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.
Katherine Boo, New Yorker Staff Writer, Author of Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, Senior Loeb Scholar at the Harvard Graduate School of Design
Katherine is a staff writer at the The New Yorker Magazine and the author of Behind the Beautiful Forevers, winner of the National Book Award and PEN/Galbraith Award. Her journalism on how social and economic policy affects disadvantaged communities combines immersive and investigative techniques, and has been recognized by a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, a National Magazine Award, and a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
Diana Eck, Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies atHarvard University.
Eck invites Harvard alumni and friends to join her in New York City for a conversation about her most recent book, India: A Sacred Geography, which is a culmination of more than a decade’s work. Eck will address spiritual pilgrimages in India, such as the Kumbh Mela, which was the focus of a multidisciplinary project undertaken by the Harvard South Asia Institute along with five other professional schools at the University. 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 US.
Graphic Violence: Representing the Rippling Effects of Conflict through Narrative, Illustration and Photography
Benjamin Dix, Photographer and Author of The Vanni
Charles Hallisey, Yehan Numata Senior Lecturer on Buddhist Literatures, Harvard Divinity School
Chair: Jennifer Leaning, FXB Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights, Harvard School of Public Health; Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School
Benjamin Dix, former liaison officer between LTTE leadership and the United Nations prior to the latter’s 2008 evacuation from Sri Lanka, documented the events leading up to the UN departure from the island nation and the subsequent destruction of the largely Tamil community from the Vanni region. Criticizing the systematic failure of the international community to act against the targeting of citizens from Sri Lanka’s Northern Province as they moved from the Vanni toward the Indian Ocean coast, Dix, alongside Harvard Professors Charles Hallisey (HDS) and Jennifer Leaning (HSPH), discussed the national and global implications of the Sri Lankan civil war’s legacy through the context of Dix’s graphic novel.
The novel, aptly entitled The Vanni, documents the experiences of Sri Lankan conflict survivors who have experienced human trafficking, torture, family separation, and post-traumatic stress disorder, among other misfortunes. Dix’s work bridges the fictional and non-fictional by using graphic artistic representation, telling the story of a Tamil man named Antony who illegally travels to the United Kingdom to seek asylum for himself and his family. Relatable and educational, The Vanni allows readers unfamiliar with the Sri Lankan context to identify with the civil war that ravaged the island nation for over 25 years, as well as view human tragedy in a new and sobering light.
Padma Desai, Gladys and Roland Harriman Professor of Comparative Economic Systems and Director, Center for Transition Economies Department of Economics, Columbia University
Chair: Natasha Kumar Warikoo, Assistant Professor, Harvard University, Graduate School of Education
Reception to follow
Padma Desai grew up in the 1930s in the provincial world of Surat, where she had a sheltered and strict upbringing in a traditional Gujarati Anavil Brahmin family. Her academic brilliance won her a scholarship to Bombay University, where the first heady taste of freedom in the big city led to tragic consequences—seduction by a fellow student whom she was then compelled to marry. In a failed attempt to end this disastrous first marriage, she converted to Christianity.
A scholarship to America in 1955 launched her on her long journey to liberation from the burdens and constraints of her life in India, with a growing self-awareness and transformation at many levels, as she made a new life for herself, met and married the celebrated economist Jagdish Bhagwati, became a mother, and rose to academic eminence at Harvard and Columbia.
How did she navigate the tumultuous road to assimilation in American society and culture? And what did she retain of her Indian upbringing in the process? This brave and moving memoir, written with a novelist’s skill at evoking personalities, places and atmosphere, and a scholar’s insights into culture and society, community and family, tells a compelling and thought-provoking human story that will resonate with readers everywhere.
The Convert: A Tale of Exile and Extremism by Deborah Baker
Chair: Diana Eck, Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies, Fredric Werthham Professor of Law and Psychiatry in Society, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Faculty of Divinity, Harvard University
Dead Reckoning: Memories of the 1971 Bangladesh War by Sarmila Bose
Chair: Richard Cash, Senior Lecturer on Global Health, Department of Global Health and Population, Harvard School of Public Health Comments by Dina Mahnaz Siddiqi, Visiting Associate Professor, Women and Gender Studies Program, Hunter College, CUNY
Arndt Michael, University of Freiburg
Chair: Tarun Khanna, Director, South Asia Institute; Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor, Harvard Business School
Winner of the Association of Third World Studies’ Cecil B. Currey Book Award and the German-Indo Society’s Gisela Bonn Award 2013
“Arndt Michael, India’s Foreign Policy and Regional Multilateralism (UK: Palgrave, MacMillan, 2013). It is an important topic especially with regard to the developing world. It is logically written and allows even non-specialists to grasp the basic topic. It is based on thorough knowledge of the existing literature and incorporates significant new original materials that make this a must read. Indeed, it provides a tight and clear analysis that provides important concepts that build a foundation for the future study of the general topic. Worth reading, especially if you are interested in modern Indian foreign policy. To be sure, it is a topic Americans should be interested in, most especially our leaders!” Dr. William Head, Chair of the Selection Committee, Cecil B. Currey Book Award
Niraja Jayal, Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India
Chair: Mark Tushnet, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law, Harvard Law School
Citizenship and Its Discontents explores a century of contestations over citizenship from the colonial period to the present, analyzing evolving conceptions of citizenship as legal status, as rights, and as identity. The early optimism that a new India could be fashioned out of an unequal and diverse society led to a formally inclusive legal membership, an impulse to social and economic rights, and group-differentiated citizenship. Today, these policies to create a civic community of equals are losing support in a climate of social intolerance and weak solidarity. Once seen by Western political scientists as an anomaly, India today is a site where every major theoretical debate about citizenship is being enacted in practice, and one that no global discussion of the subject can afford to ignore.