka

      Jacqueline Ma, Human Developmental and Regenerative Bio and East Asian Studies, Harvard College ’16
      Internship at HealAsia, Sri Lanka Ministry of Health, Colombo, Sri Lanka

      Tarik Adnan Moon, Mathematics and Computer Science, Harvard College ‘15
      Research on changing education in the third world countries using cheap computing devices, Dhaka, Bangladesh

      Ishani Premaratne, Anthropology and Health Policy, Harvard College ’15
      Work on GrowLanka and completion of partnership with Sri Lankan Youth Ministry, Vavuniya, Sri Lanka


      Read the SAI 2014 Student Grant Report

        Thank you!




























        This Thanksgiving, the South Asia Institute would like to thank our supporters all over the world and at Harvard, without whom we would not be able to fulfill our mission of advancing and deepening research on global issues in South Asia:

        2 visiting fellows

        3 Research Affiliates

        4 finance administrators

        student coordinators

        9 staff members, including 4 in South Asia

        19 South Asia-related student groups at Harvard

        19 Advisory Council members

        20 faculty Steering Committee members

        21 Harvard faculty who have lead SAI seminars or research projects this semester

        1,098 Twitter followers

        1,166 people who have attended SAI events so far this semester

        2,148 Facebook fans

        And all of the staff who make our events possible!

          SAI hosts Grants Open House

          Vineet Diwadkar, GSD, talks about his “Modeling Mumbai” project

          On Wednesday, November 19, SAI hosted its annual Summer Grants Opportunities Open House at Harvard. For students with an interest in pursuing opportunities in South Asia, this event was a unique chance for them to engage with previous grant recipients, internship site representatives, and SAI staff, to learn more about potential possibilities for in-region experiences.

          The event kicked off with Program Manager Nora Maginn walking students through the nuts and bolts of applying for a SAI grantDivya Sooryakumar, HGSE, SAI Student Services Intern, then shared some examples of the diverse internship site opportunities available to students, ranging from engineering and design internships to curriculum design projects.

          The attendees then had the opportunity to hear from three internship site representatives: Ryan Draft from the Harvard-Bangalore Science Initiative, Shaun Jayachandran, Founder of the Education Non-Profit Organization, Crossover Basketball, and Myriam Zuber of the FXB Center, a human-rights advocacy campaign.

          The highlight of the evening was hearing from three 2014 grant recipients, Brenna McDuffie, Ian Maccormack and Vineet Diwadkar, who shared their diverse experiences from a SAI grant. Brenna, a senior at Harvard College, spent her summer in a Hindi immersion program in Jaipur, Rajasthan and was able to push her language skills to the next level. Ian Maccormack, a PhD candidate at GSAS shared his journey through Northern India and Nepal to recover ancient Buddhist texts for his dissertation research. Vineet Diwadkar, a master’s candidate at GSD, shared his project, “Modeling Mumbai”, an examination of the inherent tension between low-income housing and the demand for real estate in Mumbai.

          All of the grant recipients repeatedly highlighted the value of the opportunity to be in the region enriching their respective fields of study, research and projects. The event highlighted the diversity of projects, approaches, and interest areas that SAI supports.

          Read: SAI 2014 Student Grant Report


          -Divya Sooryakumar, HGSE, SAI Student Services Intern