‘South Asia studies in a global world’: UCSC enlarges its Center for South Asian Studies

In Asia

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The Center for South Asian Studies at UC Santa Cruz — established in 2020 — is at a turning point.

With a new $1 million gift, the center will be able to expend new resources to invite activists and artists for residencies, host conferences, fund research programs and fellowships and expand outreach. As the campus is hiring a new professor focused on South Asian studies, the funding allows that professor to engage more widely on campus and off.

The gift sets up the Anuradha Luther Maitra and Thomas Kailath Endowed Professorship, funded by Luther Maitra and her husband. She has had a long relationship with the campus that began with her teaching economics there in the 1980s, providing two other endowments and serving as a trustee on the UC Santa Cruz Foundation board since 2000, among other roles and gifts.

Luther Maitra says funding the professorship gives her a sense of completion. She said she first proposed to the board that the university create a Center for South Asian Studies in 2005 — the year she began a two-year term as board president.

“I’m hoping it attracts global attention from the kinds of people who believe in the same objectives that we do,” she said. “I see this really as morphing into not just South Asia studies, but as South Asia studies in a global world.”

The Humanities Institute houses the Center for South Asian Studies, which supports the study of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, the Maldives and broader Indian Ocean worlds. Anjali Arondekar, co-founding director of the center, describes it as a “research, activist and artistic commons” with a focus on economic and social justice.

The center has hosted online speaker series including the Aurora and Towards Justice lectures, and talks with people from a range of disciplines from India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The center will soon announce that it will be hosting its first in-person conference focused on social justice in April and is welcoming its first visiting artist/activist resident, a documentary filmmaker from India, this spring. In addition, the center will be creating a minor in South Asia studies in the next year or so.

“We are super excited about the endowed professorship because it’s a reflection of not just the university’s commitment to the growth of South Asian studies, but also a commitment of the broader community that engages with our campus,” said Arondekar. “It’s also a reflection of the specific strengths of our center.”

The center’s faculty advisory board and affiliated faculty — who come from UCSC’s five academic divisions — conduct research covering topics including South Asia politics, education, and health.



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