South Asian Studies at Stanford

The Center for South Asia facilitates teaching and learning about the South Asian subcontinent, which encompasses the nations of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, and Sri Lanka. Specialists in Anthropology, Drama, Economics, Education, History, Literature, Music, Political Science, and Religious Studies among others comprise the faculty of CSA. The Center works with departments and other university units, as well as with student and community groups, toward the goals of increasing faculty strength, supporting research, expanding course offerings, building the library collection, and presenting programs and events.

The Center for South Asia at Stanford aims to promote the study of South Asia in a manner that reflects the position of the region in the world today. Our focus is on the colonial-modern and contemporary post-colonial South Asia.

South Asia is today an intimate and instantaneous part of our everyday global reality and cannot be studied as a self-contained area. South Asia is of critical importance in the world economy, South Asian communities and professionals are a significant presence in many parts of the world, and South Asian cultural production and aesthetics are firmly embedded in the global imagination and in the global marketplace. The long-term ambition of Center for South Asia is to give Stanford students and faculty access to world-class resources, cutting-edge research and a broad range of teaching on South Asia.

Our main intellectual ambition is to ensure that South Asia is a place from where modernity can be conceptualized in all its historical complexity. We want to ensure that debates and reflections on central categories of modern thought – capitalism, liberal democracy, the reflexive subject, jurisprudence and law, popular mass culture and its institutions, aesthetic cultures, the state, the public life of religion – include South Asia as a self-evident ground rather than merely a special case. We want to ensure that the vast storehouse of South Asia material, concerns, problems, and history become integral parts of the curriculum and research profiles of as many departments and programs as possible at Stanford in the future. Put simply, our task is to overcome the ‘methodological nationalism’ implicit in the area studies model while retaining the respect for specificity and depth of South Asian history and cultural complexity.

CSA applies a broad and flexible idea of what constitutes South Asia as an object of study. South Asia can be an element in broader comparative work; the site of detailed ethnographic and historical work; South Asian communities in the US and elsewhere in the world; or South Asia as integral to a global literary-aesthetic horizon.

CSA features speakers and events that are grounded in South Asian experience but engage broader theoretical and comparative concerns across disciplines. We encourage strong departmental and disciplinary ownership of all South Asia related appointments. We aim at being a partner in a variety of cross-disciplinary initiatives around larger intellectual themes across campus, as well as with the Abbasi program in Islamic studies, East Asia, Urban Studies, the Stanford Humanities Center, Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity and other interdisciplinary programs at Stanford.

CSA collaborates with other South Asia Centers in the Bay Area around academic conferences, the South Asia Arts Collective and an annual graduate student conference was launched in 2012.


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The Center for South Asia is part of the Stanford Global Studies Division (SGS). See the SGS website for more information.