Ahimsa Center International Conference on
Building A More Inclusive Democracy
November 3-5 (Friday-Sunday), 2017
Cal Poly Pomona
Bronco Student Center, Ursa Minor

(in alphabetic order)

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AMIT AHUJA is Associate Professor of Political Science at University of California, Santa Barbara. His research focuses on the processes of inclusion and exclusion in multiethnic societies. He is the author of, Mobilizing Marginalized Citizens: Ethnic Parties without Ethnic Movements (forthcoming, Oxford University Press). He is currently working on his next booK, Building National Armies in Multiethnic States. He is a recipient of the Margret T. Getman Service to Students Award in 2015. For more click here.

RAJNI BAKSHI is a Mumbai-based author. Her books include: Bazaars, Conversations and Freedom: For a Market Culture Beyond Greed and Fear (Penguin, India, 2009 and Greenleaf, UK, 2012), which won two Vodafone Crossword Awards; Bapu Kuti: Journeys in Rediscovery of Gandhi (Penguin, India, 1998), which inspired the Hindi film Swades starring Shah Rukh Khan. Her monographs include Trusteeship: Business and the Economics of Well-being (2016); Civilizational Gandhi (2012). She is currently on sabbatical from her role as Gandhi Peace Fellow at the Gateway House, Indian Council on Global Relations. She serves on the Boards of Child Rights and You (CRY), Citizens for Peace, and the Centre of Education and Documentation (Mumbai &  Bangalore), and on the Executive Committee of the Gandhi Smriti & Darshan Samiti. For more click here.

DAVID BLUNDELL received a doctorate in Anthropology from UCLA. He serves as anthropology and language editor for the Electronic Cultural Atlas Initiative Austronesia Team at UC-Berkeley where he supervises interdisciplinary GIS projects.  He has conducted ethnographic research across South Asia since the 1970s. Based on his research, Blundell directed and filmed, Arising Light: Dr. B. R. Ambedkar and the Birth of a New Era in India, which received the United Nations 2014 Vesak Day Award for Best Documentary. Currently he is developing a new curriculum for teaching the anthropology of religion using the life experiences of Dr. Ambedkar. He offers courses at UCLA Extension.

HIRAM E. CHODOSH is the president of Claremont McKenna College. A recognized innovator in higher education, with expertise in comparative law and international justice reform, he has published several books and articles on mediation, legal reform, and comparative law. Recently, he co-authored Uniform Civil Code for India: A Blueprint for Scholarly Discourse (Oxford University Press, 2016). Chodosh has worked in more than 20 countries in Asia and the Middle East to advance judicial reforms with organizations that include the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund Legal Department, and numerous court systems, non-profits and national commissions. Chodosh has been recognized for the impact of his justice reform efforts. In 2011, he received the Gandhi Peace Award, and in 2012, the National Jurist magazine named him one of the 25 most influential legal educators. For more visit

RAJMOHAN GANDHI is an author, historian, biographer a peace-builder, and a grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. Currently a visiting professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar, and at Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, he was until 2012 a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne. He has authored more than a dozen books, including Why Gandhi Still Matters (2017); Understanding the Founding Fathers (2016); Mohandas: a True Story of a Man, his People and an Empire (2008); Ghaffar Khan: Nonviolent Badshah of the Pakhtuns (2004); Revenge & Reconciliation: Under-standing South Asian History (1999); Eight Lives: A Study of the Hindu-Muslim Encounter(1987). He served as a member of the Indian parliament (1990-92), and led the Indian delegation to the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva. For more click here.

AKHIL GUPTA is Professor of Anthropology and Director, Center for India & South Asia (CISA). He is the author of Red Tape: Bureaucracy, Structural Violence, and Poverty in India (Duke Univ. Press, 2012), which was awarded the Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy Prize by the Association for Asian Studies (2014); Postcolonial Developments: Agriculture in the Making of Modern India  (Duke Univ. Press, 1998). He is editor of Culture, Power, Place (with James Ferguson; Duke Univ. Press, 1997); Anthro-pological Locations (with James Ferguson; Univ. of California Press, 1997);  Caste and Outcast  (with Gordon Chang and Purnima Mankekar; Stanford Univ. Press, 2002), The Anthropology of the State (with Aradhana Sharma; Blackwell, 2006); and The State in India After Liberalization (with K. Sivaramakrishnan; Routledge, 2010). His current research includes, Business Process Management (BPM) and Call Centers in Bangalore, and questions of infrastructure and corruption. He is the President-Elect of the American Anthropological Association. For more visit.

JOHN HARRISS is Professor in the School of International Studies at the Simon Fraser University, Canada. His authored/co-authored and co-edited books include: Keywords for Modern India (OUP, 2014); India Today: Economy, Politics and Society (OUP, 2013); Understanding India’s New Political Economy (Routledge, 2011); Globalization and Labour in China and India: Impacts and Responses (Palgrave MacMillan, 2010); Power Matters: Essays on Institutions, Politics and Society in India (OUP, 2006); Politicising Democracy: Local Politics and Democratisation in Developing Countries (Palgrave MacMillan, 2004); and Reinventing India: Economic Liberalization, Hindu Nationalism and Popular Democracy (Cambridge University Press, 2000). For more, click here.

DEVESH KAPUR is the Director of the Center for the Advanced Study of India (CASI) and Professor of Political Science at University of Pennsylvania where he holds the Madan Lal Sobti Chair for the Study of Contemporary India. His recent books (co-authored/co-edited) include, Rethinking Public Institutions in India (OUP, 2017); Navigating the Labyrinth: Perspectives on India’s Higher Education (Orient Blackswan, 2017); The Other One Percent: Indians in America (OUP, 2016); Defying the Odds: The Rise of Dalit Entrepreneurs(Random House, 2014). His book, Diaspora, Development, and Democracy: The Domestic Impact of International Migration from India (Princeton University Press, 2010), earned him the 2012 ENMISA Distinguished Book Award. Professor Kapur is a recipient of the Joseph R. Levenson Teaching Prize (2005) awarded to the best junior faculty at Harvard College. For more, click here.

PRAKASH KASHWAN is Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. His research focuses on the comparative politics and political economy of environment and development. He is the author of Democracy in the Woods: Environmental Conservation and Social Justice in India, Tanzania, and Mexico (OUP, 2017). His research has been published in journals such as Ecological Economics, Regional Environmental Change, Global Environmental Politics, and in popular media forums including the Washington Post. He was among the winners of 2009 Young Scientist Research Award from the International Foundation for Science (IFS), Stockholm. For more click here.

AISHWARY KUMAR is Assistant Professor of History at Stanford University. A political theorist and intellectual historian of South Asia, Empire, and the Global South, Kumar's work engages a wide spectrum of issues in moral and political philosophy, constitutional theory and political religion, and the history of global political thought. He is particularly interested in the relationship between freedom, sovereignty, and political justice. Kumar’s first book, Radical Equality: Ambedkar, Gandhi, and the Risk of Democracy (Stanford University Press, 2015), was listed by The Indian Express among the 15 most important books published on politics, morality, and law. He is now working on his second book, A Different Force: Ambedkar’s Critique of Violence. Kumar has received fellowships in Germany, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. For more, click here.

VINAY LAL is Professor of History and Asian American Studies at UCLA. His books include the two-volume Oxford Anthology of the Modern Indian City (OUP, 2013); Political Hinduism: The Religious Imagination in Public Spheres (OUP, 2009); The Future of Knowledge and Culture: A Dictionary for the Twenty-first Century, co-edited with Ashis Nandy (Viking Penguin, 2005); The History of History: Politics and Scholarship in Modern India (OUP, 2003); Empire of Knowledge: Culture and Plurality in the Global Economy (Pluto Press, 2002). Most recently, India and the Unthinkable: Backwaters Collective on Metaphysics and Politics I, co-edited with Roby Rajan (OUP, 2016) and A Passionate Life: Writings by and on Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay (Zubaan Books, 2017), co-edited with Ellen Carol DuBois. Several of his books have been translated in many languages. For more, visit.

CYNTHIA LUKAS is a film producer and writer of transformative and inspirational documentaries celebrating the oneness of humanity. In 2004 she co-founded with Kell Kearns a non-profit educational media organization, Heaven on Earth Creations. Together they have co-produced six acclaimed documentaries about global oneness and nonviolence. Their most recent films are two documentaries on Gandhi.  Gandhi’s Gift (2016) focuses on his final years of life, and Gandhi’s Awakening (2017) about his transformational years in South Africa. Cynthia presents these documentaries at conferences, schools and spiritual centers around the world. For more, visit.

KARUNA MANTENA is Associate Professor of Political Science at Yale University and Co-Director of the International Conference for the Study of Political Thought. Her first book, Alibis of Empire: Henry Maine and the Ends of Liberal Imperialism (Princeton University Press, 2010), analyzed the transformation of the nineteenth-century British imperial ideology.  She is currently working on a book project on M.K. Gandhi and the politics of nonviolence, tentatively titled Gandhi’s Realism: Means and Ends in Politics. She received her Ph.D., at Harvard University, and her BSc at the London School of Economics. For more, click here.

ELEANOR NEWBIGIN is Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) in the history of modern South Asia at SOAS, University of London. Her research focuses on the practices of citizenship in India, especially during the subcontinent’s transition to independence. She is author of The Hindu family and the emergence of modern India: law, citizenship and community (Cambridge University Press, 2013) as well as a number of journal articles and book chapters. Her recent most publication is on Public Finance and Personal Law in Late Colonial India. For more, click here.

ELYSE PETERSEN is an advocate for transparency in the global food system and works with farmers to improve the quality of their products and access market opportunities. As the Founder of Tealet, she has made direct trade available to small-scale farmers, businesses, and consumers around the world. She is a food scientist and returned Peace Corps volunteer that is committed to building a  sustainable future for agriculture and communities. She has a B.S. in Food Science and Technology from Cal Poly Pomona and a Japanese-MBA from the Shidler College of Business, University of Hawaii. click here.

ANASTASIA PILIAVSKY is Newton/Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the Centre for Research in Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), and Fellow of Girton College, University of Cambridge, where she serves as the Director of Studies in Social Anthropology. In a recently edited book, Patronage as Politics in South Asia (Cambridge University, Press, 2014), she argued that patronal bonds, which are normally thought to corrupt democratic politics, in fact constitute the long-valued foundations of India’s democratic life. She is currently writing a book about the hierarchical foundations of Indian democracy. She received MSc/DPhil in Social Anthropology at the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and a Wenner-Gren grantee. For more click here.

SRINIVAS REDDY is a scholar, translator and musician. He trained in classical South Asian languages and literatures at Brown University and the University of California, Berkeley. His books include Giver of the Worn Garland: Krishnadevaraya’s Amuktamalyada (Penguin 2010), The Dancer and the King: Kalidasa’s Malavikagnimitram (Penguin 2014) and The Cloud Message: Kalidasa's Meghadutam (Penguin 2017). His current project for Juggernaut Books is a biography of the Vijayanagara emperor Krishnadevaraya.  Srinivas is also a concert sitarist and has given numerous recitals around the world. He now lives in Rhode Island and teaches at Brown University. For more click here.

ARUNA ROY is a leading Indian Social and Political Activist and co-Founder of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathana (MKSS), a social and grassroots organization which spearheaded the Right to Information Movement leading to the Right to Information Act in India. She is the Chairperson of the National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW). She was honored with the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership (2000), the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Award for Excellence in Public Administration, Academia and Management (2010), and the Rule of Law Award in the World Justice Forum in Barcelona, Spain (2011). She was listed as one of the 100 most influential people in the world by TIME Magazine (2011). She was Professor of Practice at the ISID, McGill University (2016) and the George Soros Visiting Practitioner Chair at the School of Public Policy, European Central University (Spring 2017). For more visit 

ORNIT SHANI is Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) in Asian Studies, University of Haifa, Israel. She is the author of Communalism, Caste, and Hindu Nationalism: The Violence in Gujarat (Cambridge University Press, 2007); How India Became Democratic: Citizenship and the Making of the Universal Franchise (forthcoming, Cambridge University Press), which uncovers the greatest experiment in democratic history: the creation of the electoral roll and universal adult franchise in India. She is a recipient of the Israeli Science Foundation (ISF) Grant for her sequel project: ‘Embedding Democracy: the Social History of India’s First Elections.’ Ornit received her PhD from the University of Cambridge. For more, visit

MRINALINI SINHA is Alice Freeman Palmer Professor in the Department of History, and Professor (by courtesy) in the Departments of English Language and Literature and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She is the author of Colonial Masculinity: The Manly Englishman and the Effeminate; and Specters of Mother India: The Global Restructuring of an Empire, which received the Albion Book Prize, awarded annually by the North American Conference on British Studies and the Joan Kelly Memorial Prize awarded annually by the American Historical Association. Her current project, “Complete Political Independence: The Curious History of a Nationalist Indian Demand,” explores the contingency of the development of the nation-state form in India. Professor Sinha is the past President of the Association for Asian Studies. She serves on the advisory boards of several journals. For more, click here.