News about the Institute for South Asia Studies
at UC Berkeley
August 2014

This has been an eventful summer for South Asia at Berkeley.

First, I am delighted to announce that the Center for South Asia Studies has become an institute, the Institute for South Asia Studies (ISAS) at the University of California, Berkeley. Our new “promotion” was approved by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and the Berkeley Academic Senate at the end of the spring semester and we officially became the ISAS over the summer. 

The transformation from Center to Institute reflects the continued growth of South Asia at Berkeley. South Asia faculty and students at the university have for years worked closely with community and alumni on a series of Initiatives to ensure the teaching of many critical South Asian languages: over the past year, due to the exceptional Bay Area community and its support we have met key thresholds in the funding of both Bangla and Urdu and continue to raise funds for the support of TamilPunjabi and Telugu at Berkeley. 

We have broadened our decades of excellence in India-focused research and student programs to encompass the entire South Asia region: with a vigorous Pakistan Initiative that includes the Habib Lectureship and Pirzada Prizes, a commitment to Sri Lanka research that includes the ISAS Outstanding Paper Prize in Sri Lankan Studies and the ISAS Dissertation Research Award in Sri Lankan Studies, and an emerging Bangladesh Initiative that began with our building ties with the Bangladesh Development Initiative (BDI).

In the wake of our successful completion of the Urdu language initiative, we were awarded a multi-million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of State to reestablish the famous Berkeley Urdu Language Program in Pakistan, BULPIP, in collaboration with the American Institute of Pakistan Studies. And this coming year, we hope to build on faculty leadership in Nepal Studies to expand our sustained Berkeley presence in this field. All these initiatives are being linked to a central commitment of Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks and the team he is building to rethink what it means to imagine and create a truly global and deeply public university.

Second, our work on building opportunities for Bangladesh focused scholarship and for greater exchanges between students and faculty in Bangladesh and at Berkeley was recognized and transformed by an extraordinary gift made to Berkeley by the Subir and Malini Chowdhry Foundation. The Chowdhrys, pioneers in building leadership for the promotion of quality in public and private enterprise, have established a new Bangladesh research center, the Chowdhury Center for Bangladesh Studies at Berkeley, and three student scholarship programs for Bangladesh research, the funding for which have been matched by the University. Over the coming year, we will be organizing a series of major events to inaugurate the new Subir & Malini Chowdhry Center for Bangladesh Studies. To our knowledge, this center is the first of its kind in North America.

Becoming an Institute with new and precedent-creating Research Centers has only deepened our long standing faculty, student, and community commitment to thinking outside the box. The focus of our shared effort remains the creation of networks bringing diverse disciplines, professions, and individuals together in solving problems and extending scholarly curiosity and critical thinking. Two new initiatives are being formed to rethink the study of Contemporary India and the study of Hinduism at Berkeley and beyond, with equally ambitious goals of raising significant support at the level of a formal Research Center or Program.

Third, Center faculty continue to receive major grants and fellowships building interdisciplinary study. We will report on these in our next issue of our main ISAS newsletter Khabar, but I wanted to mention two, particularly exciting awards. ISAS Executive Committee Member Professor Isha Ray and her colleagues have been awarded the prestigious OSI (Obama-Singh Initiative) Fellowship for Sustainable Indian Water Infrastructure Project: A Systems Approach, a 3-year collaborative project with IIT-Bombay's Centre for Technology Alternatives for Rural Areas, to build, develop and Implement effective urban water and sanitation technologies.

Professor Munis Faruqui, who has been at the forefront of both the current Pakistan Initiative and the reestablishment of BULPIP, has as co-PI with Institute for International Studies' Pakistan expert Dr. Neil Joeck, been awarded a $140,000 MacArthur Foundation grant for "Pakistan: Beyond the Security State," a multi-year project that seeks to foster new ways of thinking about security and Pakistan.

Fourth, Berkeley’s South Asia faculty continues to grow.  Last year we announced that Dr. Abhishek Kaicker, currently at the Harvard Society of Fellows, would be joining the department of History, and I am delighted to announce that his appointment as Assistant Professor officially commenced this past July. Dr. Poulomi Saha, who is completing a book entitled Imperial Attachments: Gender, Nation, and the Sciences of Subjectivity in Colonial and Postcolonial Bengal, has been appointed Assistant Professor in the department of English. And Sujit Choudhry has been appointed Professor and Dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law. Dean Choudhry, the Founding Director of the Center for Constitutional Transitions, has worked as a constitutional expert around the world, and his expertise includes work in Nepal and Sri Lanka; he is currently co-editing the Oxford Handbook of Indian Constitutional Law

Our ISAS visiting faculty fellow this year is cinema and cultural studies scholar Dr. Ajay Gehlawat.

Please join me in welcoming these superb scholars to Berkeley.

And fifth, Berkeley students continue to develop powerful research programs. As one of many testimonies to this,  Berkeley students received more research fellowships than any other United States university in the recently announced 2014-15 awards from the American Institute of Indian Studies (AIIS).  Four students from Berkeley were awarded AIIS awards for 2014: Padma Maitland, Shakthi Nataraj, 
Cristin McKnight Sethi, and Elizabeth Thelen. Read more about them and their projects here

You will be receiving announcements for the many events and conferences the ISAS and the Chowdhury Center are sponsoring this coming year. 

Join us on Thursday, September 4 at 4 pm for our annual ISAS reception, a chance to meet new and returning faculty, students, and postdoctoral and visiting scholars. The reception will be held on the Stephens Hall Terrace, and you may enter through the ISAS itself.

On Tuesday, October 7, we are delighted to host Ambassador Nirupama Rao, who recently stepped down as the top Indian envoy to the United States, as the third Sarah Kailath Lecturer at Berkeley. Ambassador Rao is currently the Meera and Vikram Gandhi Fellow at Brown University. The Kailath Lecture honors the deep commitment of the late Sarah Kailath to empowering women to leadership and asks women with significant accomplishments in fields including politics, science and technology, business, and activism to reflect on leadership in relation to urgent contemporary problems.

On Sunday, October 26, we are delighted to host Ayesha Siddiqa, famed civilian military analyst, author and political commentator from Pakistan, as the second Habib Lecturer at Berkeley. The Mahomedali Habib Distinguished Lecture on Pakistan honors the memory of Mahomedali Habib, one of the leading figures in the history of the Habib family, and aims to improve and diversify conversations about Pakistan in the United States as well as create opportunities for US and Pakistan-based scholars to dialogue.

On Thursday, November 13, we are delighted to host Hansal Mehta, the courageous and award-winning filmmaker, as the fourth Maharaj Kaul Lecturer at Berkeley. Hansal Mehta is perhaps best known for his film Shahid, about human rights lawyer Shahid 
Azmi who was murdered in 2010. The Maharaj Kaul Scholarship and Lecture honor the lifelong commitment of the late Maharaj Kaul to struggles against oppression and for justice.

Finally, though there are many more programs and conferences I have not announced here (but which you will soon be receiving announcements of), I want to congratulate ISAS Executive Director Dr. Sanchita Saxena, whose work as a scholar of comparative politics and policy and extensive commitment to scholarship in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka has led to two significant events. Dr. Saxena has been appointed Director of the Subir and Malini Chowdhury Center for Bangladesh Studies at the ISAS, and she had just published a book garnering significant attention. On Thursday, October 30 please join us for a discussion with Dr. Saxena of Made in Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Sri Lanka: The Labor Behind the Global Garments and Textiles Industries.
Thanks to all of you for the gifts of your scholarship and vision, curiosity, passion, and financial support that has made the Institute for South Asia Studies such an extraordinary place to serve.
Lawrence Cohen

ISAS Annual Reception

Thursday, Sept 4, 2014, 4-6 pm
Stephens Hall Terrace

We are proud to announce that we have now become an Institute and our new name is the Institute for South Asia Studies (ISAS). As an Institute we can create research centers to support very large funding initiatives. More on the new Institute here.

ISAS has received a major gift from the Subir & Malini Chowdhury Foundation to establish the Subir & Malini Chowdhury Center for Bangladesh Studies. The first of its kind in the US, the Center will sponsor lectures and conferences and, with the offer of three scholarships, promote interdisciplinary research on Bangladesh. More here

ISAS Executive Committee Member Isha Ray and her colleagues have been awarded the prestigious Obama-Singh Initiative Fellowship for Sustainable Indian Water Infrastructure Project: A Systems Approach. More here

Sujit Choudhry, a renowned expert in comparative constitutional law, has been named Professor and Dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law. 

Abhishek Kaicker is 
Assistant Professor of History whose recent work is on the development of cultures of politics in the Mughal empire in the early 18th century, particularly in the capital city of Delhi.

Poulomi Saha is Assistant Professor of English. She focuses on postcolonial studies, gender and sexuality theory, and ethnic American literature.

Ajay Gehlawat is Associate Professor of Film & Theater at Sonoma State where his interests range from international cinema and film theory to transnational forms of popular culture and cultural identity.
Copyright © 2014 Institute for South Asia Studies, UC Berkeley, All rights reserved.
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