South Asia Matters
India/South Asia Lecture Series
The South Asia region is the new vibrant center of global transformation, carrying with it the hopes and challenges of a fifth of humanity. Recognizing the importance of this region and the interest amongst our students, the Middle East/South Asia Studies Program at UCD, started the work to build an India and South Asia Studies Program at UC Davis in 2003. Over the next ten years, and with the generous support of the university, the UC Davis Foundation, the Indian and South Asian Community, and various donors, ME/SA hosted academic scholars and intellectuals (including such eminent scholars as Dipesh Chakrabarty, Richard Eaton, B.D. Chattopadhyaya, Shiv Visvanathan, and renowned filmmakers such as Mira Nair) discussion series, film screenings, seminars, conferences, and public lectures.
In 2005, 874 UCD students signed a petition asking for Hindi/Urdu language instruction; and the Middle East/South Asia Studies Program was able to launch classes the following year with a major grant from the U.S. Department of Education. In 2007, students petitioned for third-year level Hindi/Urdu classes. In 2011-12 ME/SA faculty and UCD Alumni worked in partnership with the University and the Mondavi Center to produce a season-long “Focus on India” series, exploring the diversity and dynamism of India’s cultures through films, photo exhibits, music and dance – including the Kathak dance ensemble of the Rachna Yadav troupe from New Delhi, Bharatanatyam performed by the local Kalanjali School, and table maestro Ustad Zakir Hussain and the sitar virtuoso Anoushka Shankar. In May 2014, a special cross-disciplinary South Asia roundtable on “Religion and its Discontents,” featuring U.S. and international scholars was held at UCD. The UC-wide symposium on “Spirited Topographies,” also in May 2014, featured scholars working on urban spaces and religiosity in the South Asian world.
Today, ME/SA has a core of nine faculty members whose expertise lie in the field of South Asia: Ali Anooshar (History), Poonan Chauhan (Classics), Mark Elmore (Religious Studies), Sunaina Maira (Asian American Studies), Vaidehi Ramanathan (Linguistics), Parama Roy (English), Sudipta Sen (History), Smriti Srinivas (Anthropology), and Archana Ventakesan (Comparative Literature/Religious Studies). Campus-wide and via its Education Abroad Program, UCD is offering almost 50 courses on South Asia in the humanities, social sciences, and languages. A proposal for a new Minor in India & South Asia Studies is expected to be approved by UC Davis this year, with students registering for it in the 2014-15 school year.
The new Minor in India & South Asia Studies is housed in and supported by the Middle East/South Asia Studies Program at UCD. ME/SA was founded in 2004 as an undergraduate Minor and became a Major in 2008 in response to the demands of UC Davis students and the urgent need to understand this important area of the world. In 2001 there were two ME/SA teaching faculty, five courses, 2-400 students, and one language. By June 2006, the program had won a U.S. Department of Education grant to launch Arabic and Hindi/Urdu instruction, new courses, conferences, lectures, and K-12 teacher training. By 2013 UC Davis had 26 ME/SA teaching faculty, 38 affiliated faculty, over 100 courses, 2,500 students, and three regional languages. As the only University of California campus with a minor and major in Middle East/South Asia Studies, and one of only four nationally, UC Davis is a pioneer in the study of the Middle East and South Asia in relationship to each other. The University of Davis is a major research university, ranked ninth amongst U.S. public universities, and its entering students are from the top 12.5% of their class. There are 3.2 million Asian Indians in California (with large communities in the Sacramento Region and San Francisco Bay Area); and 1,481 undergraduates at UC Davis identified as Asian Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan, or Afghan in 2013.
There are a number of Indian, Sikh, Pakistani, and Afghan student organizations active on campus and within ME/SA, putting on speaker events, poetry nights, dance performances, and various cultural events. Students are eager for further studies of India and South Asia; and the new Minor will offer them more opportunities to prepare for related professional careers and graduate work. The wider Indian and South Asian community, alumni, and the UC administration, have been very supportive of ME/SA’s efforts and programming, and look forward to strengthening the internationalization of the campus. Thanks to the fundraising efforts of the Program Committee, under the leadership of Profs. Sudipta Sen, Smriti Srinivas, and ME/SA Founding Director Prof. Suad Joseph, a Speaker Series in India & South Asia Studies was started in 2012. Further donations will contribute to this lecture series, as well as, fund visiting scholars, seminars, symposia, conferences, and other academic and student activities. The UCD Humanities Institute and UC Multi-Campus Research Group have supported collaborations featuring scholars working on South Asia. UCD has worked with Bay Area UCs and Stanford University on a South Asia graduate conference and is planning other activities showing the region.