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The Harvard University South Asia Institute (SAI) engages faculty and students through interdisciplinary programs to advance and deepen the teaching and research on global issues relevant to South Asia. 

View the South Asia Institute video.

Upcoming Events

Fri, April 18, 2014  /  San Francisco, California

Sacred Geographies: India and the United States

A conversation with Diana Eck

Diana EckFredric Wertham Professor of Law and Psychiatry in Society at Harvard University, invites Harvard alumni and friends to join her in a conversation about India: A Sacred Geography. Eck’s book explores the sacred places of India, taking the reader on an extraordinary trip through the beliefs and history of this rich and profound place, as well as providing a basic introduction to Hindu religious ideas and how those ideas influence our understanding of the modern sense of “India” as a nation. Additionally, she will address the Pluralism Project, which explores and interprets the religious dimensions of America’s new immigration; the growth of Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Jain, and Zoroastrian communities in the United States.

By invitation only. 

Fri, Apr 18, 2014

Fri, Apr 18, 2014

Tue, April 22, 2014 from 04:00pm - 05:30pm  /  CGIS South, S250

The Warrior State: Pakistan in the Contemporary World

SAI Book Talk

T.V Paul, James McGill Professor of International Relations, Department of Political Science, McGill University

Chair: Asad Ahmed, Assistant Professor, Social Anthropology Program, Department of Anthropology, Harvard University

Seemingly from its birth, Pakistan has teetered on the brink of becoming a failed state. Today, it ranks 133rd out of 148 countries in global competitiveness. Its economy is as dysfunctional as its political system is corrupt; both rely heavily on international aid for their existence. Taliban forces occupy 30 percent of the country. It possesses over a hundred nuclear weapons that could easily fall into terrorists’ hands. Why, in an era when countries across the developing world are experiencing impressive economic growth and building democratic institutions, has Pakistan been such a conspicuous failure?

In The Warrior State, noted international relations and South Asia scholar T.V. Paul untangles this fascinating riddle. Paul argues that the “geostrategic curse”–akin to the “resource curse” that plagues oil-rich autocracies–is at the root of Pakistan’s unique inability to progress. Since its founding in 1947, Pakistan has been at the center of major geopolitical struggles: the US-Soviet rivalry, the conflict with India, and most recently the post 9/11 wars. No matter how ineffective the regime is, massive foreign aid keeps pouring in from major powers and their allies with a stake in the region. The reliability of such aid defuses any pressure on political elites to launch the far-reaching domestic reforms necessary to promote sustained growth, higher standards of living, and more stable democratic institutions. Paul shows that excessive war-making efforts have drained Pakistan’s limited economic resources without making the country safer or more stable. Indeed, despite the regime’s emphasis on security, the country continues to be beset by widespread violence and terrorism.

Tue, Apr 22, 2014 at 04:00pm

Tue, Apr 22, 2014 at 05:30pm

CGIS South, S250
Harvard University

1730 Cambridge Street
Cambridge MA

Thu, April 24, 2014 - Fri, April 25, 2014  /  Charles Hotel

South Asia Regionalism: Workshops on Shared Challenges, and the Way Forward

SAI Annual Symposium

As part of its Annual Symposium, SAI is hosting a series of workshops on April 24 and 25 to highlight ongoing faculty research projects supported by SAI.

Thursday, April 24, 2014:

Mobile Technology, 8:30 am – 11:00 am

Disasters and Mental Health, 11:15 am – 1:45 pm

The Contemporary South Asian City, 2:00 pm – 4:30 pm

Friday, April 25, 2014

From SAARC to Slums: Urban Water Challenges in South Asia, 8:30 am – 11:00 am

Religion and Secularism, 11:15 am – 1:15 pm

Informal Workers, Enterprises, and Cities: Addressing Informality in South Asia, 1:30 pm – 3:30 pm


More information.

Thu, Apr 24, 2014

Fri, Apr 25, 2014

Charles Hotel

1 Bennett St, Cambridge, MA 02138

    Tue, April 29, 2014 at 07:00pm  /  Harvard Book Store

    Gandhi Before India

    SAI Book Talk

    Ramachandra Guha, Author and Independent Scholar

    Pratap Bhanu MehtaPresident of the Centre for Policy Research; Associate Professor of Government and of Social Studies, Harvard University

    Cosponsored with the Harvard Book Store

    Ramachandra Guha—hailed by Time as “Indian democracy’s preeminent chronicler”—takes us from Gandhi’s birth in 1869 through his upbringing in Gujarat, his two years as a student in London and his two decades as a lawyer and community organizer in South Africa. Guha has uncovered myriad previously untapped documents, including private papers of Gandhi’s contemporaries and co-workers; contemporary newspapers and court documents; the writings of Gandhi’s children; and secret files kept by British Empire functionaries. Using this wealth of material in an exuberant, brilliantly nuanced and detailed narrative, Guha describes the social, political and personal worlds inside of which Gandhi began the journey that would earn him the honorific Mahatma: “Great Soul.” And, more clearly than ever before, he elucidates how Gandhi’s work in South Africa—far from being a mere prelude to his accomplishments in India—was profoundly influential in his evolution as a family man, political thinker, social reformer and, ultimately, beloved leader.

    In 1893, when Gandhi set sail for South Africa, he was a twenty-three-year-old lawyer who had failed to establish himself in India. In this remarkable biography, the author makes clear the fundamental ways in which Gandhi’s ideas were shaped before his return to India in 1915. It was during his years in England and South Africa, Guha shows us, that Gandhi came to understand the nature of imperialism and racism; and in South Africa that he forged the philosophy and techniques that would undermine and eventually overthrow the British Raj.

    Gandhi Before India gives us equally vivid portraits of the man and the world he lived in: a world of sharp contrasts among the coastal culture of his birthplace, High Victorian London, and colonial South Africa. It explores in abundant detail Gandhi’s experiments with dissident cults such as the Tolstoyans; his friendships with radical Jews, heterodox Christians and devout Muslims; his enmities and rivalries; and his often overlooked failures as a husband and father. It tells the dramatic, profoundly moving story of how Gandhi inspired the devotion of thousands of followers in South Africa as he mobilized a cross-class and inter-religious coalition, pledged to non-violence in their battle against a brutally racist regime.

    Researched with unequaled depth and breadth, and written with extraordinary grace and clarity,Gandhi Before India is, on every level, fully commensurate with its subject. It will radically alter our understanding and appreciation of twentieth-century India’s greatest man.

    Tue, Apr 29, 2014 at 07:00pm

    Tue, Apr 29, 2014

    Harvard Book Store

    1256 Mass Ave, Cambridge, MA 02138

    Wed, April 30, 2014 from 05:30pm - 07:00pm  /  Sackler Museum, 318

    Siva’s Land: Defining the Religious Landscape of Early Southeast Asia

    South Asia Without Borders Seminar

    John Guy, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

    Chair: Jinah Kim, Assistant Professor of History of Art and Architecture, Harvard University

    Cosponsored with the Harvard Asia Center


    Wed, Apr 30, 2014 at 05:30pm

    Wed, Apr 30, 2014 at 07:00pm

    Sackler 318

    485 Broadway, Cambridge MA 02138

      Thu, May 1, 2014 from 04:00pm - 05:30pm  /  CGIS South, S153

      Modern Ethnicities and Ancient Graves: The Deconstruction and Re-Analysis of the Protohistoric Cemeteries and Ethnic Origin Stories in Pakistan

      South Asia Without Borders Seminar

      Muhammad Zahir, SAI Aman Fellow; Lecturer, Department of Archaeology, Hazara University, Pakistan

      Chair: Richard Meadow, Director of the Zooarchaeology Laboratory, Harvard Peabody Museum; Senior-Lecturer, Harvard Anthropology Department

      Thu, May 1, 2014 at 04:00pm

      Thu, May 1, 2014 at 05:30pm

        Mon, May 5, 2014 - Wed, May 7, 2014  /  CGIS South

        Design for Urban Disaster: Response – Resilience – Transformation Conference

        Cosponsored with Harvard University Graduate School of Design; Oxford Brookes University School of Architecture; Harvard University South Asia Institute; Habitat for Humanity; International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies; Harvard Humanitarian Initiative



        Job opportunity: [HYP]e Delhi

        [HYP]e aims to broaden access to the top American universities by providing motivated Indian students an extraordinary learning experience with the best tutors in the world. This is a job for creative thinkers and brilliant communicators.

          4/14 Film Screening: Hide and Seek

          Hide and Seek” (Chuppan Chupai in Urdu) by Saad Khan and Saadat Munir is a Pakistani-Danish documentary that highlights the lives and concerns of non-straight people in Pakistan – some who identify as “gay” or “trans”, some who use other terms not in currency in the West.

            Harvard College Pakistan Weekend

            SAI supports a number of student organizations at Harvard through grants for programming on issues relevant to South Asia, including the Harvard College Pakistan Student Association, which is hosting a conference at Harvard in April on economic issues related to Pakistan.

              ‘A pool for do-gooders’ by Tarun Khanna

              Tarun Khanna, Director of the South Asia Institute & Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor, Harvard Business School, wrote an op-ed in The Indian Express about corporate social responsibility, arguing that targeted investments should be driven by a knowledge of how CSR fits into company strategy.

                Contribute to Story South Asia

                Story South Asia, is a media startup focused on South Asian, and they are looking for contributors to write opinion pieces about South Asia. They are looking for opinion-editorials, travel pieces, book reviews, columns, interviews with pertinent people from the region,and blogposts.

                  Brandeis seeks lecturer for South Asian Studies Program

                  The Programs in Religious Studies and South Asian Studies at Brandeis University seek to hire a Lecturer to teach a course on Hinduism or Religions in South Asia—or another related course in the instructor’s specialty—in the fall of 2014. Candidates must have a PhD or be an advanced doctoral student and have previous teaching experience

                    SAI Annual Symposuim

                    ‘South Asia Regionalism: Workshops on Shared History, Challenges, and the Way Forward’ will be the theme for SAI’s annual symposium, which will take the form of workshops to highlight’s SAI’s ongoing multi-year interfaculty research projects. April 24 & 25, 2014, Charles Hotel, Cambridge, MA.