Consortium Conferences Tackle Contemporary Issues in South Asia

Spring 2012 Conference: Food, Health and Agriculture in South Asia

Each year the Cornell-Syracuse South Asia Consortium organizes a conference that addresses contemporary issues in South Asia. During this grant cycle, the themes of these conference range from water to food to textiles, but each hopes to highlight interdisciplinary work and their intersections of the physical and social sciences. Last spring, SAC hosted the conference which focused on “Food, Health and Agriculture in South Asia: Contemporary Issues and Future Trends.” Dr. Krishnendu Ray during this keynote address

This two day event kicked off on March 30, 2012 with a screening of the film, Still, the Children are Here, directed by Dinaz Stafford. This poignant film looks at the plight of the Garo people of Northeastern India, whose traditional agricultural practices and the crops that they grow are quickly becoming obsolete. We were able to have a Q & A session with Ms. Stafford, who was in London, over Skype.

On April 1, we hosted a number of scholars that addressed different aspects of health and nutrition in South Asia. Our opening keynote address by Dr. Krishnendu Ray, Professor of Food Studies at NYU examined the ways in which food and cultural identity are linked both in South Asia and in the diaspora. The conference ended with an engaging, humorous and thought provoking talk by Rema Nagarajan, journalist for the Times of India and visiting scholar at Harvard University, on the role of technology and policy in combatting hunger in the developing world.

Panelists discuss intersections of health, food and medicine - Professor Sudha Raj, and graduate students Monica Sathyamurthy, Jaapna Dillion and Karen McNamaraSeveral Syracuse University graduate students participated in the conference on the panel concerning the intersections of health, food and medicine as well as our Fulbright Scholar, Chandani Liyanage.

None of this would have been possible without the hard work and dedication of the conference organizers-- Syracuse University’s Professors Tim Dye and Sudha Raj and Cornell University’s Saurabh Mehta, Assistant Professor of Global Health, Epidemiology, and Nutrition.

Spring 2013 Conference: Agrarian Crisis? Seed and State in India 

The next Consortium conference, “Agrarian Crisis? Seed and State in India” will be held at Cornell on April 5-6, 2013 and will engage the current state of the agrarian sector India through the lens of “crisis.” Characterizations and causes of the current agrarian crisis in academic and popular studies are multiple and divergent, but cotton receives the most prominent media coverage. Debt resulting from liberalization of farm credit runs through others. Crop failures figure prominently, whether from failure of government monitoring of counterfeit or risky seeds or biological changes in specific agro-ecologies. Water shortages are held to reflect some combination of climate change and a tragedy of the commons built by populist political competition. The rate of growth in factor productivity has declined sharply, even as cuts in input subsidies have narrowed the margin between costs of production and value of output. State acquisition of farmland by eminent domain works with market diversion of land from farm to consumption in some accounts. Running through these multiple causes for crisis is absence or misdirection of state response. How should we understand the framings of crisis? If there is crisis, how do we understand the political impotence of those afflicted in a vigorous democracy? For more information on the upcoming conference, check out the conference website: