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News Category: Announcements

Harvard’s New “Embassy” in India


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The Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute’s (SAI) new India office, in the heart of the beautiful Lutyens-designed part of New Delhi, has officially opened, marking a new era of Harvard’s direct engagement with the region.

“Harvard would not be what it is if it was not capable of attracting the best brains from all over the world,” said Mark Elliott, Vice Provost for International Affairs and the Mark Schwartz Professor of Chinese and Inner Asian History, to the Times of India newspaper last week. “We intend to create a small embassy at the institute, which will help the students and researchers to study at Harvard.”

Professor Elliott officially inaugurated the new office on Friday, March 16, 2018. In his speech, he made it clear that a greater regional presence is vital for the university’s future scholarship:

“We believe that our Delhi office will enable us to grow our collaborations with Indian academic and cultural institutions, contribute to the development of outstanding research across the sciences, social sciences, and the arts and humanities, and further strengthen our already close ties with numerous Harvard alumni who live in India and across South Asia.”

Dozens of Harvard alumni attended the event, thanks to the Harvard Alumni Association’s tireless efforts to bring people together and maintain these valuable networks. Harvard historian and Indian Member of Parliament Professor Sugata Bose, SAI Executive Director Meena Hewett and SAI India Country Director Dr. Sanjay Kumar were also present.

It generated wide coverage in the Indian media, too, in major publications like the Hindustan Times, Financial Express and the aforementioned Times of India.
In the first event since the Delhi office’s opening, SAI Faculty Director Tarun Khanna, Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor at Harvard Business School, will speak on April 5, 2018, about the institute’s commitment to studying and researching all aspects of South Asia, alongside its productive partnerships with major Indian institutions in the arts, social entrepreneurship, and life sciences.
“Our presence continues to grow in South Asia – with a new SAI flagship office just opened in Delhi – as well as our strong connections to the diaspora in the US and beyond,” he said, recently. “With the infrastructure in place, we have the experience to do extraordinary inter-disciplinary research and produce valuable knowledge that will shape future scholarship in diverse fields as well as influence contemporary policy.”



Second Annual Crossroads Emerging Leaders Program

Harvard professors will welcome 70 first-generation college students from Africa, the Middle East and South Asia to the Second Annual Crossroads Emerging Leaders Program in Dubai, a unique, fully-funded career development opportunity for accomplished, ambitious young people who have already had to overcome significant barriers to higher education. 

During the pilot program in 2017, 50 students engaged with each other and faculty through the renowned Harvard Business School case-study method of teaching and learning, exposing them to real, contemporary business scenarios. Executives from leading private and publicly-owned multinational companies visited the classroom to interact with students and offer their invaluable wisdom and experience.  

The successful cohort of 2017 included a young woman from a city in Pakistan with the country’s lowest female literacy rate. An Indian student had  worked as a garbage collector to pay his school fees.

The 2018 program will see a larger, even more diverse group of students exposed to a greater variety of disciplines within Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics (STEAM), business and leadership.

Harvard faculty leading the program include Tarun Khanna, SAI Director and Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor, Harvard Business School; and Karim R. Lakhani, Charles E. Wilson Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School, co-director of the Laboratory for Innovation Science at Harvard, and the faculty co-founder of the HBS Digital Initiative. 

Crossroads Program, 2017

The program will cover the costs of international travel, board, lodging and class  materials, for students who are the first in their families to attend college and may also be facing challenging financial and social circumstances that discourage them from applying to postgraduate schools. 

Crossroads is organized in partnership with the Harvard Business School Club of the Gulf Cooperation Council, with the support of  DIFC, Air Arabia, the Dubai Future Accelerator and  Expo 2020.

For more information, please contact or visit The Crossroads website. 


SAI Hosts Four Artists from Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and India


SAI is pleased to announce our 2018 Visiting Artists, who will be at Harvard from mid-March to mid-May. During their time at Harvard, the artists will display their work on campus, meet with students, attend courses, and give public seminars.

Check back on our site for details about the seminars and exhibition.


Imran Channa, Pakistan

Imran Channa’s art practice interrogates the intersection between power and knowledge. His primary focus is on the documentation and dissemination of historical narratives and events. He explores how fabricated narratives can override our collective memory to shape individual and social consciousness and alter human responses. His work draws attention to the instruments of documentation, highlighting how photography, archeology, and literature record, frame and manufacture history. He is interested in how these modes pervert knowledge and the construction of consciousness.

Images of the 1947 partition of Pakistan and India are the central motifs of his practice. He reworks historical images to forge new narratives, relocate historical truth, and interrogate the influence of subjectivity. Photographs are often the only ways of retracing the past for subsequent generations who did not experience events first-hand. They are paradoxical — containing the capacity to understand fact as well as create fiction.


Rajyashri Goody, India and England

Rajyashri Goody’s art practice revolves around the complexities of identity seen through the lens of larger social, political, economic, and religious structures at play, and consequently the tug between power and resistance that manifests itself within minority communities. Her interests lie within the interpretation of caste in India, particularly the strengthening voice of Dalit resistance since the 1920s. Caste-based discrimination is still very much alive in both urban and rural India, with crimes against Dalits such as rape, murder, beatings, and violence related to land matters committed approximately every 18 minutes. Yet, as Sharmila Rege put it, there is an “‘official forgetting’ of histories of caste oppression, struggles, and resistance.”

Goody’s aim as an artist is to contest this “official forgetting” by drawing out both political and personal Dalit narratives and weaving them together to reflect upon everyday acts of resistance in the current sociopolitical climate of India. Her artworks, whether they take the form of installations, photography, or more recently, text and ceramics, often result from a series of conversations and interviews. One of her ongoing projects incorporates Dalit autobiographies, which contain vivid and complex descriptions of food, cooking, eating, and hunger. She highlights and recycles their extracts on food to create “recipes” from their own words, compiling a cookbook of sorts as an ode to everyday resistance and an act of resistance itself against “official forgetting.”


Kabi Raj Lama, Nepal

Kabi Raj Lama is a contemporary printmaker based in Kathmandu, who primarily works with lithography and the Japanese mokuhanga (woodcut) medium. His work examines themes of natural disasters, trauma, and religion. Lama sees the complexities of natural disasters as multidimensional — affecting both tangible and intangible worlds.

Kabi’s exhibition, “From Kathmandu to Tokyo” in 2014 reveals the trauma of his experience in Japan where he witnessed and lived through the catastrophic tsunami that struck Japan in 2011. The artist’s decision to work with woodcut medium on traditional Lokta paper served as a cathartic experience. The motifs in this series were inspired by the wreckage and havoc created by the tsunami, as well as the Fukushima radiation that destroyed cities, and took away uncountable lives on land and sea.

In 2016, Kabi Raj was away from his home at residencies in Germany and China, when the Great Earthquakes struck Nepal in 2015. The earthquakes killed 8,686, injured 16,808, rendered thousands homeless, and leveled heritage monuments and places of worship. Kabi’s prints made while in Germany and China are poignant narratives of memory and loss. His work explores what the earthquakes destroyed as well as what they revealed. One source of inspiration for Lama was the hidden sculptures from the inner sanctums of Kasthamandap, which the earthquake exposed to the public when the building came down. For one of Lama’s ongoing projects, he recently traveled to the Everest Region in an effort to capture the moment of the earthquake at the world highest peak. He prepared and carved wooden boards from which he has created several editions of prints.


Faiham Ebra Sharif, Bangladesh

Faiham Ebra Sharif is a freelance multimedia journalist and photographer, who has several years of experience working as a reporter, newsroom editor and presenter in national electronic media. Sharif’s areas of research include colonialism, climate change, ethnic minorities, film, human rights, indigenous people, labor rights, migration, popular culture, refugees, Rohingya crisis, sports, tea industry and underprivileged children. He is involved with different cultural and political movements. Through his visual narratives and journalism, Sharif explores the lived-experiences of marginalized people both in South Asia and globally.

His current project, Cha Chakra: Tea Tales of Bangladesh sheds light on the plight of the tea garden workers of Bangladesh who are among the lowest paid and most vulnerable laborers in the world yet are strangely invisible to the global media. Currently, the project concentrates on labor rights and conditions within Bangladesh’s tea industry, which are a direct result of a long history of colonialism and oppression. This project aims to collect the undocumented history of the global tea industry through photography, oral histories, and archival materials. While at Harvard, Sharif plans to continue his archival research and collect materials related to the global tea industry from Harvard’s libraries and museums. He will also photograph the tea culture in USA and spread awareness about the phenomenon though public events and publications.

Other ongoing projects include Rohingya: The Stateless People, The Fantasy Is More Filmic than Fictional: Bangladesh Film Industry and Life in Progress: People Living with HIV.



“Epistemology is the Key to Tribes’ Emancipation”

Raile Rocky Ziipao


Raile Rocky Ziipao is the 2017-2018 Arvind Raghunathan and Sribala Subramanian South Asia Visiting Fellow at SAI. His research interest includes frontier’s highways, the political economy of Indigenous/Tribal/Adivasi peoples development, critical infrastructure studies, philosophy of Indigenous methodology (perspective from within), and an alternative path to modernity.

In an interview with SAI, Raile Rocky Ziipao discusses the importance of his research and initiatives regarding infrastructure in Tribal-dominated areas.

Ziipao will give a seminar on his research titled “The Question of Tribes in Northeast India,” Thursday, March 29, 2018.


How did you first become interested in infrastructure development?

My research project began in my home village of Purul. During monsoons, the roads are not drivable and electricity is so irregular that in some places, there are electric poles with no wires. People have to climb to the top of the mountain for cell service. To get to school, students have to walk for miles. When I go to other parts of the country, the infrastructure is much better. I began to wonder why roads and electricity are so bad in Tribal-dominated areas.

In the sensitive social and political context of India’s border and frontier region, it is crucial to research the impact of infrastructure development on ecosystems, communities, and livelihood. For this reason, I wrote my Ph.D. thesis on infrastructure development and social dynamics in Manipur. My dissertation examines the dynamics of infrastructure development in order to gain a comprehensive understanding of how the state of India plans, executes and politicizes infrastructure. My analysis gives primacy to infrastructure within the development discourse in Northeast India and provides a basis to understand the issues of access, inclusion, equity, and social justice.


What is the importance of roads in your current research?

My current research explores how road development and territorialization take place in Northeast India. One track of my research examines British Colonialism from a historical perspective and asks why the British built roads during the Colonial period? How do roads and colonization take place together?  How did the Tribes form a resistance effort when the British were encroaching upon them?  

Roads are political paths; the development of roads is entwined with the extractions of natural resources and political control of Tribal Areas. My research examines both contemporary and historical road development projects in Tribal areas. I draw connections between the legacies of Colonialism to the Indian state’s development approach. Roads for territorial expansion and resource extraction were the core agenda of the colonial project. The post-colonial Indian state, on the other hand, built roads in the region for securing the borders, promoting regional integration, and linking external markets.

Road development in Northeast India focuses on national highways and transnational highways, ignoring feeder and village roads. Budgetary allocations for village roads are very small. One of my case studies was the so-called Frontiers Highway, which borders China; and the Trans-lateral Highway, which connects India, Myanmar, and Thailand. These highways, in a way, bypass the local economy and local people.

Another case study is of the People’s road, which the Manipur government has ignored for more than 30 years. However, the community used social media to recruit help. With active community participation, they built 100km of the road without any government support, successfully connecting three states in India: Manipur, Nagaland, and Assam.


What are some of the challenges that Tribal Societies in India face today?

Tribes are at the bottom of any social development indicators in India. Tribal people make up 8.6 percent of the total Indian population (104.3 million people). My research utilizes epistemology to examine how India’s dominant framework centers on Caste Societies and theorizes Tribal Societies as the periphery. The dominant framework does not explain the social reality of Tribes. From 1951 to 1990, development projects such as wildlife sanctuaries and dams have displaced 21 million people in Tribal areas. The caste society decides everything for the non-caste society, which explains why they are at the bottom of all social indicators — such as literacy and infant mortality.

Tribes in India have a social structure, which is different from that of so-called mainstream society. Tribes are the non-caste society in India: A category opposed to that of caste, which is a pervasive feature of the larger Indian society. However, Tribes are not a homogenous category. The 2011 census categorizes 705 individual ethnic groups as Scheduled Tribes in India, some with populations as big as 1 million and some with less than 1,000. Tribes are also diverse in terms of culture, traditions, and value systems. While formulating development policy, the challenge on the part of the Indian state is to provide space for synchronizing Tribal peoples’ lived experience, their traditional institutions, and value systems along with the modern values of equality, justice, freedom, fraternity, mutual respect, emancipation, and non-discrimination. Development policy conceptualized and based on the premise of population size and dominant culture has further escalated the tension and development disparity between dominant societies and those living at the margin of history, economy, and crisis of identity.

While theorizing development, it is essential to problematize the Indian state’s assumption that Tribal destruction and displacement are necessary for national economic growth. This does not mean that Tribes do not want to be part of development. Rather, outside forces should not superimpose development but should align with the ethos of the Tribe.


What is the origin of the Tribal Intellectual collective India?

I belong to the Poumai Naga Tribes, which is located in Northeast India in the state of Manipur. I am part of the Tribal Intellectual Collective India (TICI), which Bodhi SR (national co-convener) initiated a few years ago. The collective has approximately 150 members who come from Tribes across the country from Ladak (border of China), Northeastern States, Andaman and Nicobar Island, Central India; from both small and large tribes; and a balance between male and female members. 

We draw inspiration from Professor Virginius Xaxa’s theoretical contribution to tribal studies in India. Tribes in India face two waves of Colonialism, what Professor Xaxa calls “double colonialism” — one from the British and one from the non-Tribal Indian population. Hence, the problem of trying to unravel Tribal social reality from the post-colonial framework of South Asian Studies. Tribes still have yet to experience a post-colonial reality. For Tribes, post-colonial reality and framework is just an idea. This is why it makes sense for us to look at the binary of caste and non-caste society, and from the waves of colonialism.

Xaxa argues that “a tribe is a whole society like any other society, with their own language, territory, culture, customs, and so on. Hence, as societies, tribes must be compared with other societies and not with caste, as has been the case in sociological and anthropological writing.”

The TICI’s theoretical framework includes:

  • The need to posit epistemological premises that challenge gender and class stratification within Tribe/Adivasi societies.
  • The need to produce knowledge that does not affirm the further oppression of “Dalit/Mulnivasi” societies.
  • Does not render invisible, silence, or immobilize small tribes/Adivasi societies.
  • While theorizing “development,” do not perpetuate the State’s current “development paradigm,” which frames Tribe/Adivasi displacement and destruction as necessary for national economic growth.

Furthermore, TICI aims to bring Tribal perspectives into focus by creating the theory, “perspective from within.” This theoretical approach acknowledges that everyone has their own way of looking at the world and that everyone has a right to look at and understand their own social reality. This theory is in contrast to dominant societies, who think of their theories as truth and position other perspectives as an expression of their emotions or a political statement. We see that as problematic because we all have perspectives, no one can stake claim to the truth. We acknowledge that we have a perspective, and we try to acknowledge that others have their own perspective.

The collective has a national seminar, this year’s seminar “Tribal Towns, Small Towns, Border Town and New Towns: Governance, Development and Change” will take place in August. We have also published two books, with two forthcoming, and have been successfully running our online publications, known as TICI Journals, for the past five years.


What has it been like for you to be at Harvard?

Harvard’s incredible resources — the classes, professors, academic environment — are very different from what I have experienced. Harvard gives me a space to reflect, take a step backward, and look deeply at the social reality of my home. Harvard also supplies me with academic tools to analyze and compare these different social realities.

When I am in my village, there is no concept of hierarchy. When we have a dialogue, we sit together — when there is a discussion, a decision can take two or three days. There is no stage, and there is no shouting. Because of this, I am non-hierarchical in nature. During my first talk at Harvard, I felt uncomfortable being on the center stage, since it was my first time in such a situation.

I am grateful for the opportunity that SAI has given to me — rarely do Tribals get access to this kind of opportunity. For instance, I am the first generation in my family to have access to higher education. For me, making it to a top-class university like Harvard is significant, and at first, I could not comprehend how I would face it. However, the staff at SAI have been supportive and friendly.

The best part of being at Harvard has been my academic growth and being part of the knowledge production.  TICI argues that epistemology is the key to Tribes’ emancipation. For our movement to be more than reactionary, we need to produce knowledge. For too long, dominant societies have put us within their framework. I contribute towards the collective by publishing in my area of expertise — Tribes and infrastructure development in conflict areas.


You recently gave a talk with the Boston Study Group. What sort of partnerships and collaborations emerged from that talk?

The talk gave me a space to reach out and collaborate with people from other marginalized groups. The Indigenous people from Australia and Central America who came to my talk were shocked that there are 104.3 million Indigenous people in India. The talk gave us a space to learn about each other’s issues. It makes sense to have a global collaboration across groups, for example, The Boston Study group is active with Dalit rights and issues and connects them with Black Lives Matter and Roma people. Historically these are different locations, but there were similar processes of marginalization. In the future, we hope to learn how to widen our horizons of collaboration, regardless of national boundaries.



This conversation has been edited for length and clarity. 

Kabaadiwalas, Caste and Fast-Moving Consumer Goods

Robin Jeffrey and Assa Doron


Assa Doron and Robin Jeffrey just published their book, Waste of a Nation: Garbage and Growth in India, this month with Harvard University Press. The book examines national assets and obstacles for achieving a cleaner India. The authors argue that obstacles that appear unique to India are volume, density, and the caste system. The authors also discuss India’s assets, including old practices of frugality; recycling; global experience and science; and dynamic entrepreneurs, officials, NGOs, and citizens.

In a written interview with SAI, the authors give insight into their book, research, and what India is doing to combat garbage growth.

Assa Doron and Robin Jeffrey will give a book talk at SAI this upcoming Monday, March 19, 2018.


In Waste of a Nation, you focus on India. What are some of the waste management challenges that are unique to India?

In three words, we would say density, volume, and caste. Only Bangladesh, among substantial countries, equals India in population density. Even if India were very heavily rural, its growing population would mean vast amounts of vegetable waste, as well as human and animal excrement each day.

India will be close to 40 percent urban when we see the next census results in 2021, and that population increasingly consumes growing quantities of throwaway products that go with urban and middle-class life.

Finally, caste means that India does not have a tradition as, for example, China, Japan, and the Netherlands once did – of seeing even human waste as a valuable product. The intense revulsion felt in India against things — and people — seen as ritually polluting is very rare elsewhere – and probably unique in its complexity and intensity.

Working with garbage is not a great job anywhere, but in some parts of the world, young people from top universities might take a summer job on the local garbage truck because the pay is not bad and the work is outdoors and without many rules. In India, ideas about caste and ritual purity predispose people to a sense that there are “others” — low-caste people, Dalits — who are destined to deal with tainted things.


Why is it important that a clean new India becomes a model for other parts of the world?
The planet’s population has more than quadrupled since 1900 from about 1.6 billion to more than 7 billion. In addition, a larger percentage of those people now consume more elaborate, energy-needing “stuff.” We are running out of the “stuff” to make things and places to put the “stuff” we do not want any more.

If India can make big strides in creating a more hygienic and sustainable environment, it will demonstrate that significant changes in people’s behavior and attitudes are possible. It will also emphasize the sorts of technologies and incentives that succeed in specific — and difficult — circumstances.


Could you discuss the role of the kabaadiwala in your book?
In India, everyone over 30 has a kabaadiwala story – the bicycle with big bags on the back and the cry of “Ka-baaaa-dee” to let you know the waste-collecting person – or “rag-and-bone man” – is coming to purchase things you might want to get rid of.

Other places had rag-and-bone men but lost the frugal habits of turning disposable things into cash through door-to-door transactions. It lingers in India, and the kabaadiwalas and their networks offer practical, working ways of “recycling.” The trick is to make such practices systematic and to use innovative technologies to deal with the “stuff” that is collected. These days, India has a patchwork of inventive success stories across the country. Now, the question is how do we multiply them and make them comprehensive?


In your book, you discuss the complex relationship between waste and class in India. How do these interplay?
How to measure class has always been controversial. However, the short answer would be that all classes in India consume and excrete to a degree — even the very poor may have a mobile phone, which is a disposable product. Over the last few decades, the penetration of consumer items through the Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) economy has been remarkable. Small sachets of washing powder, biscuits, and pan masala, to name a few, saturate the landscape in some places. The FMCG economy is built on the principle of cheap goods sold in small quantities but in large volumes. It is an economy of scale that, as we know, produces enormous amounts of waste and with little thought about where it would end up.

The more affluent classes generate a different kind of waste, more in line with what is familiar to people in industrialized countries. Urbanization has also turbocharged waste production. A real-estate sector and infrastructure boom generates a lot of construction and demolition debris. This form of waste is often dumped in rivers and floodplains with little consideration of how to deal with it more effectively.


In your book description, you write, “If a clean new India is to emerge as a model for other parts of the world, a “binding morality” that reaches beyond the current environmental crisis will be required.” Could you discuss what you mean by a “binding morality” and how it might be fostered?

By “binding morality,” we mean a readiness of very large numbers of people of different backgrounds to recognize that “we are all in this together” and to treat others as “fellow passengers” rather than “ticketless travelers.”

We appear sometimes to get periods of “binding morality” after a “binding crisis” — a period of extreme danger and discomfort that seems to affect everyone, rich and poor, and that can only be ameliorated by overcoming status distinctions and working for some common goals. The Great Stink in London in 1858 was a “binding crisis.” The Thames stank putridly right underneath parliament, and parliament resolved to build a great sewage network and improve water supplies. In public health terms, these things benefited even the poor. We argue that the so-called “plague outbreak” in Surat in 1994 was a similar “binding crisis,” and led to Surat going from being India’s “dirtiest city” to one of its cleanest.


How does waste affect rural and urban communities differently?
In the old days, most of what rural places had to throw away was biodegradable. Wind, sun, rain, and foraging animals could handle it. Random defecation harmed health, which was not understood, and the important thing was that it was somewhere else — far away from one’s dwelling.

Even in the past, urban life made disposing of things more difficult, and urban life usually brings more “things” with it — packaging, for example, and limits on vacant spaces to defecate.

Today, many villages are part of great, sprawling cities and experiencing similar difficulties. As anyone in the FMCG trade will proudly tell you, disposable products are available everywhere. There are close to two billion mobile phones — dead ones and living ones — somewhere in India today. That is a lot of waste — or a lot of raw material for well-organized, semi-urban kabaadiwalas.


Do you see viable solutions in the near future? What role does (and will) technology play in waste management?
Some remarkable technologies can mitigate aspects of waste. Nevertheless, the danger lies in the attempt to implant single technical and organizational “solutions” that are supposed to work everywhere. Even something as simple as a rural toilet is a bit complicated: What is appropriate in Rajasthan will not work well in Kerala.

One example of new technologies is the work of an Indian scientist and his team at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. They have a process into production that takes discarded plastic, uses the heat from a steel mill to reduce the plastic to its chemical components and reconstitutes these into high-carbon bricks that go to fire the steel mill.

You can make arguments about plastic and carbon, but they are both going to be with us a while. Here is a way of keeping them out of landfills and water bodies, and reducing the need for increased extraction of fossil fuels.


On what scale will initial solutions need to take place? National, municipal or community?
The weight that the BJP government has thrown behind the Swachh Bharat program is important, but the negative side is that it is top-down and target-driven. There is an echo of the disastrous nasbandi (family planning) campaign of Mrs. Gandhi’s 1975-77 “emergency.”

If the national effort of Swachh Bharat is sustained and spends more time and effort on education, demonstration, and follow-up, the program over time will be immensely influential. However, relentless follow-up and demonstration are keys in the medium term.

Sustaining, educating, and following up, will have to be done by local governments, and local government in India is under-powered and under-valued. Huge expectations are placed on local governments that lack experienced, dedicated people, partly because the funds are not there to train and reward them fittingly. For most up-and-coming officers, local-government duty is something you do on the way to something else. But local government, and its connections with citizens, whether as NGOs or individual families, are crucial elements in the success of Swachh Bharat, because much of the day-to-day work falls on them.


How did the two of you collaborate to write this book? Could you describe your process of research and working together?
Assa is an anthropologist. Robin was trained as a historian but worked most of his career in a department called “Politics” — not “Government” and not “Political Science.” Our backgrounds are very different, but they seem to complement each other. We both were admirers of the work of Anthony Low and Barney Cohn — trying to bring the skills of anthropology together with the historical foundations on which people build their lives.

The way we have done research is like this: We broadly agree on things we need to know, and then we burrow away like truffle-hounds in areas of our expertise and write up our findings. Then we play ping-pong, sending fragments back and forth for the other one to work on, question, or cry out in horror. Then, a skeleton of the chapters begins to suggest itself, and we move the main bones around a lot; perhaps we are a pair of wannabe Dr. Frankensteins. However, we hope this book, and the one we did on mobile phones, do not end up in the horror section of the library.


Full List of Events to Celebrate Opening of SAI Office in New Delhi

The Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute (SAI), Harvard University, is officially opening its new India headquarters in New Delhi. Throughout 2018 and beyond, leading scholars from South Asia-related fields are delivering a series of free public lectures in Delhi, and the new SAI HQ marks a new era of Harvard faculty and students directly engaging with the region, gaining invaluable insights and experience by committing time and resources in South Asia.


Full List of Events in March and April:

Thursday, March 8
1947 Partition of British India
Professor Uma Chakravarti, Historian
Urvashi Butalia, Author, and Publisher

6:00-7:30 PM
Seminar Hall 1,
Kamla Devi Complex, IIC, N. Delhi


Friday, March 16
The Lakshmi Mittal SAI Office Opening
Mark Elliott, Vice Provost of International Affairs; Mark Schwartz Professor of Chinese and Inner East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University

6:00-7:00 PM
The Imperial Hotel; Flr. 1
Janpath, N. Delhi


Thursday, March 22
Reviving Public-Private Partnerships in India: Highways Leading the Way
Rohit Kumar Singh, Managing Director of Indian Highways Management Company Ltd; HKS ‘04

6:00-7:30 PM
Seminar Hall 3,
Kamla Devi Complex, IIC, N. Delhi


Tuesday, March 27
Human Origin, Health, and Disease: Genomic Perspectives
Dr. K Thangaraj, Scientist, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, India.

6:00-7:30 PM
Seminar Hall 3,
Kamla Devi Complex, IIC, N. Delhi


Thursday, April 5
Trust and Creativity: Fostering Entrepreneurship in Developing Countries
Tarun Khanna, Director, The Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute, Harvard University; Professor Harvard Business School

6:00-7:30 PM
To be confirmed


SAI India Seminar Series: Uma Chakravarti and Urvashi Butalia on Partition


SAI’s new India Seminar Series, at our Delhi headquarters, is gathering steam. We have plenty of exciting events planned for Spring 2018 and will continue for the rest of the year and beyond. You can find all the details on our events page and by subscribing to our weekly newsletter.

On March 8, 2018, feminist historian Uma Chakravarti and feminist publisher Urvashi Butalia gave a seminar on Partition.


Uma Chakravarti is a feminist historian who taught at Miranda House, University College for Women, Delhi from 1966 to 1998. She is the Delhi project director for the SAI Partition Project,”The Demographic and Humanitarian Consequences of the Partition.” Chakravarti writes on Buddhism, early Indian history, caste and feminism, and contemporary issues.

Urvashi Butalia is the author of “The Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India,” which centers oral histories from subaltern communities and women who experienced the Partition. Butalia co-founded Kali for Women, India’s first exclusively feminist publishing house. Following the closure of Kali for Women, she founded Zubaan Books.

SAI Response to Chronicle Article

The Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute (SAI), Harvard University recognizes and acknowledges that sexual and gender-based harassment are serious issues affecting Higher Education. SAI does not tolerate sexual harassment or gendered disparity of treatment. As an Institute, we are dedicated to fostering an atmosphere of safe, equitable, and respectful engagement with each other as teachers, students, and colleagues regardless of race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, physical ability or national origin. If you have any concerns, or if you have suggestions on ways in which we can better create such an environment, please do not hesitate to reach out to us, Title IX officers, or other Harvard resources such as the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention & Response (OSAPR), which is a confidential resource to all members in our community. SAI leadership will continue to work with Harvard and with the larger Higher Education community to advocate for safer work environments for everyone.

Tarun Khanna
Director of The Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute, Harvard University

Second Annual SAI Crossroads Program







To be determined

The Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute, Harvard University (SAI) Second Annual Crossroads Program is a fully-funded career development opportunity for students from the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East, and Africa, who are the first in their families to attend college and may also be facing challenging financial and social circumstances.

The 2018 program will run from September 23 – 28, 2018 at the DIFC Academy of the Dubai International Financial Centre (Dubai, UAE).

Leading Harvard faculty will teach an intensive, multidisciplinary four-day curriculum in Dubai, for accomplished, motivated youth.

This program is a collaboration between the Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute, Harvard University, Harvard Business School Club of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the Dubai International Financial Centre, with the support of Air Arabia, the Carlton Hotel, Dubai Future Accelerators, and Emirates Grand Hotel.

Applications will open March 15, 2018. Please find application instructions here.


Program details

  • Class size: up to 60 students
    • 150 candidates will be shortlisted. Short listed candidates will be asked to submit a 2 minute video sharing their leadership experience and why they should be considered for the program.
  • Location: Dubai International Financial Centre, Dubai
  • Cost: FREE (The program will cover the costs of international travel, board, lodging and class materials. Visa costs are the responsibility of selected candidates.)
  • Application deadline: Tuesday May 15th, 2018 11:59 PM Eastern Standard Time (EST).  
  • Questions: Write to 


Faculty Leaders

  • Tarun Khanna is the Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor at the Harvard Business School and Director, the Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute, Harvard University.
  • Karim R. Lakhani is Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, the Principal Investigator of the Crowd Innovation Lab and NASA Tournament Lab at the Harvard Institute for Quantitative Social Science and the faculty co-founder of the Harvard Business School Digital Initiative.

Before contacting the Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute, please read through the answers to Frequently Asked Questions.


Deadline Tuesday, May 15th, 2018, 11:59 PM EST. 


Student Voices: Intergenerational Experiences from the South Asian Diaspora


Sheliza Jamal


Sheliza Jamal is a Master’s candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, specializing in the Arts in Education. Before Harvard, she had accrued over ten years of teaching experience, both internationally and in Canada, with a special interest in the Theater of the Oppressed pedagogy. Sheliza has been working at SAI for the past year as the communications intern.

This blog is part of a series about Harvard students who have done research related to South Asia at Harvard.


By Sheliza Jamal, HGSE ‘18


Last semester, I took an Ethnic Studies course taught by Christina “V” Villarreal, where we critically analyzed the master narrative of American history. In this course, we learned about counter-narratives, which include the histories of African Americans, Mexicans and Indigenous people of America. I had always longed to read these counter-narratives as well as my own lived experience in history books; however, throughout my life, I have found my own history left out.

I sought to change this historical erasure by conducting an ethnographic study aimed at illuminating identities within the South Asian diaspora created by migration. I was inspired to explore the topic of inter-generational experiences of people from the South Asian diaspora because of my personal experience growing up as an East African, Indian, Canadian and Muslim in Coquitlam, British Columbia. Both my parents were born and raised in East Africa. My father’s family fled Uganda in the 70s during Idi Amin’s mass expulsion of Asian-Africans.

As a third-generation Indian, I often feel a dissonance between the four identities that I hold. One of the reasons I applied to the internship with SAI was to feel a sense of belonging and connection to South Asia. My personal interest in identity and belonging sparked my investigation of a heterogeneous South Asian identity within the North American framework.

As part of my research project, I created a photo gallery called Photo IDX. The aim was to foster critical thinking, literacy and community building through a series of eight interviews with individuals from various age groups and countries such as Canada, the USA, the UK, Guyana, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India. The exhibit highlights stories of identity, culture, family and community.  The focus of the project was South Asians’ migration and how this affects their cultural identity.

Initial questions made participants speak about “home” and share how they identify culturally.  The accompanying photo gallery of participants created another opportunity for expression of identity.  My project highlights the plurality of identities in South Asia and problematizes the assumption that there is a homogenous South Asian.  Additionally, the personal stories serve as a counter-narrative to the popular narratives of American history as well as Asian-American history.

Many of the individuals that I interviewed lean towards assimilation with the countries where they currently reside and reported that they did not feel as though they suffer from a distorted identity due to this migration; rather, they appear to accept a state of fluidity. I found an inter-generational discrepancy in this regard, where young adults described experiencing an identity crisis at one point in their upbringing.  Many participants noted that prior to our interview, no one ever asked them to discuss their cultural identity in depth and as a result, they enjoyed the opportunity to share their lived experiences. For me, this project has been a springboard for continued conversation about race, identity and belonging and the debate between assimilation and cultural preservation.


Pictured below are two participants from my Photo IDX Gallery.

“People constantly ask me where I am from. I feel like it is a mixed identity as I don’t completely fit in with Canadian, Indian or Kenyan. Sometimes, identity is not clear-cut.”   – Yasmin Jamal, Gujarati, Kenyan, Canadian



“The language was lost as a result of the British running the country, everything was in English. We are Indians with a combination of other cultures; we have a hybrid culture. Oftentimes, Indians will say, “You don’t have an identity – it’s stolen and mismatched.” I would say I am Caribbean, I am all of it.” – Dr. Sean Abdulla, Guyanese-Canadian