origins of South Asian studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
reach back nearly 120 years when William Holme Williams held a
professorship of Sanskrit in the Department of Ancient Languages
in the mid-1880s. The tradition continued when the study of Indian
classics in translation were taught in the Department of Comparative
Literature in the early Twentieth Century.
In 1953-56, UW-Madison faculty
Henry Hart, Political Science, and Murray Fowler, Comparative
Literature, traveled to India on federal sponsorship and foundation
funding to take part in technical assistance programs in applied
fields such as engineering, education, medicine, and urban welfare.
After these trips to India, Hart and Fowler were instrumental
in the development of The University of Wisconsin-Madison Department
of Indian Studies in 1958.
Indian Studies Department - December
Left to right around the
MG. Krishnamurthi, Robert
Miller, Usha Nilsson, G.C. Narang, Dr. Sharma. Richard Robinson,
Henry Hart, Robert Frykenberg, Alex Wayman, Joseph Elder,
and Ripley Moore
a response to the USSR’s launching of the first satellite
into space in 1957, the U.S. National Defense Education
Act (NDEA) was established to support university-based programs
in area studies. The first NDEA grant to expand language
and area studies in the UW-Madison Department of Indian
Studies was acquired in 1960. With this grant, the UW-Madison
South Asia Area Center was established. The NDEA grant was
followed by a 1.2 million dollar Ford Foundation grant in
1962 to further expand Indian studies over the next five
years. From the early to late 1960s, Joseph Elder, modern
societies; Robert Frykenberg, South Indian history; George
Hart III, Tamil language and literature; Henry Hart, Gandhi
and modern political movements; John Hitchcock, anthropology
of Nepal and the Himalayas; David Knipe, Hinduism; Robert
Miller, Buddhist anthropology; Usha Nilsson, Hindi language
and literature; Richard Robinson, Sanskrit, Pali, Prakrit,
and Tibetan Buddhism, Geshe Sopa, Tibetan language and literature
and Tibetan Buddhist Studies, Frances Wilson, Sanskrit,
Pali, and Prakrit, and Manindra Verma, Hindi language, literature,
and linguistics, joined the initial faculty of Indian Studies,
often carrying joint appointments in other disciplines.
South Asian Studies lost an important
scholarly force when Richard Robinson died unexpectedly from an
accident in 1968. Despite this terrible loss, the Department of
Indian Studies and the South Asian Area Center continued to grow
as Steven Beyer, Tibetan Buddhism; Marc Galanter, Indian law;
Muhammad Memon, Arabic and Persian language and literature; A.K.
Narain, ancient Indian history and numismatics; John Richards,
modern Indian history and kinship; and V. Narayana Rao, Telugu
language and literature, joined the faculty in the early 1970s.
Sheela Verma, Hindi language, and Krishna Pradhan, Nepali language,
joined as academic staff instructors to expand the language program.
When the retirements of John Richards, Bob
Miller, Henry Hart, A.K. Narain, and Frances Wilson became inevitable
in the 1980s, Gudrun Bühnemann, Sanskrit and Buddhism; J. Mark
Kenoyer, archeology; Kirin Narayan, anthropology; André Wink,
pre-modern history; and Phillip Zarrilli, theater and Martial
arts; joined the faculty, expanding disciplinary coverage to new
The administration of the South
Asia Language and Area Center and the Department of South Asian
Studies (formerly Department of Indian Studies) were conjoined
from receipt of the first NDEA grant in 1960. The Chair of South
Asian Studies also served as Director of the South Asia Language
and Area Studies Center, with the greatest number of faculty in
the center program drawn from the Department of South Asian Studies.
In 1989, at the request of the Dean of International Studies,
the center and the department evaluated the advantages of separating
the administration of the two entities. Beginning in January 1990,
the Center for South Asia was formally established as a distinct
unit from the Department of South Asian Studies, with Joe Elder
serving as the Center’s first Director. Sharon Dickson assumed
the role of Assistant to the Director in 1990, with changes in
the position warranting a change to her position as Assistant
Director in 1996. In 1995 the Center for South Asia became a member
program of the newly organized International Institute, a collaborative
initiative of the Dean of Letters & Science and the Dean of
the Office of International Studies and Programs.
From the 1990s forward, South Asian
studies has continued to reach further across campus to include
Preeti Chopra, urban planning; Paula Kantor, consumer science
and women’s studies; Shanti Kumar, communication arts, Hemant
Shah, journalism and mass communication; Aseema Sinha, political
science; and Gautam Vajracharya, art history and Buddhist iconography.
The retirements of David Knipe, Manindra Verma, Geshe Sopa, and
Phillip Zarrilli have led to the more recent appointments of Don
Davis, Hinduism and religious studies; Aparna Dharwadker, literature
in English and theater; Vinay Dharwadker, Hindi and Marathi literature;
John Dunne, Tibetan language and Tibetan Buddhism; Christine Garlough,
communication arts; Asifa Quraishi, Islamic law; and Charles Hallisey,
Theravada Buddhism and religious studies.
Throughout the beginning years
of the Department of Indian Studies, B.A. and M.A. degrees in
South Asian Studies were developed and offered through the area-focused
Department of Indian Studies (renamed the Department of South
Asian Studies in 1973). In the late 1960s Ph.D. programs in South
Asian Language and Literature (with further concentration in civilizations
or religions) and Buddhism were added. In 2003, the Department
of South Asian Studies was reorganized and renamed the Department
of Languages and Cultures of Asia (LCA). Although the LCA B.A.
still includes significant study on South Asia, it has been revised
to include broader study of Asia. In 2003, the Center for South
Asia developed and now offers the Undergraduate Certificate on
South Asian Studies, where students can create a 21-credit program
of interdisciplinary language and area studies. LCA continues
to offer the South Asia-focused M.A. and Ph.D. programs, with
increased emphasis on disciplinary training. Also, both M.A. and
Ph.D. degrees in disciplines with strong faculty presence such
as anthropology, archeology, communications, history, journalism,
political science, sociology, and theater are also highly viable
choices for graduate students.
Wisconsin's College Year in India
Program began in 1960 when Henry Hart of the UW-Madison Political
Science Department helped Tom Trautmann, a junior in Beloit College,
to spend a year in India on a "casual student" visa
affiliated with Delhi University. The success of an undergraduate
studying in India encouraged Henry Hart to widen the experiment.
In the Spring of 1961 Hart arranged for five recent Wisconsin
BAs (from Beloit, Lawrence, and the UW-Madison) to receive "casual-student"
visas affiliated with the Delhi School of Social Work, to study
both Hindi and Urdu, and to carry out fieldwork projects in India.
In the Spring of 1962, the budding College Year in India Program
was turned over to Joe Elder, who had joined the UW-Madison faculty
the previous Fall. Under the auspices of the UW-Madison Office
of International Academic Programs, Joe signed-on as faculty coordinator
of the program.
During the summer of 1962 sixteen
undergraduates from UW-Madison and several colleges of the Associated
Colleges of the Midwest studied Hindi in Madison in the summer
with Ripley Moore and then flew to three campuses in India --
Delhi University's School of Social Work (Old Delhi), Jamia Millia
Islamia (New Delhi), and Banaras Hindu University or BHU (Varanasi).
Dr. A.K. Narain of the BHU faculty played a major part in establishing
the program in Varanasi. Joe Elder, who was studying in Lucknow
that year with a fellowship from the American Institute of Indian
Studies, monitored the three-location program. During that academic
year, the three pillars of the program were established: 1) a
prior summer of language training in the U.S., 2) a second-year
of language training in India, and 3) an independent fieldwork
project to be completed in India.
The College Year in India Program opened its admissions to students
from any accredited college or university in the United States
or Canada in 1963/64. Over time, study locations settled in Hyderabad,
Madurai, and Varanasi.
In 1980/81, under the direction
of Professor John Hitchcock, the UW-Madison launched its Kathmandu-based
College Year in Nepal Program (CYIN) for Nepali-learning students.
1983/84 saw the addition of Tibetan-learning students to the Nepal
To serve the College Year In India
and College Year in Nepal Programs, the Center for South Asia,
the Department of Languages and Cultures of Asia, and the Office
of International Academic Programs collaborated to offer summer
language study in Hindi-Urdu, Nepali, Tamil, Telugu, and Tibetan.
Today, that program has been replaced by SASLI (see below), which
now serves a wider number of students nation-wide, yet includes
the necessary language study for CYIP and CYIN students.
Phillip Zarrilli, UW-Madison Theatre and
Drama Department launched UW's Kerala summer performing arts program
in the summer of 1993 in Thiruvananthapuram. Under this program
participants spend ten weeks in Kerala, learning such performing
arts as mrdangam drumming or Kalarippayattu martial skills and
concluding with an elaborate end-of-the-summer performance. While
completing his Ph.D. program at the University of Texas at Austin,
Don Davis served as Resident Director of the program in Summer
1997 and 1998. Currently, Don lends his expertise to the program
as a faculty member in the Department of Languages and Cultures
Conference on South Asia
In 1971, Wisconsin faculty met
with a group of high school teachers to discuss teachers’
needs for South Asia classroom materials. Over the next two years,
Robert Frykenberg expanded on this idea and organized the “Wisconsin
Conference on South Asian Studies” which was held at the
Johnson Wax Company Wingspread center in Racine, Wisconsin, in
May 1973. The statement of purpose for this conference reads,
“The Wingspread Conference brings together specialists of
South And Southeast Asia from several campuses of The University
of Wisconsin [System] and other state educational institutions,
for the purpose of planning programs which will reach all segments
of the population of Wisconsin with educational programs about
the culture of South Asia.” Thirty-seven educators from
Wisconsin high schools, colleges, and the University of Wisconsin
System attended the conference. Continued annually, the 1974 conference
solidified the format of scholarly presentations and an invited
scholarly address. In 1974 the conference was officially named
the “Wisconsin Conference on South Asia.” Although
it was originally conceived as a conference that would move among
the various campuses of the University of Wisconsin System, by
1976 the conference had grown enough in size to require that it
be held permanently in Madison where it found a home at the UW
Extension Lowell and Wisconsin Centers.
By 1981 the conference had expanded
to include over 350 participants from North America, Europe, and
South Asia. The title was changed to the “Annual Conference
on South Asia.” By 2003, over 500 participants had consistently
attended the conference so it was moved to the Madison Concourse
Hotel. Today the conference regularly attracts more than 600 participants,
primarily scholars, but with a noticeable contingent of journalists,
NGO affiliates, government affiliates, and others.
Plans to develop a state wide outreach
program was spear-headed by J.F. Richards who organized a working
meeting of fifteen college and secondary teachers who met over
two days in May, 1974 to plan concrete ways in which the Center
could provide greater service to the teaching community. From
this meeting, several programs were launched: 1) an instructional
video series, 2) a civilizations of India film project, 3) two
public dance performances, 3) a conference on the languages and
religions of South Asia, and 4) a Medieval India bibliographic
While each of these items was accomplished,
the instructional video series and the civilizations film project
have had the most long-lasting effect. The 15-video instructional
series, “Exploring the Religions of South Asia,” was
developed and produced by David Knipe in 1975. Center for South
Asia faculty Stephan Beyer, Geshe Sopa, Muhammad Memon, George
Hart III, and V. Narayana Rao, contributed lectures along with
the dozen lectures presented by David Knipe in the series. The
civilizations of India film project was launched with nation-wide
distribution of the black and white film Banaras, produced
by Joe Elder in 1970 in 16mm format. From 1970 to today, over
35 documentary films have been added to the series, many produced
by Joe Elder. Originally available in 16mm format, many films were upgraded
to VHS format in the mid-1990s and most are now available in DVD
format. The documentary films have been distributed internationally
for over 30 years and are estimated to have reached a minimum
of 85,000 viewers. Through the continued efforts of Joe Elder,
a new title is added approximately once a year.
The Center for South Asia K-12 outreach program finds its roots
in the Wingspread Conference and the efforts of J.F. Richards
to study the needs of K-12 teachers. From the late 1970s to the
present, coordinators of the outreach program have included Thomas
White, Lynn Ate, Judy Benade, Ed Dixon, and, currently, Rachel
Weiss. Each coordinator has contributed significant interaction
with teachers and students as well as the development of supplementary
K-12 curriculum materials.
In 2003, the Center received a
Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad grant for the project “Exploring
the Cultures and Social Issues of Contemporary South India.”
On this project, fourteen K-12 teachers completed a work-study
program under the direction of Rachel Weiss in Chennai, Mahabalipuram,
and Madurai, India. Throughout the five weeks, and upon their
return, the teachers completed a curriculum project. These projects
are now available world wide on the Center for South Asia Outreach website. A second curriculum
project led by Rachel Weiss, “A Passage to India: Exploring
the Arts and Histories of the Sub Continent,” will take
place in Summer 2005.
Like most library collections,
it is difficult to trace the beginnings of the South Asia collection
in the Memorial Library. By 1972, the collection included over
43,000 original Indian language volumes, over 24,000 English translation
volumes, 3,100 periodicals, and 25 newspapers (11 in Indian languages).
In 1973, Jack Wells was appointed Bibliographer of the collection
and served the collection admirably until the mid 1990s when he
retired. Following Wells, Carol Mitchell, and then Larry Ashmun
carried joint responsibility for the South and Southeast Asia
collections. In August 2004, Mary Rader was appointed Bibliographer
of the South Asia collection.
Today it is estimated that the
collection includes over 210,000 titles with significant holdings
in South Asian Buddhism (in Tibetan, Sanskrit, and Pali), modern
South Asian languages and literatures (with approximately 3,900
monograph titles added each year; particularly strong in Tamil,
Urdu, and Telugu), a South India collection dating from the early
Eighteenth Century to the present (including one of the finest
collections of the Madras Presidency documents), the Manuscript
of Shel dKar bKaagyur on microfiche, and the complete Mohenjo-Daro
Sind volumes in computer file. Currently the Library subscribes
to over 7,000 current serials and periodicals published in, or
directly concerned with, South Asia through the acquisitions program
operated by the U.S. Library of Congress field offices in Karachi
and New Delhi.
In Spring 2005, Mary Rader will
direct a project to identify local, national, and international
periodical publications and to research where, how, and the extent
of indexing that has already been done for South Asian periodicals.
Following the research phase of the project, a comprehensive,
web-based database will be developed to incorporate progressive
standards for federated searching, and will also address issues
of non-Roman script. A future project will include the actual
indexing of the more than 1,200 South Asia periodicals currently
received in the Library collection.
Fund-raising and Endowments
In 1986, the University of Wisconsin-Madison
South Asia program became the recipient of a $150,000 endowment
from the Andrew
W. Mellon Foundation. That endowment included matching endowment
funds from the College of Letters and Science and further matching
endowment through the generous support of donors to the Tibetan
Buddhist Studies program. Interest income from these funds has
allowed the Center for South Asia to support South Asian studies
on the UW-Madison campus through invited lectures, faculty research,
and language instruction. The Mellon Foundation endowment has
further served the nation and beyond by providing funds for the
development of the Center for South Asia documentary films production
and distribution program.
In 1961, the Taraknath Das Foundation
made its first award to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to
support Indian studies. Since that time, continuing gifts from
the Taraknath Foundation have allowed the Center for South Asia
to provide numerous student prizes for outstanding scholarly papers
and to support symposia and invited lectures.
The Center for South Asia has accepted
gifts on an on-going basis from interested individuals. These
gifts are held in the Center for South Asia University of Wisconsin
Foundation account and gain interest for future programming efforts.
Gifts of any size, however small or large, have been greatly appreciated
and have contributed in many ways to Center for South Asia needs.
Language Programs and FLAS
From the early 1960s forward, the
University of Wisconsin-Madison South Asia program has remained
a vital national force in the study of South Asia in the humanities
and social sciences. Over 300 Foreign Language and Area Studies
Fellowships have been provided to graduate students to gain both
modern spoken and literary proficiency in Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi,
Marathi, Nepali, Tamil, Telugu, Tibetan, and Urdu either through
academic year or summer language program offerings in the Department
of Languages and Cultures of Asia, or through support to study
in the AIIS and AIPS language programs. Large numbers of students
have also gained scholarly proficiency in Pali, Persian, Prakrit,
and Sanskrit through programs offered in the Department of Languages
and Cultures of Asia. Graduates of the University of Wisconsin-Madison
South Asia program have gone on to distinguished careers in academia,
government programs, non-government programs, and international
Among its peers in National Resource
Center status through funding by the U.S. Department of Education,
the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for South Asia was
chosen as the host institution for the South
Asia Summer Language Institute (SASLI). Through the consortium
of all federally funded National Resource Centers on South Asia,
the first-ever national South Asia language program, SASLI, was
launched in Summer 2003, on the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The Center Director, currently J. Mark Kenoyer, the Administrative
Director, Laura Hammond, serve as the UW-Madison SASLI management team.
2005 will mark the third year of SASLI offerings at Madison, serving
undergraduate, graduate, and special students nation-wide.
updated April 20, 2010