Professor Mihir Desai (furthest left), Mizuho Financial Group Professor of Finance at Harvard Business School and a Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, and Professor Tarun Khanna, Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor at Harvard Business School and Director of the Mittal Institute, speak at the JLF session entitled “Trust,” detailed below.

Each year for just over a decade, the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) brings together dozens of world-class writers, humanitarians, businesspeople, and more for a five-day program in global literacy in Jaipur, India. Speakers address various topics based on their recently authored books.  

This year, JLF featured a particular emphasis on science, artificial intelligence, and the future of our planet. Five faculty members from across Harvard University were invited to speak at the event. Their three sessions are detailed below.

Trust

In a session entitled “Trust,” Tarun Khanna, Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor at the Harvard Business School and Director of the Mittal Institute, was joined on stage by Mihir A. Desai, Mizuho Financial Group Professor of Finance at Harvard Business School and a Professor at Harvard Law School, and others in conversation with Mohit Satyanand, entrepreneur and investor.

In his new book, Trust: Creating the Foundation for Entrepreneurship in Developing Countries, Professor Khanna uses examples from Mexico, China, India, and elsewhere to prove that entrepreneurs can be more successful in their endeavors in the developing world by integrating local customs and practices into their vision.  At JLF, he discussed this idea in further detail, exploring how “entrepreneurial ventures often fail in the developing world precisely because of the lack of this trust.”  

In the same session, Professor Desai discussed his book, The Wisdom of Finance: Discovering Humanity in the World of Risk and Return, explaining how the field of finance — which has grown to become widely distrusted — can once again become trusted in our society by “reviving the humanistic ideas that underlie finance” in our world. The video of this session can be viewed below. 

Video: Harvard professors Mihir Desai and Tarun Khanna speak with a panel during their session on the importance of trust in entrepreneurship and finance.

Ancient DNA

Daniel E. Lieberman, the Edwin M. Lerner II Professor of Biological Sciences at Harvard University, and David Reich, Professor of Genetics at Harvard University, met in a conversation entitled “Ancient DNA: Who We Are and How We Got Here,” with Tony Joseph, writer and journalist.

Reich’s book, Who We Are and How We Got Here, touches on ancient DNA and the importance of the human genome. Lieberman’s book, The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease, focuses on the evolution of the human body over several eons and the paradox of extended lifespans and increased disease.

Together on stage, they discussed the emerging idea that ancient human migrations resulted in a modern-day mix of ancestral heritage in our population, with individuals often possessing “a genetic component from archaic humans.”

The Empire of Cotton

Sven Beckert, Laird Bell Professor of History at Harvard University, joined the stage for a conversation entitled “The Empire of Cotton” with Patrick French, historian and Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at Ahmedabad University.

Beckert’s book, Empire of Cotton: A Global History, tells the story of cotton and its role in the creation of the modern world order. In his session at JLF, Beckert spoke about the critical impact of the cotton trade and the “struggle between slaves and planters, merchants and statesmen, [and] workers and factory owners.” Together, each of these forces were crucial to the development of modern capitalism worldwide and the struggle for freedom from colonialism in India.