Program on Science, Technology and Society at Harvard

Harvard Kennedy School of Government | Harvard University

Can We Leave the Bauxite in the Mountain? Field Notes on Democracy

Arundhati Roy

Author of The God of Small Things (Booker Prize, 1997)

April 1, 2010, 5:00pm-7:00pm
Piper Auditorium, Gund Hall, 48 Quincy Street


What happens once democracy has been used up? When it has been hollowed out and emptied of meaning? What happens when each of its institutions has metastasized into something dangerous? What happens now that democracy and the free market have fused into a single predatory organism with a thin, constricted imagination that revolves almost entirely around the idea of maximizing profit? Is it possible to reverse this process? Can something that has mutated go back to being what it used to be? What we need today, for the sake of the survival of this planet, is long-term vision. Can governments whose very survival depends on immediate, extractive, short-term gain provide this? Could it be that democracy, the sacred answer to our short-term hopes and prayers, the protector of our individual freedoms and nurturer of our avaricious dreams, will turn out to be the endgame for the human race? Video of this lecture is located here.


Homi Bhabha

Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of the Humanities
Director, Humanities Center at Harvard

Moderated by

Sheila Jasanoff

Harvard Kennedy School

About the speaker

Arundhati Roy is an Indian novelist, activist and world citizen. She won the Booker Prize in 1997 for her first novel The God of Small Things. Roy was born in Shillong, Meghalaya to a Keralite Syrian Christian mother and a Bengali Hindu father. She spent her childhood in Aymanam, in Kerala, but left Kerala for Delhi at the age of 16. She later studied architecture at the Delhi School of Architecture. Since winning the Booker Prize, Roy has concentrated her writing on political issues. These include the Narmada Dam project, India's nuclear weapons policy, and Enron power company's activities in India. She is a prominent voice in the anti-globalization/alter-globalization movement and a vehement critic of neo-imperialism. Roy's most recent book, Field Notes on Democracy, was published in 2009. Roy was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize in May 2004 for her work in social campaigns and advocacy of non-violence.


Photographs of the event were taken by Jean-Baptiste Labrune. View the full set on Flickr.

Arundhati Roy

Arundhati Roy

Homi Bhabha

Sheila Jasanoff, Arundhati Roy and Homi Bhabha

Arundhati and Sheila

Harvard GSD


This short excerpt from the event was edited by William Firestone.