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News Category: News

Outbreak Week at Harvard

Monday September 24 | Public Lecture | 6pm – 8pm

Conflict and the Global Threat of Pandemics

Geological Lecture Hall, Harvard Museum of Natural History, 24 Oxford Street, Cambridge MA 02138

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Tuesday September 25 | Panel Discussion | 3pm – 6pm

Global Disease Outbreaks: Shaping Public Health Infrastructure & Investments

Kresge Cafeteria, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, 665 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02115

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Tuesday September 25 | Public Discussion | 6.30pm – 9pm

Emerging Infections Then & Now

Lahey Room, Countway Library of Medicine, 10 Shattuck Street, Boston, MA 02115

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Wednesday September 26 | Symposium | 10am – 1pm

Media in the Age of Contagions

Milstein West, Wasserstein Hall, Harvard Law School, 1585 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

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Wednesday September 26 | Film Screening | 6pm – 9pm

Screening of Contagion with a discussion featuring screenwriter Scott Burns & scientific advisers

Harvard Commons, Richard A. & Susan F. Smith Campus Center, 1350 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

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Thursday September 27 | Symposium | 4pm – 7pm

Vaccines for Outbreaks in the Modern World

Milstein East, Wasserstein Hall, Harvard Law School, 1585 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

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Friday September 28 | Flagship Event | 8.30am – 4pm

Preventing Epidemics in a Connected World

Milstein East, Wasserstein Hall, Harvard Law School, 1585 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

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Harvard-BRAC Research Partnership Launches

Alongside our partners – the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University and BRAC –  we are supporting an interdisciplinary team of researchers from Harvard and Bangladesh, who are examining a range of issues facing vulnerable populations in and around South Asia. This partnership provides a platform for collaborative participatory research driven by regional needs. Current projects are focused on the Rohingya forced migration crisis, encompassing a wide range of topics, including outbreak surveillance modeling, social network analysis, economic integration, resettlement policies, public health impact, and others.

Visit the Harvard-BRAC Research Partnership website for more information.

A Focus On Tribal Issues In India : Meet The Mittal Institute’s New Fellow

More than one in six Harvard College freshmen in the recently-admitted Class of 2022 are first-generation students – that is, they (and possibly their siblings) are the first in their families to attend an institution of higher education. Later this month, meanwhile, The Mittal Institute and the HBS Club of the GCC will welcome dozens of college students from all over the developing world to Dubai for the second annual Crossroads Emerging Leaders Program – they, too, are all first-generation students. Universities can be daunting environments for anyone, perhaps more so for students who have no family experience to draw upon.

The Mittal Institute’s new Arvind Raghunathan and Sribala Subramanian South Asia Visiting Fellow for 2018/19, Roluahpuia, understands this well. A native of Manipur in northeast India, he was also the first in his family to attend university and admits there were challenges convincing his parents that an academic career is a worthwhile option for an exceptionally bright young man, rather than earning a good living straight away. 

“In a sense, I was disobedient,” he says. “I wouldn’t say my family was unsupportive but the reality is that it takes many years to complete a PhD and there is financial pressure. But this was my passion and I needed to take this bold decision.”

Roluahpuia in his new office at The Mittal Institute

Roluahpuia achieved a PhD last year from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) in India. He is interested in identity, nationalism, development and borderland studies. His PhD thesis is an in-depth ethnographic account of the Mizo national movement in northeast India. Now, having worked as an assistant professor for a year at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), New Delhi, he is the latest Indian scholar to be awarded the Arvind Raghunathan and Sribala Subramanian Fellowship by The Mittal Institute and will spend a year at Harvard. The fellowship supports recent, South Asia-focused PhDs in the humanities and social sciences.

Roluahpuia is from a tribal background. In India, indigenous tribes account for around a tenth of the total population – more than 100 million people – and they are largely at an economic and social disadvantage. Around one third of the population of Roluahpuia’s home state Manipur is tribal, according to the 2011 census. But tribal issues, he says, are at the fringes of academia in India. “My interest is in tribes, although there’s no such thing as ‘tribal studies’,” he says. I think about questions of identity, of development and of nationalism, and also of territory and conflict.”

“In India, the academic focus on tribes has been relatively scant,” he continues. “There may be plenty of historical and anthropological works but we are still rather uninformed about contemporary tribal politics.”

Having just arrived on campus – and in the US for the first time – he makes it clear that it is too early to forecast the rest of his year at Harvard. He will keep an open mind and allow himself the space to benefit from the many opportunities that will come his way.

“It’s a big leap for me, personally and professionally, and the fellowship was unexpected”, he says. “But in the first few days here, I have already felt the exciting academic and intellectual atmosphere.

“The issues that I touch upon in my own work are very much global in nature. There is a lot to learn from other parts of the world. I can listen, share my ideas and fully participate in the academic exchange.”










Mittal Institute Director’s Fall Message

Dear friends,

Welcome to the start of another busy, transformative year at the Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute at Harvard University. The Mittal family’s generosity will enable us not only to continue our quest to research and understand the region and its relationship with the world, but will also allow our faculty, students and affiliates to push even further to produce new and useful knowledge. I have accepted the university’s offer to remain as Director for another three years and it is an honor to be here at such an exciting time.

Our Delhi office, an in-region headquarters, is truly up and running. There is great value in having such a strong local presence. From our partnership with Tata Trusts, which enables several Harvard innovators to work on projects in India, to the Department of Biotechnology-funded program in bioscience that strengthens the field by connecting leading US-based universities with Indian institutions. We are in the third year of our successful, illuminating Nepal Studies Program and we have created a partnership with Harvard’s FXB Center for Health and Human Rights and Bangladesh’s BRAC. Our Arts Program has expanded once again, as we welcome visiting artists from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

Later this month, we will welcome dozens of first-generation college students from developing countries to our second annual Crossroads Emerging Leaders Program, another important collaboration, this time with Harvard’s Centers for African and Middle Eastern Studies and the HBS Club of the Gulf Cooperation Council. The inaugural edition was one of my personal highlights of 2017 and this year, the number of applicants more than doubled.

We are creating new programs and consolidating our work on existing projects. We are supporting new research and inquiry into the issues around mental health in South Asia; we are collaborating with Mumbai’s premier museum, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, to understand and explore arts conservation; we are working with Harvard’s Asia Center on a proposal for an earthquake museum in Nepal. Meanwhile, work continues on the Partition Project, created to coincide with last year’s 70th anniversary of the Partition of British India.

I invite you to attend our public seminars and connect with us both in person, on campus and in the region, and digitally. We are always open to new ideas and energetic contributions from the many people who are as fascinated as we are by this vitally important, dynamic region.

Best wishes,

Tarun Khanna

Director, Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute

Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor, Harvard Business School


Mittal Institute Director Discusses Latest Book in Bengaluru

Tarun Khanna, Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor at Harvard Business School, and Director of The Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute, Harvard University, was in Bengaluru for a fireside chat about his new book. He was joined by Manish Sabharwal, o-founder and Executive Chairman, TeamLease for this conversation. This event was organised by the Harvard Business School India Research Centre and the HBS Club of India, in collaboration with TiE Bangalore and The Mittal Institute. The event was sponsored by the Brigade Group.

In his new book, ‘TRUST – Creating the Foundations of Entrepreneurship in Developing Countries’, Khanna looks at case studies, including the case of contaminated milk in China, the Alibaba success story, a non-profit in Bangladesh, as well as microfinance firms in Mexico, Peru, India and Indonesia. “If one needs to scale up, then one of the components needed is trust” he says. Talking about his previous book, he said: “I study entrepreneurship in developing countries. Close to 6-7 million people are eliminated from the mainstream. My idea was to get them connected to the mainstream. That was my thought behind writing my earlier book ‘Billions of Entrepreneurs’ a decade ago.”

Khanna and Sabharwal discussed many aspects of entrepreneurship, from altering mindsets to working in collaboration with the government, data versus building trust, and a comparison between the role of the state in India and China. The conversation was also opened out to the audience who shared comments and questions focused on scalability of entrepreneurial ventures, credibility of businesses, and the timeline for entrepreneurs in a developing country as compared to those in developed nations. 

Tarun Khanna (left) and Manish Sabharwal (right) at the fireside chat event in Bengaluru. 






















US-Kerala Flood Relief Donation

The recent floods that hit Kerala have been the worst floods the State has faced since 1924. Many places in the state are neck-deep in water, massive landslides have laid waste to roads, houses and other infrastructure, thousands of hectares of crops are ruined and hundreds of people have lost their lives.

The Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute at Harvard University and the American India Foundation are encouraging monetary donations from those residing in the US. Please donate through this link –

Unspoken Story – A Conversation About Mental Health

As part of the India seminar series, The Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute, Harvard University partnered with Sangath and It’s Okay to Talk for an event titled ‘Unspoken Story’. The event was a conversation between Vikram Patel, The Pershing Square Professor of Global Health, Harvard Medical School and two young women on their personal journey and experiences with mental health. This event was supported by Welcome Trust and the American Centre, and is also in partnership with Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS), USA.

The two discussants – Ishita Mehra, artist and mental health advocate, and Ishita Chaudhry, Ashoka and INK fellow, and founder and managing trustee of the YP foundation, shared their personal stories, and the journey they took from understanding their own mental health needs to breaking stigmas and seeking help. They shared their experiences with bullying and body shaming as teenagers, the lack of resources at the institutional level and the importance of family support. The conversation further branched out to socio-emotional learning, the importance of talking about mental health and treating it with the same respect as physical health. One of the guests at the event, Dr. Preetha Rajaraman, HHS Health Attaché, – “U.S.- India Bilateral Partnership on Mental Health” also shared her perspective from the context of the opioid crisis in the U.S., among other mental health challenges.

Audience members asked questions about finding the right resources on the internet; politics and its role in mental health; ideas like using kindness campaigns instead of anti-bullying ones to promote cultures of empathy. The evening concluded with remarks by Dr. Shekhar Saxena, Director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse (MSD), World Health Organisation (WHO), who re-emphasized the importance of the mental health conversation in the public health domain. He also shared two WHO resources on depression and mental health (links can be found below).

Such discussions we hope will bring not only a broader understanding of depression and mental health – how one can diagnose it and how to seek help; but also start conversations around the role of societies and education, how we can support and equip our institutions and define a clear vision for a mental health across India, South Asia and the world.

Two resources shared at the event:

  1. Let’s Talk (WHO) ––depression-let-s-talk-says-who-as-depression-tops-list-of-causes-of-ill-health
  2. I had a black dog, his name was depression –

Vikram Patel (right) in conversation with Ishita Mehra (centre) and Ishita Chaudhry at the Unspoken Story event hosted in New Delhi. (Photograph credit: Mohit Kapil)

Fall Class: Muslim Devotional Literatures in South Asia: Qawwalis, Sufiana Kalam (Sufi Poetry) and the Ginans

Religion 1814 / Islamic Civilizations 184; (FAS)/HDS 3375

Faculty: Ali Asani,Professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic Religion and Cultures

Sever 106, Weds 3-5pm

This course explores traditions of Islamic spirituality in South Asia through the lens of three genres: the qawwali, concerts of mystical poetry;  sufiana kalam, Sufi romantic epics and folk poems; and the ginans, hymns of esoteric wisdom recited by the Satpanthi Ismailis. Since these genres represent examples of language, symbols and styles of worship shared across Islamic and non-Islamic denominational boundaries, we will also examine their relationships with other Indic traditions of devotion, particularly those associated with the so-called sant and Hindu bhakti movements. Special emphasis will be given to the impact of contemporary political ideologies, globalization and the revolution in media technology on the form and function of these genres and their relationship with contemporary communities of faith in South Asia and beyond.

Kerala Relief Collection Drive in New Delhi

The recent floods that hit Kerala have been the worst floods the State has faced since 1924. Many places in the state are neck-deep in water, massive landslides have laid waste to roads, houses and other infrastructure, thousands of hectares of crops are ruined, and hundreds of people have lost their lives.

The Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute at Harvard University and the Harvard Club of India have come together to organize a collection drive for those affected by the floods. We are setting up various collection points around Delhi and urge citizens to donate items in kind.

The poster has examples of goods we are collecting. We will then give them to the Kerala House in Delhi to be sent out to relief camps in Kerala. We request you to donate generously for those affected by this calamity. No old and used (unless in pristine quality) goods will be accepted.

Note: We are NOT collecting monetary donations. If you would like to donate money, please follow this link to the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund –



Job Opportunity: Communications Manager, The Mittal Institute

The Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute, Harvard University, seeks an experienced Communications Manager to envision, create and manage all public-facing content, and devise and implement strategies to raise the profile of the institute and its affiliates’ work.

The successful candidate will have, among other key qualities, at least three years’ experience in a newsroom or equivalent communications environment and a good working knowledge of contemporary and historical South Asian issues.

Click here for the complete job description and application instructions.


Questions? Please email