Each year, the Mittal Institute welcomes a new Raghunathan Family Fellow to support recent PhDs whose research lies in the humanities and social sciences related to South Asia. Naveen Bharathi, the Mittal Institute’s 2019-20 Raghunathan Family Fellow, comes to Harvard with a breadth of experience as an architect, planner, and researcher of political sociology and political economy of identity in India. Most particularly, his research explores the relationship between ethnic diversity and development in contemporary urban India.
Category : India
“If we look at some of the most contentious land conflicts over the past decade, we realize that the new economic corridors are not anachronistic to the agrarian countryside. Instead, they accrete onto former agricultural modernization programs of the Green Revolution. The Green Revolution helped consolidate … provincial propertied classes — and these agrarian propertied classes are at the forefront of these corridor conflicts,” said Sai Balakrishnan, Assistant Professor of Urban Planning at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, in her talk this week on economic corridors in India and the infrastructural urbanizing development projects that come with them.
Most personal accounts of what had transpired during the weeks before and after August 1947 are handed down as inter-generational knowledge. And yet, given the traumatic uprooting and violence of the event, there remains a palpable silence around stories relating to violence against or loss of family members. As a third-generation member of a family that had witnessed the Partition of British India in 1947, I grew up listening to stories full of paradoxes. The stories of my grandparents were replete with instances of compassion between individuals and families despite the raging madness that prevailed throughout the larger community.
My main goal was to examine the production of religious sound in a variety of settings, with an eye toward the social demarcation of “spaces” around the sites of these sounds. Of course, this originally led me to the kinds of places that one would obviously expect: shrines, churches, gurdwaras, masjids, a few Buddhist monasteries, and so on. After listening to most of the field recordings I made, they all seemed to end up pointing to the sort of conclusions that are common in the literature on sound studies in urban spaces: people go about their business within their particular location-bound social milieu, but sound bleeds over.
We recently sat down with Alex Beaudette, Sapna Shah, and Ankur Goel: three members of Professor Conor Walsh’s research team who are working on the research and development of the Soft Robotics Toolkit. This project has grown out of research conducted at Harvard University, University College Dublin, and Trinity College Dublin to become a comprehensive resource that will teach students how to design, fabricate, model, and test their own soft robotic devices — eventually making its way to Indian classrooms. This month, the team was in Delhi to conduct workshops with a group of educators and students, testing the kit with its main audience to inform continued development of its parts and instructions.
Economic corridors — ambitious infrastructural development projects throughout Asia and Africa — are dramatically redefining the shape of urbanization. As these corridors cut across croplands, the conversion of agricultural lands into new urban uses has erupted in volatile land conflicts. We sat down with Sai Balakrishnan, Assistant Professor of Urban Planning at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, to learn more about the interaction between agrarian and urban lands throughout India, and the effects that infrastructural changes are having on the nation’s population. On Tuesday, November 5, Balakrishnan will head a panel, Shareholder Cities, on urbanization along the first economic corridor built in India, the Mumbai-Pune Expressway.
Urban conservation is often a pressing challenge in historic Indian cities that are experiencing the pressures of development. Many cities, often lacking any viable local-level policy and enforcement, have resorted to alternative tools, often citizen-led, to accomplish the goal of conservation. In a seminar this week, Ashima Krishna — Assistant Professor in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Buffalo — explored the tools of advocacy, politics, and civic engagement through recent examples from the city of Lucknow in northern India.
The Cilappatikāram (“The Tale of an Anklet”) is a 5th century Tamil epic telling the story of Kovalan, a merchant, and his wife Kannaki, who becomes a goddess. Ilango Adigal is credited as the author of this literary work. Over the summer, I conducted the preliminary research for my intended dissertation project on the Cilappatikāram and its reception and retelling histories. During my research, I was able to address my interests and needs for my dissertation in numerous ways.
In case you missed it: Raj Rewal and Rahul Mehrotra recently stopped by the Mittal Institute to discuss Rewal’s past architectural work in India and around the world. This podcast — an excerpt from their discussion — delves into the theme of the “Timeless Rasa.”
In the past, conservation studies in India have mainly focused on architectural preservation efforts to protect and maintain designated monuments. In many ways, this is the legacy of the former colonial regime, which enacted stringent preservation laws and laid the academic foundation for the predominant mode of conservation we now see in modern-day India. This is exemplified in the manner in which state agencies, advocacy groups, and academics have dealt with archaeological sites, as plots entirely removed from their urban contexts.
This week, the Visiting Artist Fellows’ Fall 2019 exhibit, Exploring Identity Through a Contemporary South Asian Lens, opened at the Mittal Institute. Available for viewing through November 26, photographer Sagar Chhetri and sculptor Sakshi Gupta unveiled their artistic interpretations of life, time, and the human condition to a rapt audience. The 8-week Visiting Artist research program provides a vital platform for an exchange of perspectives and knowledge, linking Cambridge and South Asia through shared stories and new understandings and providing artists from South Asia the opportunity to use Harvard’s resources to perform research that will inform their art practice.
This September, the Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute at Harvard University partnered with the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya Museum in Mumbai to hold a workshop exploring how museums could potentially create an expanded culture of civic life that represents and nurtures the diverse and plural sensibilities of those with whom they share space.