Mandala

A podcast on India’s past, present, and future interactions with the world.

Latest Episodes

Episode 1 – India and China – The Longer View

Professor Shivaji Sondhi, Professor of Physics, Princeton University, Dr. Srinath Raghavan, Professor of International Relations and History, Ashoka University in conversation with Dr. Jessica Seddon, on the recent border skirmishes between India and China that have brought the tensions between the world’s two most populous countries to the forefront of geopolitical conversations. This episode puts the events of mid-2020 from a historical perspective, discusses some of the underlying dynamics and drivers of India’s relationship with its neighbor to the east, and discusses potential trajectories for the relationship in the coming months.

Episode 2 – COVID & India’s Evolving Political Economy

Professor Atul Kohli, David K.E. Bruce Professor of International Affairs, Princeton University, and Shankkar Aiyar, Senior Fellow, IDFC Institute in conversation with Dr. Jessica Seddon, on how COVID-19 has deeply affected India’s economy and society. While the per capita infection and mortality rates are low by global standards, the sheer numbers of those affected are significant. The lockdown and ongoing business disruptions have led to an economic contraction of nearly 24% in the first quarter of the fiscal year 2021. Such changes inevitably also have political economy impacts - on voter expectations, on perceptions of successes and failures, and on openings for new leaders and forms of leadership to emerge. This episode discusses some of the ways in which COVID is and may shape India’s political economy. 

Episode 3 – Music, Movements, and Identity

TM Krishna - Carnatic vocalist, activist, and author and Rudresh Mahanthappa - Anthony H.P. Lee ‘79 Director of Jazz in conversation with Dr. Jessica Seddon

Krishna and Rudresh speak about the importance of music for building and exploring individual identities as well as broader social movements or collective change. They reflect on their personal experiences and choices as artists in engaging with different aspects of Indian culture and discuss some of the works that they are most proud of contributing to the world. The episode concludes with a discussion on improvisation as a way of navigating the quest to both find commonality and preserve valuable differences - and mention of some newer artists to watch. 

Episode 4 – Sensing and Sensemaking: Natural Language Processing, AI, and Global India

Dr. Jessica Seddon discusses with Professor Karthik Narasimhan, Assistant Professor, Computer Science, Princeton University, and Dr. Manish Gupta, Director of Google Research India, how natural Language Processing (NLP), combined with advances in artificial intelligence (AI), has opened up new possibilities for human-computer interaction through speech. This episode discusses some of the emerging uses of the technology to expand access to the internet and the opportunities that it offers; support and sustain rarer languages; streamline healthcare and other social applications. The conversation touches on the risks involved with both deeper intelligence and new forms of interactions and discusses ways to shape the technologies’  trajectory. 

Episode 5 – Cyclones & Climate Change in the Indian Ocean

Professor Gabe Vecchi - Professor of Geosciences and The High Meadows Environmental Institute, Director, Cooperative Institute for Modeling the Earth System and Jatin Singh, Founder & Managing Director, Skymet Weather, Pvt Ltd in conversation with Dr. Jessica Seddon

2020 was one of the most active global hurricane and cyclone seasons on record, setting records for the size, speed of intensification, and economic impact of storms. The North Indian Ocean was no exception. This episode delves into the historical record and emerging scientific understanding of storm formation to put the 2020 weather in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea into a longer-run context. Speakers discuss the evolving business and social interest in weather and climate data, as well as the underlying collaboration and public investments to understand a region as complex as the North Indian Ocean.

Episode 6 – COVID-19 and the Landscape of Immunity

Professor C. Jessica Metcalf - Associate Professor of Ecology, Evolutionary Biology & Public Affairs and Professor Anup Malani - Lee and Brena Freeman Professor at the University of Chicago Law School and a Professor at the Pritzker School of Medicine in conversation with Dr. Jessica Seddon

What is the landscape of immunity and how do we map it? How has COVID moved through particular populations in India, and globally? What can we learn from policy responses at the global and at the India level? The podcast discusses the ins, outs, and value of measuring the past and present level of exposure to infectious diseases through tracking the prevalence of antibodies. Much of the podcast is focused on COVID and its correlates, with particular focus on recent evidence from urban India, but the conversation zooms out to compare and contrast COVID-19 dynamics with other infectious diseases and discuss the insights that exposure histories - and current immunities  - can provide for understanding broader social histories. The conversation with the guests’ wishlists for building the global informational and collaborative infrastructure for anticipating, mitigating, and ideally preventing future pandemics. 

Episode 7 – Humans in Their Habitats: A Research Agenda for Resilience

Guests:

Dr. Veena Srinivasan - Senior Fellow - Centre for Environment and Development and Director, Centre for Social and Environmental Innovation

Professor Esteban Rossi-Hansberg - Theodore A. Wells '29 Professor of Economics, Princeton University

 

Summary:

Humans’ choices affect the environment, and the environment shapes human opportunities. So why do we persist in modeling the dynamics of natural and social systems separately? This research gap has enormous practical consequences: The costs of climate change, for example, depend heavily on the costs of adapting to its differential impacts around the world – how can we better understand these costs and shape them? The evolution of watersheds and biodiversity depend on the accumulation of human actions and their interaction with hydrology and ecology. How can we develop solutions without understanding this intersection? This podcast features two leaders in the field of combining social and environmental science at local to global scales, reflecting on their research, its applications, and how to grow the intersection of natural and social science research to guide our public, private, and philanthropic responses to our changing habitats.