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South Asian Studies Department Searches For Second Hire

By Mia C. Karr, Crimson Staff Writer

The South Asian Studies department, which replaced Sanskrit and Indian studies in 2010, is in the process of finalizing a list of candidates for its second ever tenure-track position.

The fledgling department welcomed its first tenured professor, Sunil Amrith, in the fall, and hopes that the recipient of the new post will join him in the fall of 2016.

“When you create a new department you need to build, and the idea is to build in a way that is consistent with the vision of the department and in a way that complements the people who are already here,” said South Asian Studies Department Chair Parimal G. Patil.

The department includes professors with appointments in fields including music, philosophy, anthropology, religion, and history, among others. While Patil said he does not have a particular field in mind for the new professor, the scholar will need to work in contemporary South Asian Studies, an area that he said is currently lacking.

“There’s a lot of olden times, Sanskrit, that type of interest,” South Asian Studies joint concentrator Madhavi L. Narayanan ’17 said.

Narayanan is taking Amrith’s class South Asian Studies 131: "South Asia: A Global History,” and working with him outside of class in preparation for a thesis. Amrith was hired to fill a need for a specialist in modern South Asian Studies.

Narayanan, who is one of only three students currently concentrating in the field, said Amrith’s class has more students than she’s ever seen in a South Asian Studies course.

“I think it would be cool to have more cross-listed courses especially so people aren’t just looking at South Asian Studies courses as electives, but would be able to get credit for it,” Narayanan said.

According to Amrith, while Harvard has long had strong researchers in the field of East Asian Studies, offerings in South Asian Studies fall behind many other North American universities.

“I would certainly like to see this program expand,” Amrith said. “ I think it’s a rather fruitful place for interdisciplinary study.”

Narayanan, who is joint concentrating in Government, said she would like to see the expansion include a professor who works with politics or international relations. Fellow concentrator Aliya G. Itzkowitz ’16 said she has also found the department lacking in the subject.

“I think originally I had a more ambitious [thesis] idea focusing on contemporary politics,” Itzkowitz said, adding that if she had pursued the topic, then she would have had to turn to someone in another department or school.

Regardless of their field, the new hire must be a good fit for the small department, Patil said.

“The idea is not to create islands, but to create and bring in people who can really help broaden what we’re trying to do,” Patil said. “ I guess the idea is to have a really vibrant ecosystem of people who study South Asia who are all interconnected in various ways.”

Staff writer Mia Karr can be reached at mia.karr@thecrimson.com. Follow her on twitter @miackarr.

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