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The Harvard University South Asia Institute (SAI) engages faculty and students through interdisciplinary programs to advance and deepen the teaching and research on global issues relevant to South Asia. 

About SAI | View the South Asia Institute video

Upcoming Events

Thu, September 8, 2016 from 04:00pm - 06:00pm  /  CGIS South Concourse

Welcome Back Mixer

Celebrate the start of the school year with the South Asia Institute!

  • Meet SAI’s Visiting Fellows and faculty
  • Learn about student funding opportunities
  • Meet with representatives from Harvard South Asia student groups
  • Enjoy delicious South Asian food!


Join the Facebook event.



Thu, Sep 8, 2016 at 04:00pm

Thu, Sep 8, 2016 at 06:00pm

CGIS South Concourse
Harvard University

1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

Chaat Invite_SAI_2
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Thu, September 15, 2016 from 06:00pm - 08:00pm  /  CGIS Knafel, K262

Gandhi’s Forgotten Campaign: The Abolition of Indenture and the Mahatma

Student Event

Presented by the South Asia Across Disciplines Workshop

Mrinalini SinhaAlice Freeman Palmer Professor of History; Professor (by courtesy) of English and Women’s Studies; Senior Fellow, Michigan Society of Fellows (2015-), University of Michigan


Sunil AmrithMehra Family Professor of South Asian Studies, Professor of History

Mou BanerjeePhD Candidate, Dept. of History, Harvard University

Cosponsored by the South Asia Across Disciplines Workshop and the W. E. B. Du Bois Research Institute

The indentured labor system, which had been put in place in the aftermath of Atlantic slavery to replace emancipated African slaves with indentured Indians on colonial plantations overseas, came under widespread attack by the early decades of the 20th century. M.K. Gandhi’s involvement in the movement for the abolition of indenture, or what following the abolition of Atlantic slavery has been called the “second abolition,” helped launch his political career in India. Yet the campaign against indenture occupies an obscure and undigested role in the scholarship on Gandhi and on modern India. What might it mean to restore abolitionism to its role in the advent of Gandhi’s career in India? What might abolitionism tell us about Gandhi’s signature concepts of swaraj and satyagraha? This talk will shed light on the abolition movement in India and explore its implications for understanding Gandhi’s politics.

Thu, Sep 15, 2016 at 06:00pm

Thu, Sep 15, 2016 at 08:00pm

CGIS Knafel, K262
Harvard University

1737 Cambridge Street
Cambridge MA 02138

0915 Sinha
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Fri, September 16, 2016 from 04:00pm - 05:30pm  /  CGIS South, S354

Directive Principles and Transformative Constitutional Design

Book Talk

Tarunabh KhaitanAssociate Professor and Hackney Fellow in Law, Wadham College, University of Oxford

Chair: Ajantha SubramanianProfessor of Anthropology and South Asian Studies, Harvard University

Borrowing and developing the concept from Ireland, framers of India’s Constitution inserted a chapter titled ‘directive principles of state policy’ in the founding document. They were a mix of principles aimed at securing what they called an ‘economic democracy’, some guarantees we now call ‘social rights’ and some other curiosities like an exhortation for prohibition and a ban on cow slaughter. These were directed at the political organs of the state and made expressly non-justiciable. Despite being derided by scholars and lawyers as ‘mere pious wishes’ and ‘design flaws’, and (largely) rejected by post-Apartheid South Africa after due consideration, they have been adopted by at least 24 constitutions in Asia and Africa, including very recently by the latest Nepalese Constitution of 2015. India’s cultural influence on these jurisdictions, mostly in the global South, does not seem to provide sufficient explanation for their continued popularity with constitution makers.

Most of the existing scholarship on directive principles has focused on how courts have used these principles, their non-justiciability notwithstanding. In this paper, Khaitan focus on their political character. First, he uses India as a case-study to argue that directive principles are an important tool for successful constitution-making. He identifies the reasons why they became attractive to the framers of the Indian Constitution, and far from being mere pious wishes, they performed important and distinct political functions for the framers. Second, Khaitan shows that insofar as they impose political duties on the state, these duties have a conditional character: their substantive obligatory force becomes manifest only after certain preconditions inherent in reasons for their adoption as directive principles are satisfied. Extrapolating from these Indian findings, he speculates that non-justiciable conditional political duties have particular salience for postcolonial pluralistic societies in the global South seeking to establish a transformative constitutional culture.

Fri, Sep 16, 2016 at 04:00pm

Fri, Sep 16, 2016 at 05:30pm

CGIS South, S354

1730 Cambridge Street
Cambridge MA 02138

0823 Khaitan
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Fri, September 16, 2016 from 09:00am - 06:00pm  /  Kresge G1, Harvard School of Public Health

Disasters and Development in South Asia

Cosponsored Event

Over a year after Nepal’s earthquake, this conference brings together practitioners, policy-makers, academics, students, and experts in disaster response to examine the importance of risk mitigation, and to discuss the role of development partners, aid accountability and the role of the media in disaster response.

The overarching objectives of this symposium are to share lessons from Nepal’s efforts in disaster preparedness, mitigation, management and reconstruction; and second, to foster dialogue and create links between lessons from other South Asian countries and Nepal’s experience in disaster response. To build relationships between the panelists, Harvard faculty members, Harvard students, and members of the Nepali community in Boston, several sessions including networking lunch, reception and dinner will be organized in addition to the panel discussions. At the end of the symposium, a final report which synthesizes the main ideas and recommendations will be prepared and circulated with the explicit intention of contributing to the existing conversation on building disaster resilient systems in South Asia.

The symposium is Harvard’s first international conference focused on Nepal and is organized by the Office of the Dean of the Harvard. T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and by Harvard Chan Students for Nepal, a student group of Nepali students who have campaigned to ensure the public health community can learn from Nepal’s response to the earthquake.

Click here to learn more and register.


Fri, Sep 16, 2016 at 09:00am

Fri, Sep 16, 2016 at 06:00pm

Kresge G1, Harvard School of Public Health

677 Huntington Ave., Boston

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SAI seeks Student Services Intern

The Intern for the South Asia Institute will gain valuable insight and experience in the day-to-day operations of a vibrant and dynamic University-wide Initiative focused on advancing education and research on South Asia at Harvard.

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SAI seeks Communications Intern

The Communications and Outreach Intern will work with SAI’s Communications and Outreach Coordinator to help to maintain the SAI website and will help develop and distribute outreach and marketing materials, including social media, website posts, and the weekly newsletter.

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Empowering girls through education

In a webinar as part of the Livelihood Creation Project, Shantha Sinha, MV Foundation, and Jacqueline Bhabha, HSPH, HLS, HKS, discussed obstacles and challenges that girls face when pursuing education.

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Alum Q+A: Saving lives at birth

Sabeena Jalal, an alum of the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health and currently based in Karachi, has developed a blade to be used by midwives during childbirth to cut the umbilical cord. The blade does not get infected, so she hopes the tool can reduce the rate of infant mortality in developing countries.

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