Building bridges across the Bay of Bengal

Building bridges across the Bay of Bengal: Tagore and his contemporaries

A world-historical transformation is under way in the early twenty-first century as Asia recovers the global position it had lost in the late eighteenth century. Yet the idea of Asia and a spirit of Asian universalism were alive and articulated in a variety of registers during the period of European imperial domination. One of the most creative exponents of an Asia-sense was Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. This lecture will explore the intellectual, cultural and political conversations across the Bay of Bengal between South and Southeast Asia conducted by Tagore and his contemporaries. Such an exploration may give us fresh insights into the modern intellectual history of Asia as well as theories of universalism, cosmopolitanism and internationalism.


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Presented by Dr. Sugata Bose
Dr. Sugata Bose is the Gardiner Professor of History at Harvard University. Bose was educated at Presidency College, Calcutta, and the University of Cambridge where he obtained his Ph.D. and was Fellow of St. Catharine’s College. Before taking up the Gardiner Chair at Harvard in 2001, Bose was Professor of History and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He served as Founder-Director of Harvard’s South Asia Initiative and as Director of Graduate Studies in History.

Bose’s many books include Agrarian Bengal: Economy, Social Structure and Politics (1986), South Asia and World Capitalism (1990), Peasant Labour and Colonial Capital in The New Cambridge History of India series (1993), Credit, Markets and the Agrarian Economy of Colonial India (1994), Nationalism, Democracy and Development (1997, with Ayesha Jalal), Modern South Asia: History, Culture, Political Economy (1998, 2004, 2011, with Ayesha Jalal) and his much-acclaimed works, A Hundred Horizons: the Indian Ocean in the Age of Global Empire (2006) and His Majesty’s Opponent: Subhas Chandra Bose and India’s Struggle against Empire (2011).

Bose is joint editor with Dr Sisir Kumar Bose of the Collected Works of Netaji published by Netaji Research Bureau and joint editor with Krishna Bose of Purabi: the East in its Feminine Gender (2007), a book of translations by Charu C. Chowdhuri of Rabindranath Tagore’s poems and songs. He has translated into English all of Tagore’s songs composed on his overseas voyages and recorded them on four CDs titled Visva Yatri Rabindranath and has his own CD Amaar Rabindranath. He has made three documentary films on modern South Asian history and politics. He was a recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship in 1997 and gave the G.M. Trevelyan Lecture at the University of Cambridge.

Moderated by Dato’ Anwar Fazal
Anwar Fazal
is a catalyst, a multiplier and accelerator of ideas and social movements, with a passion for pioneering local and global citizen’s networks on public interest issues affecting peace – with oneself; with others; and with the environment. His passion and dedication had enabled him to play the role of founder, advisor, chairperson and key player in over a dozen local and international networks – including the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP), Transparency International Malaysia (TI), International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN), Pesticides Action Network (PAN) and World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA). He was also instrumental in initiating several important mobilization days such as World Consumer Rights Day (March 15th), World Wetlands Day (February 1st), World Breastfeeding Week (1-7 August), and World Migrants Day (December 18th). Presently, he is Chairperson of Think City Sdn. Bhd., a platform for funding, promoting and advancing the UNESCO World Heritage Site of George Town. He is also Director of the Right Livelihood College, an avenue that brings together some 150 recipients from over 60 countries of the Right Livelihood Award (popularly known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize), including himself, to inspire change and to initiate a better society. Aside from that, he is also Chairperson for the Malaysian Interfaith Network and the Taiping Peace Initiative, Vice-chairperson of the Sahabat Alam Malaysia, and is royally appointed as a member for the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC). For his work, Anwar was awarded the Right Livelihood Award, the United Nations Environment Programme Global 500 honour, Mother Earth Hall of Fame, the Malaysian Governments Langkawi Environmental Award, the Malaysian Governments National Consumer Advocate Award and the Gandhi-King-Ikeda Community Builders Peace Award. He is also the recipient of Honorary Doctorate’s in law and philosophy from the Universiti Malaya (UM) and Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) respectively.