Chair: Anila Daulatzai, Visiting Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies and Islamic Studies, Harvard Divinity School
Omar Shahid Hamid has served with the Karachi police for twelve years, most recently as head of counterterrorism. During his service, he has been actively targeted by various terrorist groups and organizations. He was wounded in the line of duty and his office was bombed by the Taliban in 2010. He left Karachi for a sabbatical when there were too many contracts on his life. He has a master’s in criminal justice policy from the London School of Economics and a master’s in law from University College London.
Much like the protagonist in his police procedural, The Prisoner, Hamid was forced to navigate the byzantine politics, shifting alliances, and backroom dealings of Karachi police and intelligence agencies. In his novel, Hamid exposes that dark side of Karachi, as only a police officer could. His writing has garnered praise for rejecting a romanticized take on slum life—as is characteristic in Pakistani English literature—in favor of gritty realism.
A thinly veiled fictional interpretation of real-life events, the novel follows Constantine D’Souza, a Christian police officer charged with rescuing kidnapped American journalist Jon Friedland (a.k.a., 2002 captured Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl). With no leads, D’Souza recruits Akbar Khan, a rogue cop imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit (modeled on Pakistan’s famed take-no-prisoners officer Chaudhry Aslam Khan). Caught between Pakistan’s militant ruling party and the Pakistani intelligence agencies, D’Souza finds himself in a race against time to save a man’s life—and the honor of his nation.
Sharmila Murthy, Assistant Professor of Law, Suffolk University; Visiting Scholar, Sustainability Science Program, Harvard Kennedy School
Ramnath Subbaraman, Associate Physician, Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Research Advisor, Partners for Urban Knowledge, Action, and Research (PUKAR), Mumbai, India
Subhadra Banda, Research Associate, Centre for Policy Research; MPP Candidate, Harvard Kennedy School of Government
As India looks to position itself as a global leader, it also bears the ignominious status as being the open defecation capital of the world. Of the 2.5 billion people in the world who still lack access to adequate sanitation, nearly one-third live in India. Tragic events last summer in rural India further raised awareness of access to toilets as a women’s issue. Drawing on their experiences in urban and rural India, Professor Murthy, Dr. Subbaraman and Ms. Banda will explore the challenges of improving access to sanitation on the sub-continent, addressing the public health, gender, policy and legal dimensions of this complicated issue.
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.
Over the past decade South Asia has grown immensely in popularity as a research destination for students of disciplines ranging from religion to public health. The six Graduate Student Associates (GSAs) of the South Asia Institute — whose backgrounds include political science, education, law, public health, and history — will speak on their experiences in the field. The GSAs have a particularly broad and diverse background working with NGOs and government organizations in South Asia.
This workshop is designed to be a particularly helpful forum for students contemplating or preparing for research abroad.
Moderator: Shankar Ramaswami, South Asia Institute South Asian Studies Postdoctoral Fellow Mariam Chughtai, Ed.D. Candidate, Harvard Graduate School of Education Aditya Dasgupta, PhD Candidate, Department of Government Madhav Khosla, PhD. Candidate, Political Theory Corrina Moucheraud, Doctoral Candidate, Harvard School of Public Health Dinyar Patel, PhD candidate, Department of History Erum Sattar, SJD Candidate, Harvard Law School
South Asia Without Borders Seminar Shankar Ramaswami,South Asia Institute South Asian Studies Postdoctoral Fellow
Chair: Parimal G. Patil,Department of South Asian Studies, Harvard University
This presentation will explore migrant workers’ experiences, aspirations, and world-views in Delhi, drawing on fieldwork among metal workers in the Okhla Industrial Area. The presentation invokes the image of the chakravyuh (lotus maze), a labyrinthine military formation arising in the Mahabharata, to understand workers’ entanglements in the factory, neighborhood, and family, and growing attachments in the city.
Cosponsored by the Department of South Asian Studies
Frank Korom, Professor of Religion and Anthropology at Boston University
Chair: Ali Asani, Professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic Religion and Cultures, Faculty of Arts and Sciences; Director, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program
This lecture explores the social predicament of a low-caste community of narrative scroll painters in West Bengal known as Patuas. Originally Hindu, they converted to Islam in the thirteenth century. Since then, they have weathered the rough waters of double marginalization; that is, low caste and Muslim. I argue that rather than seeing them as victims, it is better to understand their liminal status as a vehicle for empowerment. The data for the presentation draws on over a decade of fieldwork in Medinipur District, a predominantly agricultural region south of Kolkata.
Pasha M. Khan, Professor, Urdu Language and Culture, McGill University
Chair: Sunil Sharma, Modern Languages and Comparative Literature, Associate Professor of Persianate and Comparative Literature, Convener of Persian and Hindi-Urdu, Boston University
This talk will consider the career of Mir Baqir ‘Ali Dastan-go (1850-1928), an Urdu storyteller of Delhi who performed the Story of Amir Hamzah for royal and middle-class patrons, and before the public, in an age of changing attitudes toward the “fantastic” romance (qissah/dastan) genre. By examining Baqir ‘Ali, his biographers, and other commentators on the genre in South Asia, it will analyze the supposed decline of the romance and of storytelling in colonial India from the 19th century onward.
Dr. Ranganayakulu Bodavala, Founder and Managing Director, Thrive Energy Technologies
Marc Mitchell, Lecturer on Global Health, Department of Global Health and Population
Dr. S V Subramanian, Professor of Population Health and Geography, Harvard School of Public Health
Ranganayakulu Bodavala (Ranga) has 16 years of experience as a consultant in public health systems in World Bank funded health projects in India, JICA funded projects in Uzbekistan, Malawi, and UNICEF in Afghanistan. Hailing from an agricultural family and from a village in India, Ranga is interested in simple technologies that make the life of women and child better, safe and productive. The technologies could be in water treatment, pumping, communication and home lighting. Ranga has an MBA and Ph.D in information systems and was a Takemi Fellow in Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, from 1999-2000.