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India's World

24th Social Research Conference, May 10-11, 2011

On Tuesday and Wednesday, May 10 and 11, speakers discussed key issues of contemporary Indian life—government, economy, education, and culture. This mission of this public conference was to engage both experts and the audience in conversations about the ways in which India is influenced by the world—and the world by India.

Our decision to devote an issue and a conference to India seemed long overdue given that India is home to more than 20 percent of the world’s population; a functioning multicultural democracy; an assertive global player in economics and politics; a nuclear power; and links Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, and Sri Lanka, among other countries. In addition, India is now home to the world’s most important experiment to connect capitalism, liberal democratic thought, and bold ideas about justice and social equality. While there have been many efforts to write India’s obituary, it is more alive today than it has ever been. This conference attempted to map the current Indian landscape, including its politics, its cultures, and its educational scene, and resists the normal stance of looking for single cliché (such as flat, hot, or crowded) to capture what is going on.

This conference was the 24th in the Social Research conference series, founded by Arien Mack in 1988. Arien Mack is Alfred and Monette Marrow Professor of Psychology at The New School for Social Research and editor of Social Research since 1970. Dr. Mack collaborated with Arjun Appadurai on this conference and the special issue of Social Research: An International Quarterly.

This conference was made possible by generous support from the Ford Foundation in collaboration with the India China Institute at The New School.

To order the related issue of Social Research: An International Quarterly



Tuesday, May 10


Amitav Ghosh, author of The Glass Palace, The Hungry Tide, and Sea of Poppies, among others

Moderator: Arjun Appadurai, Goddard Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication, New York University; Senior Fellow, Institute for Public Knowledge; President, PUKAR

Wednesday, May 11


INDIA'S IT INDUSTRY: THE END OF THE BEGINNING Ajit Balakrishnan, chairman, managing director, and CEO, Anindya Ghose, Robert L. & Dale Atkins Rosen Faculty Fellow, Associate Professor of Information, Operations and Management Sciences, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, New York University Bruce Nussbaum, Professor of Innovation and Design, School of Design Strategies, Parsons The New School for Design

MODERATOR: Sanjay Reddy, associate professor of economics, New School for Social Research


CRISIS IN THE CLASSICS Sheldon Pollock, William B. Ransford Professor of Sanskrit and Indian Studies, Department of Middle East, South Asian, and African Studies, Columbia University

ACCUSATIONS OF ILLITERACY AND THE MEDICINE OF THE ORGAN Lawrence Cohen, professor of social cultural anthropology, University of California, Berkeley

TERRORISM, CONSPIRACY, AND SURVEILLANCE IN BOMBAY'S URBAN CINEMA Ranjani Mazumdar, independent filmmaker; associate professor of cinema studies, School of Art and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University

KAMA TO KARMA: THE RESURGENCE OF PURITANISM IN CONTEMPORARY INDIA Wendy Doniger, Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions, University of Chicago Divinity School

MODERATOR: Vyjayanthi Rao, assistant professor of anthropology, New School for Social Research


ELECTIONS AS COMMUNITAS Mukulika Banerjee, professor of anthropology, London School of Economics

LIBERAL DEMOCRACY IN INDIA AND ITS DALIT CRITIQUE Gopal Guru, professor of social and political theory, Center for Political Studies, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University

“AN' YOU WILL FIGHT, TILL THE DEATH OF IT....”: PAST AND PRESENT IN THE PROBLEM OF KASHMIR Suvir Kaul, A.M. Rosenthal Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania

MODERATOR: Sanjay Ruparelia, assistant professor of politics, New School for Social Research



Speakers, Panelists, and Moderators

Ajit Balakrishnan is the founder, chairman, and managing director of India. Ltd. He is also a director of Rediffusion Dentsu Young & Rubicam Pvt. Ltd.; India Abroad Publications; India In New York, India Abroad Publications (Canada), Value Communications Corporation and VuBites India Pvt. Ltd.. In addition, Mr. Balakrishnan serves as chairman of the Board of Governors of the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta and chairman of the Working Group of Internet Governance set up by the Government of India.

Mukulika Banerjee is Reader in Social Anthropology at the London School of Economics. Her current research is on popular perceptions of democracy in India and she is preparing a monograph on the subject. She is the author of The Pathan Unarmed(2000), co-author of The Sari (2003) with Daniel Miller and editor of Muslim Portraits (2008). Her forthcoming volume, entitled Effervescent Democracy, presents the findings of a comparative ethnographic study of the Indian national elections in 2009.

Lawrence Cohen is a professor of social cultural anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of No Aging in India, a book on Alzheimer's disease, the body and the voice in time, and the cultural politics of senility. Presently, he is working on India Tonite, which examines homoerotic identification and representation in the context of political and market logics in urban north India, and The Other Kidney, a collaborative project with Nancy Schper-Hughes that engages the nature of immunosuppression and its accompanying global traffic in organs for transplant.

Wendy Doniger is the Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions at the University of Chicago Divinity School. Wendy Doniger's research and teaching interests revolve around two basic areas, Hinduism and mythology. Her many books published under the name Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty include Hindu Myths: A Sourcebook, Translated from the Sanskrit (1975), The Rig Veda: An Anthology (1982), and The Laws of Manu (1991 with Brian K. Smith). Under the name Wendy Doniger, her books include The Implied Spider: Politics and Theology in Myth (1998); a new translation of the Kamasutra (2005 with Sudhir Kakar); The Woman Who Pretended to Be Who She Was (2006); and The Hindus: An Alternative History (2010). In progress are Hinduism (2011) and Faking It: Narratives of Circular Jewelry and Deceptive Women; Horses for Lovers, Dogs for Husbands (a novel).

Amitav Ghosh is a writer and anthropologist. Born in Calcutta in 1956, Ghosh spent his childhood in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and northern India. He studied in Delhi, Oxford, and Egypt and has taught in various Indian and American universities. His books include The Circle of Reason (1986), The Shadow Lines (1988), The Calcutta Chromosome (1995), The Glass Palace (2000), The Hungry Tide (2005), and Sea of Poppies (2008). He has been awarded the Prix Médicis étranger for The Circle of Reason, the Sahitya Akademi Award and the Ananda Puraskar for The Shadow Lines, the Arthur C. Clarke Award for The Calcutta Chromosome, the Grand Prize for Fiction at the Frankfurt International e-Book Awards in 2001 for The Glass Palace, the Hutch Crossword Book Award for The Hungry Tide, and the Grinzane Cavour Award in Turin. Sea of Poppies was shortlisted for the 2008 Man Booker Prize, was co-winner of the Vodafone Crossword Book Award in 2009, and co-winner of the 2010 Dan David Prize. Ghosh has written for the New Yorker, Granta, the New Republic, and the New York Times. His forthcoming book is River of Smoke.

Gopal Guru is a professor of social and political theory in the Center of Political Science at Jawaharlal Nehru University. He is the author of numerous articles on Dalits, women, politics, and philosophy. He is editor of Humiliation: Claims and Context (2009).

Suvir Kaul is professor and chair of the Department of English at the University of Pennsylvania. Previously he taught at the SGTB Khalsa College in Delhi, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Stanford University, and Jamia Milia Islamia. His research interests include late 17th- and 18th-Century British literature, contemporary South Asian writing in English, postcolonial studies, and literary and critical theory. He is the author of Poems of Nation, Anthems of Empire: English Verse in the Long Eighteenth Century (2000) and Thomas Gray and Literary Authority: Ideology and Poetics in Eighteenth-Century England (1992). He has also edited The Partitions of Memory: The Afterlife of the Division of India (2001) and co-edited interdisciplinary scholarly anthology,Postcolonial Studies and Beyond (2005), with Ania Loomba, Antoinette Burton, Matti Bunzl, and Jed Esty.

Boria Majumdar is a senior research fellow at the University of Central Lancashire in the UK. A well-known media figure, he has made television programs for Times Now, Ten Sports, ESPN, NDTV, Headlines Today, and has written books on the history and politics of cricket in India and across the world and articles for the Times of India, Outlook, Wisden, and Anandabazar Patrika. His books include Twenty-Two Yards to Freedom: A Social History of Indian Cricket (2004) and Cricket and Beyond–Essays on a Sport at a Crossroads (2007), Boria Majumdar is also executive academic editor of the journals Soccer & Society and Sport in Society, deputy executive academic editor of The International Journal of the History of Sport and general editor of the Routledge Series,Sport in the Global Society.

Ranjani Mazumdar is an associate professor of cinema studies at the School of Arts & Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Her publications focus on urban cultures, popular cinema, gender and the cinematic city. She is the author of Bombay Cinema: An Archive of the City (2007). Mazumdar has also worked as a documentary filmmaker and is a founding member of Mediasorm, India’s first women’s film collective. Mazumdar’s documentaries include Delhi Diary 2001 (2001) on violence, memory, and the city; The Power of the Image (1998, co-directed), a television series on Bombay cinema; and Prisoner of Gender, which won the second prize at an International Television documentary festival. Her current research focuses on film in the 1960s, globalization and film culture, and the visual culture of film posters.

Sheldon Pollock is the William B. Ransford Professor of Sanskrit and Indian Studies at Columbia University. His areas of specialization are Sanskrit philology, Indian intellectual and literary history, and, increasingly, comparative intellectual history. His publications include the monograph The Language of the Gods in the World of Men: Sanskrit, Culture, and Power in Premodern India (2006), which won the Coomaraswamy Prize and the Lionel Trilling Award, and the edited volume Literary Cultures in History: Reconstructions from South Asia (2003). Two forthcoming book projects are entitled Liberation Philology and Reader on Rasa: A Historical Sourcebook in Indian Aesthetics. He is the recipient of the Distinguished Achievement Award (2008) from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, for significant contributions to humanistic inquiry. In 2009, he received the President's Award for Sanskrit (2009) and the Padma Shri award (2010), both from the Government of India.

Jairam Ramesh is presently a congress member of the Indian Parliament representing Andhra Pradesh in the Rajya Sabha. He is a member of three committees of Parliament—the Public Accounts Committee, the Standing Committee on Finance, and the Committee on Government Assurances—and a member of the Court of JNU, New Delhi. Jairam has earlier been advisor to the Finance Minister from 1996 to 1998, advisor to the Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission from 1992 to 1994 and advisor to the Prime Minister 1991. He writes a widely-read column on economics and public policy called Kautilya in the Times of India. He has also anchored a number of popular television programs on business and the economy including Business Breakfast and Crossfire.

About the Organizers

Arien Mack, Alfred and Monette Marrow Professor of Psychology at The New School for Social Research, has been the editor ofSocial Research since 1970 and is the founder and director of the Social Research conference series and all other Social Researchprojects. She teaches and operates a research lab investigating visual perception. Her publications include more than 60 articles, a book, Inattentional Blindness (1998), as well as three edited volumes which were issues of Social Research republished as books by university presses: Death and the American Experience (1973), Technology and the Rest of Culture (1997), and Humans and Other Animals (1995). For information about how you can support the Center for Public Scholarship, contact Dr. Mack at

Arjun Appadurai is Goddard Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University and Senior Fellow at the Institute for Public Knowledge. Professor Appadurai formerly served as Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at The New School. He has held professorial chairs at Yale University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Pennsylvania, and has held visiting appointments at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (Paris), the University of Michigan, the University of Iowa, Columbia University, and New York University. Professor Appadurai is the founder and now the President of PUKAR (Partners for Urban Knowledge Action and Research), a non-profit organization based in and oriented to the city of Mumbai (India). He is the author of many books and articles. His most recent book is Fear of Small Numbers: An Essay on the Geography of Anger (2006).

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