Sept. 1-7, 2000
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Center for South Asian Studies awarded new funds

By Charlotte Crystal

Introduction to Thangka Painting. Women and Islam. Sacred Architecture of Asia. Social and Political Movements in Modern India. These are just a few of the interdisciplinary course offerings that come under the umbrella of U.Va.'s Center for South Asian Studies. A recent $600,000, three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education recognizes the center as a Comprehensive National Resource Center, lifting it into the top ranks of research institutions in South Asian studies in the U.S.

"This grant marks an important moment for our center, because it recognizes almost 30 years of institutional commitment to South Asian studies at the University of Virginia," said Daniel Ehnbom, an art history professor and director of the center. "[It] will allow us to expand many of our programs, particularly those serving advanced graduate students."

Established in 1976, the Center for South Asian Studies aims to encourage the study of South Asian countries, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Tibet. Part of Arts & Sciences, the center encourages scholarship in a broad array of departments, including anthropology, architecture, art history, education, government and foreign affairs, history, Middle Eastern languages and cultures, music, religious studies, sociology and women's studies. The program offers more than 60 courses a semester.

The center coordinates an interdisciplinary bachelor's degree program in South Asian Studies and aids graduate students through federally funded Foreign Language Area Studies Fellowships, working with students in various departments interested in becoming South Asia specialists.

Also collaborating with the center, in an effort to bring greater international awareness throughout the curriculum, are the U.Va. School of Medicine, the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration and the McIntire School of Commerce.

Language study is a major emphasis, with course offerings in Hindi, Pali, Persian, Sanskrit, Tamil, Tibetan and Urdu. The center is supporting the use of new technologies in language study, especially the use of compact discs and interactive videos.

The center offers an intensive, summer course in the Tibetan language in Charlottesville and a semester abroad in Jodhpur, India, that combines language study (Hindi), Indian culture and civilization and an independent research project. The center also supports such student initiatives as the Indian Students Association, the Pakistan Students League and the Society for the Promotion of Indian Classical Music and Culture Amongst Youth.

Beyond Grounds, the center offers outreach programs to a broad array of public educational institutions throughout Virginia. It sends advanced graduate students to teach at other colleges in Virginia via the Virginia Consortium for Asian Studies. It also offers for-credit, in-service training tied to the state's Standards of Learning for secondary school world geography teachers. And it helps Virginia community colleges develop related curricula.

Bolstering all these efforts is a major library collection on South Asia, including approximately 120,000 volumes and 1,000 serials from the U.S., Europe and South Asian countries. Worth particular note is the comprehensive and extensively catalogued Tibetan collection, one of the most important in the world.

The U.Va. library also has a large collection of Indian videotapes, including documentaries, art films, and popular movies from "Bollywood" (as Bombay/Mumbai is often called) and elsewhere. India represents the world's most productive film industry.

In addition to its rich literary, artistic and religious heritage, South Asia occupies an important geo-political and strategic place on the globe, located as it is between East and West. India has become a growing economic power, especially in various high-tech sectors, with a population topping 1 billion, making it second only to China. The Dalai Lama, Tibet's leader-in-exile who resides in India, continues to be involved in international politics, speaking publicly about concerns over the rights of Tibetans under Chinese occupation. The nuclear competition between India and Pakistan, and the recent coup in Pakistan are being watched worldwide.

Contributing to the center's successful efforts to increase funding is the University's Virginia 2020 initiative, which is setting long-range aspirations and priorities in international activities, public service and outreach, the fine and performing arts, and science and technology.


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