South Asia Initiative Events

Winter Quarter 2019


Thu, Jan 10, 2019, 5 pm, SSB 107: SAI Winter Mixer.

Thu, Jan 10, 2019: Ruvani Fonseka (Public Health, UC San Diego/SDSU), Addressing Reproductive Coercion in Bangladesh: Lessons learned from adapting the ARCHES intervention.

4-5 pm, SSB 107.

Abstract: Reproductive coercion refers to a set of specific behaviors, most often perpetrated by male partners, to control women’s fertility and interfere with contraceptive use. Reproductive coercion is associated with intimate partner violence and contributes to negative reproductive health outcomes such as unintended pregnancy and unsafe abortion. However, few evidence-based interventions exist that address reproductive coercion and intimate partner violence in low and middle-income country contexts. Addressing Reproductive Coercion in Health Settings (ARCHES) is a brief clinical intervention designed to provide education, targeted-support, and empowerment to women facing reproductive coercion or intimate partner violence.  In two U.S. National Institutes of Health-funded randomized controlled trials, a single exposure to ARCHES significantly reduced pregnancy coercion and increased women’s self-efficacy to use contraceptives despite partner opposition. The UCSD Center on Gender Equity and Health, in collaboration with Ipas International and local health organizations, has adapted the ARCHES intervention for use by family planning providers in Bangladesh. The multi-step adaptation process funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation included conducting interviews and focus group discussions with family planning clients and providers at community-based clinics in Bangladesh, and creating a provider toolkit for implementing ARCHES in low- and middle-income settings. This session will share insights from the formative research used to adapt ARCHES to the Bangladesh country context. This adaptations will inform ongoing efforts to adapt ARCHES for use in other high-need environments, building local capacity to address reproductive coercion and intimate partner violence in global health settings.


Thu, Jan 17, 2019: Lesley Jo Weaver (International Studies, Oregon), Sugar and Tension: The Intersection of Diabetes and Mental Health among Women in India.
4-5:30 pm, SSB 107
Co-sponsored by Anthropology.





Thu, Feb 14, 2019: Reetika Khera (Economics and Public Systems, IIM Ahmedabad), The Promise and Pitfalls of Big Data for Service Delivery in India: A Discussion with Reetika Khera and Karthik Muralidharan.
3:30-4:50 pm, Center 105
Co-sponsored by Economics.









Wed, Feb 20, 2019: Sumandro Chattapadhyay (The Centre for Internet and Society), Deregulation by Code.
4-5:40 pm, CSE 1202
Co-sponsored by Institute for Practical Ethics, Halicioglu Data Science Institute, Science Studies, Department of Communication, Design@Large.

AbstractAt an event organised by The IndUS Entrepreneurs in August 2015, Nandan Nilekani offered this provocation: ‘are we at a WhatsApp Moment in finance?’ In this paper, I explore the meaning and significance of the notion of ‘WhatsApp moment’ in Indian banking, and document how the conditions of actualisation of this moment have been produced through a series of policy-legislative changes on one hand, and introduction of enabling software infrastructure for digital payments on the other.

I argue that the ‘WhatsApp moment’ refers to the _unbundling_ of an industry. Here, unbundling indicates at breaking up of an industry into separate constituting parts that can then be turned into independent, and often differently regulated, sub-industries of their own. In the Indian banking context, I study how (digital) payments as a service formerly offered by established banks and some telecommunication companies got separated out from the larger industry of banking and financial services to become an industry in itself, which saw rapid entry of various new payments processing companies – from Alibaba-linked PayTM, to payments apps from e-commerce giants (Amazon Pay and Walmart-owned PhonePe), to payments apps from mobile device/OS companies (Samsung Pay and Google Pay).

I trace how specific changes in policy design (for digital financial inclusion) and technological design (of national payments systems) came together to reconfigure the digital payments market in India and to produce a newly regulated marketplace of competing digital payments players. This techno-legal redesigning of the market for digital payments services has led to general deregulation but not without introducing various regulatory controls(-by-design). I will conclude the paper with a discussion of these controls and their implementation through technical/legal design decisions, and contradictions thereof.


Tue, Feb 26, 2019: Rohini Pande (Harvard John F. Kennedy School of Government) on How Does Conflict Affect Political Selection? Evidence from Nepal’s People’s War.
3:30 – 5 pm, GPS 3202
Co-sponsored by Economics.

Abstract: The political consequences of civil war are among the most important but least understood of all war impacts. In 2015, after a decade-long conflict and nine years of negotiation, Nepal abolished its 240-year-old monarchy and promulgated a new constitution formalizing Nepal’s political structure as a federal republic. The 2017 local elections ushered more than 30,000 new politicians into office with historically disadvantaged ethnic groups more likely to be represented in constituencies which experienced more conflict. Using a census of 3.68 million Nepalis across eleven districts, party nomination lists, and data on the universe of candidates and elected politicians, we comprehensively document patterns of political selection in these elections. First, politicians are better educated and richer than the populations they represent, but that they come from representative family backgrounds. Overall, these patterns of political selection in modern Nepal bear some qualitative resemblance to those in consolidated western democracies. Second, we see significant political representation of castes that had been largely excluded from representation in elections prior to the conflict. The Maoist party – which led the armed conflict – has the broadest ethnic base of potential candidates and the party most likely to select candidates from excluded castes. This potentially reflects the longer-run impacts of the parallel political structures, which sought to empower historically disadvantaged castes, that the Maoists created in the regions that they controlled during the conflict. Finally, using close elections in 2017 and data on the receipt of earthquake housing transfers we show that political representation enables policy inclusion.  


Fri-Sun, Mar 1-3, 2019: Centering the Margins: Conversations with Writers of Color conference.
Fri, Mar 1, 7 pm – 9 pm, Central Library
Sat, Mar 2, 9:30 am – 7 pm, Cross Cultural Center
Sun, Mar 3, 9 am – 4 pm, Central Library
Co-sponsored by the San Diego Public Library Humanities Section, UC San Diego’s SPACES and the Cross Cultural Center.

Full schedule and (free) registration here.

Friday, March 1 | Neil Morgan Auditorium, San Diego Central Library | 7:00 pm

Saturday, March 2 | Cross Cultural Center, UCSD | 9:15 am

Saturday, March 2 | Cross Cultural Center, UCSD | 9:25 – 11:15 am
Moderator: Zeinabu Irene Davis
Panelists: Jill Cowan, Thelma Virata de Castro, Troy Espera, Sarika Mehta, Jennifer Pun

Saturday, March 2 | Cross Cultural Center, UCSD | 11:30 am – 1:00 pm
Moderator: Marivi Soliven
Panelists: Huda Al Marashi, Naomi Hirahara, Kat Tanaka Okopnik, Irene Suico Soriano

Saturday, March 2 | Cross Cultural Center, UCSD | 2:30 – 4:00 pm
Moderator: Brandon Som
Panelists: Julayne Lee, Jenn Soriano, Miranda Tsang

Saturday, March 2 | Cross Cultural Center, UCSD | 4:30 – 6:00 pm
Moderator: Namrata Poddar
Panelists: Madhushree Gosh, Jason McCall, Barbara Mhangami-Ruwende, Jason Magabo Perez

DINNER | 6:00 – 7:00 PM

Saturday, March 2 | Cross Cultural Center, UCSD | 7:00 – :00 pm

Sunday, March 3 | Neil Morgan Auditorium, San Diego Central Library | 9:30 – 11:00 am
Moderator: John D. Blanco
Panelists: Hope Wabuke, Donna Miscolta, Ari Honarvar, Karen Llagas

Sunday, March 3 | Neil Morgan Auditorium, San Diego Central Library | 12:00 – 2:00 pm
Moderator: Claire Light
Panelists: Neelanjana Banerjee, Stefanie Sanchez von Borstel, Hiram Sims


Thu, Mar 7, 2019: Gareth Nellis (Political Science, UC San Diego), Dominant Parties and the Origins of India’s Weakly Institutionalized Party System.
12-2 pm, SSB 107.

AbstractWhy are party systems well-institutionalized in some settings, and chronically weak in others? I argue that unstable party systems are more likely to arise in regions where nationally dominant parties monopolize political competition at the onset of mass-franchise democracy. Dominant parties crowd out political opposition. Hence the eventual breakdown of a dominant party entails the severing of party-voter linkages locally. In the resulting vacuum, politicians face uncertainty about the electoral prospects of newly emergent parties. This leads to a collective action dilemma whereby candidates defect from expanding parties and sort instead into smaller, fragmentary ones. Consequently, stable party systems fail to take hold. Subnational evidence from India buttresses the theoretical argument. The success of the once-dominant Congress Party during the country’s inaugural elections (1951–2) robustly predicts greater electoral volatility in the decades following the decline of one-party dominance in the 1970s. Differential patterns of nationalist mobilization during the colonial period provide additional support for the paper’s claims. Overall, the findings imply a striking paradox: dominant parties that help “bind the nation together” during democracy’s initial stages sow the seeds of long-run political instability.  



Tue, Mar 12, 2019: Saurabh Dube (Centre for Asian and African Studies, El Colegio de México) on Imaginaries and Iconographies: South Asian Modernisms and a Dalit Expressionism.
2-3:30 pm, Dept of Literature 155
Co-sponsored by Third World Studies.





Fri, Mar 15, 2019: Lucinda Ramberg (Anthropology & Program in Feminist, Gender & Sexuality Studies, Cornell), Dalit Futures and Sexual Modernity.
12-2 pm, SSB 107.
Co-sponsored by Program for Religion, Anthropology & Critical Gender Studies.

AbstractFollowing the call of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, many Dalits have converted to Buddhism as  means of escape from the stigmatization attached to “untouchability.”  Drawing on 18 months of ethnographic research, I consider the sexual politics of this movement in relation to the temporality of stigma.  In particular, I investigate the widely held notion that women in particular find it difficult to break from ancestral religion through interviews with Buddhist women who continue to keep ancestral gods and ethnographic descriptions of weddings in which Buddhist and Hindu rituals are mixed. Drawing on conversations within feminist and queer theory about the distribution of social life and death through reproductive futurism as well as critiques of representations of native others as stuck in the past within postcolonial theory, I elaborate how Dalits work to elude the time set for them by others. 


Thu, Mar 21, 2019: Radhika Govindarajan (Anthropology, Washington), More-Than-Human-Democracy: On the Political Lives of Cows, Rivers, and Mountains in Contemporary India.

4-6 pm, SSB 107.
Co-sponsored by Anthropology and Science Studies.

AbstractThis talk draws on ethnographic fieldwork among gau-rakshaks (cow-protectionists) and ordinary villagers in India’s Central Himalayan state of Uttarakhand to explore the possibilities and limits of more-than-human politics. It seeks to understand how the specific terms on which nonhumans are recognized as political actors shapes the politics of more-than-human politics. More specifically, this talk asks what is at stake for right-wing cow-protectionists in having the cow constitutionally reclassified as “mother” instead of “animal”. What does this particular gesture of kinship allow us to understand about the dark side of seemingly expansive political movements grounded in human kin relations with what might be called “nature”? In this talk, I argue that the grounding of this more-than-human politics in majoritarian ideology not only authorizes violence against those who are deemed enemies of a nation united around the figure of the mother-cow, but also fetishizes and naturalizes feminized bovine bodies and labor in ways that end up entrenching human domination over nature.  



Other Campus Events


Mon, Jan 14, 2019: Anirban Baishya (Division of Cinema and Media Studies, University of Southern California), “Best Face Forward”: Selfies and Digital Popular Culture in Contemporary India.
12:30 – 2 pm, MCC 127.
Dept of Communications Colloquium.





Wed, Jan 23, 2019: Kuhu Tanvir (Pittsburgh), Counterfeit Culture: Bollywood on Cellphone Screens in the Time of Globalization.
12:30-2pm, MCC 201.
Department of Communications Colloquium.








Thu, Feb 7, 2019: Jose Ignacio Cabezon (Santa Barbara), What is a Woman? What is a Man? Exploring The Buddhist Sources.
6pm, Great Hall at the International House, Eleanor Roosevelt College.
Sponsored by The Burke Lectureship on Religion and Society. Register here.

The ancient Buddhist sources have a great deal to say about what it means to be a biological man or woman, what it means to be gendered male and female, what kinds of desires and sexual practices are considered normative, and what kinds deviant. But this material is scattered throughout hundreds of different texts and is found in no single source. Drawing on decades of research into the classical Indian and Tibetan Buddhist texts – and on the extensive literature on ancient theories of “queerness” – Cabezon traces the life of a man and woman from conception to death, in the process laying bare Buddhist assumptions about what it means to be normal and abnormal and why these issues were so important to ancient authors.

Jose Cabezon is Dalai Lama Professor of Tibetan Buddhism and Cultural Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and president-elect of the American Academy of Religion. The author or editor of eighteen books and dozens of articles, Cabezon has a wide range of scholarly interests, from Indian Buddhist philosophy to Tibetan history to the academic study of religion. His latest book, Sexuality in Classical South Asian Buddhism (Wisdom Publications, 2017) is the most extensive study of its kind ever published. The recipient of many honors, Cabezon was most recently awarded Guggenheim and ACLS fellowships for his forthcoming book Sera Monastery, a study of fifteenth-century Tibetan monastic academy.

Fri-Sat, Feb 15-16, 2019: Workshop on the Ethics and Policy Implications of Big Data.
Day 1 at The Forum at the Price Center; Day 2 at 15th Floor conference rooms (15A &B) at the Village.
Sponsored by the Halıcıoğlu Data Science Institute, the Institute for Practical Ethics and the Dean of Social Sciences.

The workshop will bring together social and computer scientists, other academics, activists, and practitioners interested in the ethics and policy implications of algorithms and Big Data. The purpose of the workshop is to explore the state-of-the-art and immediate horizons of algorithms, Big Data, and automation and their interface with the social sciences and ethical issues. The panels are set up to facilitate lively and wide-ranging discussion.

Full Schedule

Friday, February 15, 2019, The Forum at the Price Center
2:30-3:00 Welcome reception (light refreshments)

1. Panel: Knowledge and Culture
– How will human learning be altered and how should the education system respond to Big Data?
– How will art and the humanities be affected by Big Data?
– How will the social sciences change?
– How will natural science be done differently?
– What are the effects on popular culture?
Cecilia Aragon, University of Washington-Seattle
Stuart Geiger, University of California, Berkeley
Johannes Himmelreich, Stanford University
William FitzGerald, The Worker Agency, and previously at Google
Juan Pablo Pardo Guerra, Sociology, UCSD

Saturday, February 16, 2019, The Village, Rooms 15A & 15B
8:30-9:00 Breakfast buffet

2. Panel: Fairness and Inequality
– What is algorithmic fairness? How are technical choices and substantive outcomes related?
– How do people make visible and contest the effects of data/algorithm regimes?
– To what extent are algorithmic predictions self-fulfilling prophecies?
– How does Big Data affect economic inequalities?
– Do algorithmic predictions lock the future into the past by overfitting on data from the past?
– Can Big Data help the disadvantaged?
Per-Erik Milam, University of Twente
Joan Donovan, Data and Society Institute, New York
Sumandro Chattapadhyay, Centre for Internet and Society, India
Akos Rona-Tas, Sociology, UCSD

11:00-11:15 Coffee break

3. Panel: Power and Privacy
– Are there limits to algorithmic predictions?
– Do humans have any ultimate comparative advantage over AI, and if they do, what would that be?
– Can algorithms make decisions about humans?
– How does Big Data alter power relations and change the way societies are governed?
– How is the design of algorithms and Big Data structures distributed across actors, institutions, and locales?
How does this distribution affect the resulting algorithms and their surrounding practices?
– Can algorithms help civic movements?
– Should we worry about profiling?
– How safe is Big Data in the face of hacking?
– Who benefits from loss of privacy?
Margaret Hu, Washington and Lee School of Law
Jack Poulson, Hodge Star Scientific Computing and previously at Google,
Reetika Khera, IIT, Delhi
Emory Roane, Privacy Rights Clearing House
Lily Irani, Communication, UCSD

1:15-2:15 Lunch break

4. Roundtable with the participation of all the panelists: Reigning in Big Data
– What are the main legal issues raised by Big Data?
– Is it too late for ethics in Big Data?
– Is regulation of algorithms possible/desirable?
– What are the national differences in Big Data regulations?
– Is data/algorithmic transparency possible?
– Should the design of algorithms/data structures include relevant stakeholders?
– What forms of data privacy are possible/desirable? Can surveillance be kept benign?
– Where should human judgment and deliberation yield to algorithmic decision making and where should it not?
– How should algorithms and Big Data become subject to scrutiny or audit?
– Who should be responsible for what an algorithm does?
– What can civic movements and social actors do?
Dana Nelkin, Philosophy, UCSD

More information here.