Borders in Modern Asia Workshop Inaugural Lecture


Thursday, October 12, 2017, 4:00pm to 6:00pm


Robinson Hall Lower Library, 35 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA

Sister Nivedita's Narrative of Inclusiveness
Reba Som, Historian and author of Margot (2017)

Chaired by Sugata Bose, Gardiner Professor of History

Please join us for the inaugural session of a new graduate research workshop at Harvard, "Borders in Modern Asia," dedicated to the critical study of border-making and border-crossing in terrestrial and maritime Asia. Our first session commemorates the 150th birth anniversary of a remarkable figure, Margaret Nobel, an Irish spiritual and political leader who followed the Hindu monk Swami Vivekananda to India and became his principal disciple and successor. She was named "Nivedita"-the devoted one-by Vivekananda, andemerged to play a crucial part in Indian nationalism, pan-Asianism and other key events. Thus in her exemplary life, Sister Nivedita crossed several sorts of borders, geographical and spiritual. The celebration of her birth anniversary at Harvard is especially significant, since she was a frequent visitor to the philanthropist Sara Bull's house in Cambridge.

Reba Som, renowned historian and author of Margot (2017), a new biography of Nivedita,

shows how Nivedita came to India determined not to critique but to comprehend. She had a compassionate understanding of Indian society, culture, religion and politics, the bewildering diversity of which she had to face but in which she discovered a web of continuity. Her holistic vision made her often draw comparisons between what she observed in India and the world scenario. The Japanese artist Okakura's world view of a pan Asian reality impressed her and she hoped that a similar pan Indian identity could be forged. All of this becomes rather relevant in the fragile times that we are in.

A comprehensive review can be found here:

This event has been sponsored by the Harvard's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Department of History, South Asia Initiative and Center for the Study of World Religions at the Harvard Divinity School.

See also: History Events