(India, 1966) After nearly getting arrested, Hiraman promises to himself that he will never assist any black-marketeer nor transport bamboo. He manages to save enough money to buy another cart, and is hired to take an attractive woman, Hira Bai, on a 30-hour ride to a Mela. He subsequently falls in love with her – little knowing that she is a traveling courtesan – and it is this attraction that will get him into trouble.
(UK/France, 2011) While Aung San Suu Kyi becomes the core of Burma’s democracy movement the relationship she shares with her husband struggles to endure against a background of political turmoil and sacrifice.
(India, 1972) A girl, whose mother dies of sorrow from her husband’s family’s rejection, grows up singing and dancing like her mother. She works as a dancing girl and is courted by a prince, but can think only of a man she has never met, who left her a message on the train. She dreams of him and cannot dance, becomes frightened and runs into the night. All films screenings are free and open to the community.
(India, 1966) After being released from prison for Forgery and Theft, Multi-linguist Raju (Dev Anand) reflects on his life as a Guide; his meeting with the daughter of a prostitute, Rosie (Waheeda Rehman), who was unhappily married to Marco (Kishore Sahu), and wants to take up acting and dancing as a career. Rosie separates and moves in with Raju and his mom (Leela Chitnis). Then both re-locate, and with Raju’s encouragement, she succeeds in an acting and dancing career, resulting in both becoming very wealthy. He then succumbs to gambling, and alcohol, and forges Rosie’s signature. He is arrested, tried in court, found guilty and imprisoned. Now discharged from prison, he changes his mind about returning home to his mother, and decides to go elsewhere and start afresh – a decision that will alter his life and way of thinking forever. All films screenings are free and open to the community.
With immigration as a central theme, Promise Land‘s three stories effortlessly intertwine in a gripping tale of love, conflict, and hope. These compelling narratives reveal the unique challenges and triumphs of the characters as they struggle to keep their families together and pursue their dreams in a place they have come to call home.
Director Kevin Dalvi will accompany the screening and participate in a Q+A with the audience. This film screening is free and open to the public.
In 1903, a young woman named Sujaria and a young man named Abdul Aziz left the port of Calcutta in separate ships, sailing westward. Sujaria was pregnant and alone; she and the others on her ship were indentured laborers, headed to sugar plantations in the British colony of Guiana. Abdul Aziz was a peddler of chikon embroidery from a village in Hooghly; he traveled with three other young men, all headed for the beach boardwalks of New Jersey, and ultimately, the neighborhood of Tremé in New Orleans, aiming to sell goods and send money home. What happened to Sujaria and Abdul? What kind of lives did they lead after emigrating from colonial India? And what other experiences, like theirs, have been “lost” in previous accounts of South Asia and its diasporas?
In this special joint reading and conversation, Gaiutra Bahadur, author of Coolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture (2013, University of Chicago Press) and Vivek Bald, author of Bengali Harlem and the Lost Histories of South Asian America (2013, Harvard University Press) will present excerpts from their work and discuss their common experiences excavating and bringing to life the stories of previously unacknowledged South Asian migrants from the early 20th century. The conversation will be moderated by Walter Johnson, Winthrop Professor of History and Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University and author, most recently, of River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom (Harvard University Press, 2013).
Gaiutra Bahadur is a journalist, book critic, and recent Harvard Neiman Fellow whose work has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the Washington Post, Ms., and the Nation, among other publications. In Coolie Woman, she embarks on a journey into the past to find the story of her great-grandmother, Sujaria. Traversing three continents and trawling through countless colonial archives, Bahadur excavates not only her great-grandmother’s story but also the repressed history of some quarter of a million other “coolie women”, shining a light on their complex lives. Coolie Woman is a meditation on survival, a gripping story of a double diaspora–from India to the West Indies in one century, Guyana to the United States in the next–that is at once a search for one’s roots and an exploration of gender and power, peril and opportunity.
Vivek Bald is a writer, scholar, filmmaker, and Associate Professor of Comparative Media Studies and Writing at MIT. In Bengali Harlem, he pieces together fragments of archival evidence to uncover the histories of two populations of South Asian Muslim migrants who lived, settled, and intermarried within African American and Puerto Rican communities from the late 19th to mid-20th centuries. The first, a group of “Oriental goods” peddlers from West Bengal, established a peddling network in the 1890s, that spread throughout the Jim Crow South and into the Caribbean. The second consisted of hundreds of steamship workers who, beginning in the 1910s, escaped British ships in New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore and established clandestine networks to access restaurant and factory jobs and build new lives in the shadows of anti-Asian immigration laws.
Walter Johnson is a distinguished historian whose work focuses on slavery, capitalism, and imperialism in the nineteenth century United States. His award-winning first book, Soul by Soul (1999) used the slave market as a way to think about the fantasies, fears, negotiations, and violence that characterized American slavery. His second book, River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Imperialism in the Mississippi Valley (2013), embeds the history of slavery in the U.S. in the histories of global capitalism – the cotton trade and the Atlantic money market – and U.S. imperialism – the Louisiana Purchase, the illegal invasions of Cuba and Nicaragua in the 1850s, and the effort to reopen the Atlantic Slave trade on the eve of the Civil War.
Romila Thapar, Emeritus Professor of History at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
Chair: Emma Dench, Professor of the Classics and of History, Harvard College Professor, Director of Graduate Studies, Department of the Classics, Harvard University
The claim, often made, that India—uniquely among civilizations—lacks historical writing distracts us from a more pertinent question, according to Romila Thapar: how to recognize the historical sense of societies whose past is recorded in ways very different from European conventions. In The Past Before Us, a distinguished scholar of ancient India guides us through a panoramic survey of the historical traditions of North India. Thapar reveals a deep and sophisticated consciousness of history embedded in the diverse body of classical Indian literature.
Jeffrey Witsoe, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Union College
Discussant: Rohit Chandra, PhD candidate, Harvard Kennedy School
Hidden behind the much-touted success story of India’s emergence as an economic superpower is another, far more complex narrative of the nation’s recent history, one in which economic development is frequently countered by profoundly unsettling, and often violent, political movements. In Democracy against Development, Jeffrey Witsoe investigates this counter-narrative, uncovering an antagonistic relationship between recent democratic mobilization and development-oriented governance in India.
Jeffrey Witsoe is an anthropologist whose work has focused on a rethinking of democracy and the postcolonial state through an examination of lower-caste politics in Bihar. He is the author of Democracy Against Development (University of Chicago Press) and articles and book chapters on lower-caste politics in India. His current research explores the political economy of rural development, with a focus on India’s massive rural employment guarantee scheme. Another project examines the ways in which neoliberal economic growth is reshaping regional politics, with a focus on criminal networks related to natural resource extraction. He holds a B.A. from the University of California, Santa Cruz, an M.A. from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge.
Discussant: Shankar Ramaswami, South Asia Institute South Asian Studies Postdoctoral Fellow
Join the Harvard Global Health Institute and the South Asia Institute in a live webinar discussion for K-12 educators of Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo.
Annawadi is a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport, and as India starts to prosper, Annawadians are electric with hope. Abdul, a reflective and enterprising Muslim teenager, sees “a fortune beyond counting” in the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away. Asha, a woman of formidable wit and deep scars from a childhood in rural poverty, has identified an alternate route to the middle class: political corruption. With a little luck, her sensitive, beautiful daughter—Annawadi’s “most-everything girl”—will soon become its first female college graduate. And even the poorest Annawadians, like Kalu, a fifteen-year-old scrap-metal thief, believe themselves inching closer to the good lives and good times they call “the full enjoy.”
But then Abdul the garbage sorter is falsely accused in a shocking tragedy; terror and a global recession rock the city; and suppressed tensions over religion, caste, sex, power and economic envy turn brutal. As the tenderest individual hopes intersect with the greatest global truths,the true contours of a competitive age are revealed. And so, too, are the imaginations and courage of the people of Annawadi.
With intelligence, humor, and deep insight into what connects human beings to one another in an era of tumultuous change, Behind the Beautiful Forevers carries the reader headlong into one of the twenty-first century’s hidden worlds, and into the lives of people impossible to forget.
Register now to attend this session. The first 15 K-12 educators who register will receive a free book – see instructions on registration form.
Film Screening: 4:00PM – 4:30PM; Q&A with Director: 4:30PM – 5:30PM
Roshaneh Zafar, Managing Director, Kashf Foundation
Chair: Asim Khwaja,Sumitomo-Foundation for Advanced Studies on International Development Professor of International Finance and Development, Harvard Kennedy School
Kashf Foundation is the one of the leading micro-finance providers in Pakistan, with special outreach to women headed businesses. Rehaii, is Kashf Foundation’s attempt to mainstream the obstacles faced by women and girls in Pakistan, including forced marriage, domestic violence, and lack of economic opportunity and to start a dialogue around addressing these obstacles. Rehaii calls for change and suggests how economic investment in these women can lift a family out of poverty and give women greater power and dignity within their families.
Cosponsored with the Harvard Kennedy School Pakistan Caucus and the Harvard Pakistan Student Group (HPSG)
Part 1: April 14, 5:30 PM, Tsai Auditorium, CGIS S010, 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge MA
Part 2: April 15, 6:00 PM, Lecture Hall, Sackler Museum, 485 Broadway, Cambridge, MA
Michael Oppitz,Professor emeritus of ethnography, University of Zurich & former director of the Ethnographic Museum
Chair:Jinah Kim, Assistant Professor, Department of History of Art & Architecture
Shamans of the Blind Country is a three-and-a-half hour epos about faith healers in a remote mountain region of north-western Nepal. The film will be screened in two parts on two consecutive evenings, followed by a talk with the director.
The film shows Magar shamanism in all its variety and range. It follows the arduous process of initiation that each student has to go through before he or she can enter the guild of the chosen healers. It participates in many rituals and séances the shamans perform to cure their patients’ illnesses and avert their misfortune. any facets of this religion are presented in a visual language that suit the Magar perspective, disregarding all theoretical speculations that usually overgrow this kind of subject.
Part I ( to be screened on April 14th) displays a variety of healing rituals carried out by the shamans in the Dhaulagiri region. Part II ( to be screened on April 15th) of the film focuses on the transmission of the shaman’s knowledge from master to pupil. This is an oral transmission; no books are involved. It all happens in séances, where the pupil is requested to watch and imitate the master’s performance. This means manufacturing the required utensils and paraphernalia, preparing a sacred spot or altar, performing the operations in the right order, and above all, learning the mythical chants, the origin stories and auxiliary chants, echoing the master line by line to the beat of his drum.
Michael Oppitz, born 1942 in Silesia (now Poland); schooled in Cologne, studied anthropology, sociology and sinology at Berkeley, Bonn and Cologne; dissertation 1974; post-doc 1986; professor at Zurich University from 1991–2008 and director of the city’s Ethnographic Museum; extensive field research in the Himalayas 1965–2010; a dozen books on anthropology; various short films.
Cosponsored with the Department of History of Art & Architecture, Harvard University
Harvard Book Store welcomes award-winning author RAMACHANDRA GUHA and President of the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, PRATAP BHANU MEHTA for a discussion of Guha’s new book Gandhi Before India.
Here is a revelatory work of biography that takes us from Mohandas 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. Ramachandra Guha has uncovered a myriad of previously untapped documents, including private papers of Gandhi’s contemporaries and co-workers, contemporary newspapers and court documents, the writings of Gandhi’s children, secret files kept by British Empire functionaries. Using this wealth of material in a brilliantly nuanced narrative, Guha describes the social, political, and personal worlds in which Gandhi began his journey to become the modern era’s most important and influential political actor. And Guha makes clear that Gandhi’s work in South Africa-far from being a mere prelude to his accomplishments in India-was profoundly influential on his evolution as a political thinker, social reformer, and beloved leader.
Ramachandra Guha has previously taught at Yale and Stanford universities, the University of Oslo, the Indian Institute of Science, and the London School of Economics. His books include a pioneering environmental history, an award-winning social history of cricket, and the award-winning India After Gandhi.He writes regularly on social and political issues for the British and Indian press, including columns in The Telegraph and the Hindustan Times, and also for The New York Times.