The Azim Premji University regularly organizes seminars, webinars and colloquium lectures involving members of the faculty as well as academicians, activists, artists and other distinguished personalities from a wide array of fields. This section consists of video recordings of  major events conducted at the Azim Premji University.

Global Development Goals: If At All, Why, When and How?

Sanjay G. Reddy


About the Lecture

"Why have global development goals?  What function, if any, might they serve, and under what conditions could they do so successfully? This lecture critically analyzes the push for Sustainable Development Goals in light of these questions".  

About Speaker

Sanjay G. Reddy is an Associate Professor of Economics at The New School for Social Research.  He is an Affiliated Faculty Member of the Politics Department of the New School for Social Research and a research associate of the Initiative for Policy Dialogue at Columbia University.  He has previously taught at Columbia University, and been a visitor at diverse academic institutions in Europe, India and the U.S. He holds a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University, an M.Phil. in social anthropology from the University of Cambridge, and an A.B. in applied mathematics with physics from Harvard University.  His areas of research interest include Political Economy, Development; Inequality and Poverty; International Trade and Finance; Philosophy and Economics (including Welfare Economics); Integrative Social Analysis, History of Economic Thought. Besides numerous academic papers in these areas, he has co-edited, A Great Transformation? Understanding India's New Political Economy (Routledge, February 2011).

Ethical Issues in the Mahabharata

Trichur S. Rukmani


About the Lecture

Ethics or moral behaviour is concerned with right behaviour i.e the capacity to decide what is right and what is wrong in any given situation and behave accordingly. However the capacity to decide right and wrong inany situation is not an easy task at all times. In difficult situations when faced with moral dilemmas thedifficulty of knowing the right conduct has preoccupied moral philosophers at all times.  Thus the literature on Moral Philosophy has no closure. Whether morality is something transcendental or empirical or again rooted in an overall ethos of individual societies is something we will never be able to decide. Different cultures have come up with models of behaviour based on their understanding of what it is to be the right behaviour under varied circumstances.  In India the ancient Vedic world view developed a theory of dharma and authors like Austin Creel, P.T. Raju and G.C Pande considered a moral life in the Hindu worldview was a life lived in accordance with dharma. Accepting that definition as the best under the circumstances I examine the lives of some of the characters in the Mahabharata to see whether they fulfilled that criterion.

About Speaker

Trichur S Rukmani is Former Chair in Hindu Studies at Concordia University, Montreal, Canada as alsothe former Chair in Hindu Studies and Indian Philosophy at the University of Westville, Durban S. Aftrica, T.S. Rukmani is Currently Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Concordia University, Montreal, from where she retired in July 2012. Her research areas are Advaita Vedanta, Samkhya-Yoga, epic studies, Gender, Gandhian studies and Hinduism. She has written and edited twelve books and has published numerous research articles in reputed journals both in India and abroad.

Reading Indian History (with Reference to Tipu Sultan)

S. Settar


About the Lecture

The talk will discuss the challenges of interpreting events in Indian history. In elaborating this subject, it will engage the recent controversy around Tipu Sultan's historical legacy. 

About Speaker

Dr. S. Settar has been conducting research in the fields of Indian archaeology, art-history, history of religions and philosophy as well as classical literature during the last four decades. He has published several books in the fields of history of art, historiography, religion and philosophy, including Inviting Death: IndianAttitude Towards Ritual Death (Brill: 1989) and Sangam Tamilagam Mattu Kannada Nadu-Nudi (The Sangam Tamilagam And Kannada Land And Language: Reflections On The Early Dravidian Relations, 2007) and Halagannada Lipi, Lipikara, Lipi Vyavasaya (Ancient Kannada Script, Scribe And Cultivation Of Letters, 2014). He has been Professor of History and Archaeology (1970-96) and Director of the Institute of Indian Art History (1978-96) at Karnatak University, Dharwad, and Chairman, Indian Council of Historical Research, New Delhi, (1996-1999).

Conservation, Crop-loss and Coffee: The Adverse Effects of Banning Customary Practices in an Indian tiger reserve

Nitin D. Rai


About the Lecture

The physical displacement of people is a direct outcome of protected area establishment. The impact of displacement on forest dwelling communities has been documented in some detail. What is less evident is that conservation policy has impacts on forest residents even when it does not involve physical displacement. We suggest that a web of interactions beginning with restrictions that were imposed as part of protected area practice has produced in situ displacement, where people are ‘displaced socioeconomically but not spatially’. The banning of indigenous practices such as early season fires, hunting and collection of forest produce in the Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Tiger Reserve has had a series of effects on not only the condition of the forest, but also on agricultural practice and household income. The lack of fires has resulted in the proliferation of the invasive species Lantana camara. The ban on hunting has increased the population of wild boars, which raid the rain-fed agricultural fields. As a consequence many Soliga adivasi households have switched to cultivating coffee, which wild boar do not consume. Wage labour in largecoffee estates and agricultural plantations are now the primary source of income. Soligas, even as they are displaced in situ, are made available as labour to coffee estates and forest department work. Although proletarianisation of the Indian peasant is an ongoing phenomenon, we argue that conservation policy further exacerbates this process through appropriation of land and forests for conservation.

About Speaker

Nitin D. Rai is a Fellow at the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE). He uses a political ecology approach to understand the implications of conservation practice for people andlandscapes. For the past decade he has partnered with Soliga adivasis to study the politics of conservationin the Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Tiger Reserve. More recently he has been part of an interdisciplinary team analyzing transformations arising out of state efforts to sedentarise pastoralists, facilitate industrialization and encourage tourism in the Banni grasslands of Kutch district. Nitin is an editor ofConservation and Society and in 2014 was appointed a member of the International Union of Forest Research Organisation’s global panel on forests and food security.

How would Mahatma Gandhi teach Politics?

Nigam Nuggehalli


About the Lecture

The Gandhian moral tradition is a story about the role of faith in determining our actions. Faith ensures that one understands actions of moral worth to be motivated by certain emotions. These emotions are the emotions of empathy, courage and equilibrium. Clearly, actions are important inGandhi's moral philosophy but these are emotionally motivated actions. For Gandhi, such actions are done through discrete instances of emotional control, i.e., one acts morally because one is motivated by the emotions of empathy, courage and equilibrium, and one actively disregards other competing emotions such as anger, envy, greed and lust.If we are convinced that political morality is constituted by emotions, moral actions can be learnt by attempting to do political actions and by observing and learning about what politicians do. Thepolitics syllabus must be planned to incorporate these two features in its pedagogy. It can have a curriculum that focuses on what politicians (interpreted widely to include public administrators as well) have done in their lives, and not only on models of justice. It must have a practical component where students, in addition to observing politicians at work, actually participate in the administration of justice, however minor or paltry their participation might be. For instance, students interning at the Indian Supreme Court can assist judges in drafting judgments. Students working on the rights of prisoners can assist the administrators of jails in devising prisoner-friendly guidelines.Morality as emotionally motivated action has an activist dimension as well. All of us who are convinced by the emotive aspect of morality must then eschew the obsession with accountability, inpolitics and in our personal lives. We must advocate a political system where we are not so much interested in the intricate modelling of human behaviour but in ensuring we enable individuals to act not only compassionately but courageously and with emotional equilibrium. We must build communities where there are opportunities for observation and imitation of exemplars of compassion, courage and faith as well as the opportunities for people to become exemplars. We are hardwired to think of morality in terms of objective rules and accountability. Our challenge today is to re-imagine the foundations of our shared lives.

About Speaker

Dr. Nigam Nuggehalli teaches in the School of Policy and Governance at Azim Premji University, Bangalore. Previously, he was a Principal Lecturer teaching law and jurisprudence at BPP Law School, London. Before joining academia, he worked as a tax lawyer in New York, and he is a member of the New York Bar and the India Bar (Karnataka). Dr. Nuggehalli holds a DPhil in legal philosophy from the University of Oxford Faculty of Law and a BA., LLB (Hons.) from the National Law School of India University, Bangalore.Dr. Nuggehalli's broad research interests lie in the legal and philosophical foundations of development. As a lawyer and as a law academic, he has practised and taught a variety of legal subjects (contracts, commercial law, corporate law, taxation) with reference to the legal regimes in the United States, the United Kingdom and India.As a political philosopher, he has taught courses on jurisprudence to undergraduate law students at BPP Law School (as the module leader for their legal theory course). At Azim Premji University, heteaches courses for post graduate students on political philosophy, law and justice, and the philosophical basis of political institutions. His DPhil thesis at Oxford was in the area of political and legal philosophy and the implications of these fields for judicial reasoning.

August 2015 Accord between the Government and the Nationalist Socialist Council ofNagaland

Khekiye Sema


About the Lecture

The Naga political movement is as old as the Indian republic. Since its inception, the movement has challenged nation building and tested the limits of federalism. The formation of Nagaland, India’s first tribal state, supported by a landmark constitutional amendment failed to resolve the insurgency triggered by theNaga movement. On August 03, 2015, the Government of India and the Nationalist Socialist Council ofNagaland (NSCN/Isak-Muivah faction) signed a “historic peace accord” to settle the political problem. Theaccord is, in fact, a “framework agreement” that provides the broad contours of an acceptable solution to be negotiated in the coming months. But this is not the first “historic peace accord” signed by a Naga organisation. Three past agreements – Nine Point Agreement (1947), Sixteen Point Agreement (1960), andShillong Accord (1975) – failed to resolve the political problem. Will this latest accord, a product of about a hundred rounds of negotiations over eighteen years, end one of the oldest insurgencies and heal the wounds ofthe people of Nagaland caught in the crossfire between insurgent groups and the security forces? Will it help bridge the growing divide between Nagaland and its neighbouring states including Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, and Manipur? Will it help fulfill the aspirations of the youth of Nagaland? Khekiye Sema, Pradip Phanjoubam, and Theja Therieh will discuss these and other relevant issues. Prof. Anil Sethi will chair the panel discussion.

About Speaker

Khekiye Sema is Consultative Member, ACAUT (Against Corruption and Unabated Taxation). A retired civil servant, he is a regular contributor to Nagaland’s English newspapers. In his last assignment as a civil servant he nurtured the internationally acclaimed Hornbill festival.Pradip Phanjoubam is the editor of Imphal Free Press, an English daily published from Imphal. He was fellow Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS), Shimla during 2012-2014. His book written during thefellowship will be published later this year.Theja Therieh is President, Chakhesang Hoho, Kohima and Chairman, Media Cell, Nagaland Tribes Council. He has contributed to public debate on census, delimitation, and affirmative action in Nagaland.Anil Sethi teaches history at Azim Premji University, Bangalore.

An Interaction with Dr. Ramachandra Guha With Photography

Ramachandra Guha


About the Lecture

Dr. Guha will deliver a short talk on the influences on his work, following which there will be a question-and-answer session with students.One of India’s most eminent historians and public intellectuals, Dr. Guha has written on a wide variety of subjects. His books include a pioneering environmental history, The Unquiet Woods, and an award-winning social history of cricket, A Corner of a Foreign Field. He has also authored India after Gandhi, and Gandhi Before India, both of which were chosen as notable books of the year by leading international newspapers. Dr. Guha has taught at the universities of Yale, Stanford, Berkeley and Oslo. He writes a widely read syndicated column, and his work has been translated into more than twenty languages. The New York Times has referred to him as ‘perhaps the best among India’s non-fiction writers’, while Time has called him one of ‘Indian democracy’s pre-eminent chroniclers’. Dr.Guha is the recipient of several prestigious awards, including the Padma Bhushan, India’s third highest civilian honour.

About Speaker

Global Knowledge, Local Insights: Contestations around Maternal Health in India

 Jashodhara Dasgupta


About the Lecture

This talk is a reflection on the last ten years of efforts to reduce maternal mortality in India, starting with the launch of the ambitious National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) in 2005 which was closely followed by the review of the first five years of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in September 2005. I argue that the global development expertise generated around the MDG indicators and targets influenced policy making in India to bring down maternal deaths, which were contested by local civil society activists advocating other policy approaches. I will describe how local insights continued to provide a contrary picture to the globally acclaimed results of the NRHM’s approach, and are now substantiated by more scholarly analyses of maternal health data. The question that I raise is around the greater legitimacy accorded to globalknowledge often derived from context-neutral meta-analyses across multiple country settings, to the comparative neglect of context-specific analyses enriched with a more grounded perspective. 

About Speaker

Jashodhara Dasgupta has been working with issues of women's rights in Uttar Pradesh, India for almost 30 years in the voluntary sector, and is currently a policy advocate and researcher on the right to health, with a specific focus on sexual and reproductive health and rights. Jashodhara was one of the founders of the Indian NGO SAHAYOG in 1992, and for the last 12 years has been heading its work with women's health and gender equality using human rights frameworks. She has served on various academic and government committees on health, including most recently the Lancet-University of Oslo Commission onGlobal Governance for Health (2011-2013), and earlier the High-level Expert Group on Universal Health Coverage of the Government of India (2010-2011). She has been part of setting up several civil society platforms, and is anchoring the National Alliance on Maternal Health and Human Rights, as well as the International Initiative on Maternal Mortality and Human Rights for the last five years. 

Bond with the Bard

 Geetha Srikrishnan


About the Lecture

This multi-media event celebrates the life and poetry of Mahakavi Subramania Bharati through song, Bharatanatyam and English renderings of his poems.

About Speaker

Geetha Srikrishnan started learning Classical Carnatic Music at very young age and she continued to learn under eminent Musicians in Chennai and Bangalore. At present she is under the tutelage of Smt. Neela Ramgopal, one of the senior most musicians of Karnataka. She has performed in many events and also enjoys teaching music to young children. The poetry of Subramania Bharati is a particular favourite of hers. Ramaa Venugopalan has been practicing and performing Bharatanatyam for the past two and a half decades. She holds a Master's Degree in Bharatanatyam and its allied subjects such as Philosophy, History and Temple Architecture. A teacher and a choreographer, Ramaa is a firm believer in the depth that classicism of the art form offers. Her focus is on pursuing excellence in Bharatanatyam, exploring the varied possibilities of the art form with conviction and adherence to its traditional richness and depth, Usha Rajagopalan is a writer, translator and environmentalist. She has six books to her credit, of which two are translations of Bharati's poetry. She has won several prizes for writing including thrice consecutively in the Commonwealth Short Story competition and been awarded fellowships in India and abroad. Usha isthe chairperson of the Puttenahalli Neighbourhood Lake Improvement Trust (PNLIT), the first citizens' group in the city to officially maintain a lake. PNLIT won the Namma Bengaluru Award, 2012.

Doing Theory in Indian Classrooms

 Prathama Banerjee


About the Lecture

This is a set of reflections on what it is to teach theory in our classrooms.  The term ‘theory’ immediately brings to mind names such as Plato, Kant, Hegel, Marx, Deleuze and so on.  That is, theory appears as a particular body of philosophical thought coming from the west, which we are either fascinated by (as something that others do) or turn away from (because our concerns are real and/or local rather than philosophical).  Or we simply take a theoretical framework off the self and ‘apply’ it to our contexts, on the faith that despite its provincial origin, theory is globally relevant because it is ‘abstract’. How do we escape this derivative and alienated relation to theory?  Perhaps we need to recognize theory as simply a distinct mode of thought – a practical skill that can be taught and learnt – rather than approach it as a pre-given body of thought, already thought-out for us by a special category of people called philosophers. We also need to reopen the very question of ‘abstraction’ and interrogate existing forms of the so-called fact-concept relationship. Above all, we need to bring to the table traditions of theoretical thinking other than only the western European.

About Speaker

Prathama Banerjee is Associate Professor of History, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, New Delhi.  She is a historian, trained at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.  Her current work is on histories of the ‘political’ in colonial and post-colonial India.  Her work seeks to tell the story of how the political emerged as a distinct domain and/or mode of thought, action, and subjectivity in modern times.Banerjee has published, Politics of Time: "Primitives" and History-Writing in a Colonial Society (2006), which looked at the emergence of the modern discipline of history in colonial Bengal from an encounter with ‘peoples without history’ - tribes, aborigines, primitives - as they were variously called. She mapped this encounter in different discursive and material sites such as that of calendrical reforms, history and geography texts, anthropology, poetry, indentured labour markets, and agrarian credit markets. In addition to history, she is interested in political theory, philosophy, and literature. Along with other colleagues, she is currently involved in an exploration of the history of concepts in modern Indian languages - a project that brings together questions of theory, literariness, language, and translations around the life of concepts inIndia.