South Asia Center - News


Check out the latest issue of South Asia Center's Weekly Bulletin.


Professor Anu Taranath's Book on Study Abroad Featured in UW Today

Creative letters written by UW undergraduates who studied last summer in Bangalore, India, are gathered in a new book organized by Anu Taranath, senior lecturer in the English and Comparative History of Ideas departments.

The book, “T.I.P.S. to Study Abroad: Simple Letters for Complex Engagement,” includes about 60 such letters, all written by the 2013 study-abroad cohort, who spent a quarter putting it all together after their return from India.

Read the full UW Today article here.


Congratulations to our 2014 South Asia Graduates!

Kevin JohnsonKevin Johnson, MA South Asian Studies (Jackson School), MPA Public Administration (Evans School).

Future plans: Summer internship in Federal Way with World Vision's Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programs. I'll mostly be doing donor communications, fundraising and grant-writing.

Awards and honors: Academic Year FLAS 2013-2014; Summer FLAS 2012; Marc Lindenberg award (Evans School); Excellence in Public Service award (Evans School)

Interests: I'm interested in how development discourses become hegemonic; in other words, who talks about development, which ideas receive greater attention, and whose voices are left out of those discussions.

MA paper topics: (1) Media representations of microfinance pioneers Muhammad Yunus and Ela Bhatt. (2) 'Participation', gender, and sanitation projects in rural India.

Favorite JSIS class: Priti Ramamurthy's Women and International Economic Development (JSIS B 345).

Advice for future JSIS students: Take a language class each quarter, and try to take at least one quarter of a language outside your comfort zone, or what seems useful to your trajectory.

Rafeel WasifRafeel Wasif, MA South Asian Studies (Jackson School).

Future plans: Starting a PhD in Political Science at the University of Washington.

Awards and honors: Fulbright scholarship from Pakistan, 2012-14.

Interests: The intersection of new media (internet), NGOs, and Political Islam.

MA paper topics: (1) Internet and the public sphere in Pakistan. (2) Madrassas as firms: madrassas’ resistance to Western donor funding in Pakistan.

Favorite JSIS class: My first JSIS South Asia core course (JSIS A 508) was really memorable. I had recently come to the US, and had really interesting discussions, and was exposed to extremely diverse ways of thinking. I think that really helped me develop my intellectual capacities during my two years at the Jackson School.

Advice for future JSIS students: Always be open to new ideas. You may have very different ideas regarding what you want to do during your graduate school. However, you learn a lot, and may realize that your interests change during your time. So do not be hesitant to change, but rather embrace it. Also, always have a life outside graduate school. It makes you a better scholar, as well as keeps you motivated towards your work.

Kevin JohnsonSeth Powell, MA Comparative Religion (Jackson School).

Future plans: My family and I will be moving to Cambridge, MA at the end of the summer where I have been accepted with full funding into the PhD program in the Committee on the Study of Religion at Harvard.

Awards and honors: American Institute of Indian Studies (AIIS) Fellowship for Sanskrit - Summer 2014 (declined); Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship for Hindi - Summer 2014 (declined); Eugene and Marilyn Webb Scholarship in Comparative Religion - 2014 $2,500 awarded by Jackson School of International Studies, UW; Graduate School Fund for Excellence and Innovation — Oct. 2013 $300 awarded for conference travel by the Graduate School, UW.

Interests: Indian Religion, Sanskrit, Yoga Studies.

MA paper topic: "Yoga on Trial: The Imbrication of Yoga and Religion in Sedlock v. Baird”

Favorite JSIS class: I loved TA’ing for Dr. Kyoko Tokuno’s Winter course, JSIS 202: Intro to World Religions: Eastern Traditions. Getting to introduce undergrads to the major topics, history, and ideas of Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism is incredibly exciting and has the potential to radically alter your experience as a grad student. Some of my favorite moments at JSIS were "teaching highs" when I was able to inspire and challenge students to think about themselves and their world in sometimes profoundly new ways.

Advice for future JSIS students: The JSIS is an exciting place to study, and is stacked with incredible faculty and resources (particularly for students of South Asia)! However, due to its highly interdisciplinary nature, you can at times feel like you’re on your own in your program, having to traverse the mysterious pathways of grad school by your lonesome. Go out of your way to make community, seek assistance, and to put yourself out there with faculty and staff. The SA grad student talks and chais are great for this reason. Don’t be afraid to knock on Profs' doors, and make yourself known. The more energy you put into your experience at UW the more benefit you will receive.


Professor Aseem Prakash Launches Blog on Indian Politics

Political Science and International Studies Professor Aseem Prakash has started a blog about Indian politics, A collaboration with two other professors, Indian Raajneeti is intended to be a forum for reasoned discussions of Indian politics. Outside contributions are welcome.

Be part of the conversation: 

Professor Cabeiri Robinson's Blog Post on Tourism and Conflict in Jammu and Kashmir

In a blog post to Cultural Anthropology's series on The Politics of “Post-conflict”: On the Ground in South Asia, Cabeiri Robinson discusses the intersections of tourism, humanitarian aid, and peacemaking efforts. Read the post here.

Robinson is associate professor of international studies and South Asian studies. 

Professor Cabeiri Robinson Featured in Human Rights Panel at Karachi Literature Festival


Karachi Lit FestAssociate Professor of International Studies and South Asian Studies Cabeiri Robinson participated in a panel entitled "Human Rights and Wrongs in Pakistan" at the Fifth Karachi Literature Festival in February.

Professor Robinson has been featured in two articles in the Pakistani newspaper Dawn, "5th Karachi Literature Festival: A state of terror" and "A paradox of human rights."Human Rights Panel

Excerpts from the articles:

"The session began with a thoughtful presentation by Dr Robinson, who distilled years of research into a quarter of an hour, explaining the intricacies of international humanitarian laws and human rights."

"KARACHI: Asma Jehangir, Mohammed Hanif and Aasim Sajjad Akhtar were the crowd-drawing big names at the ‘Human Rights and Wrongs in Pakistan’ session at the fifth Karachi Literature Festival on Friday. But the presence of political and legal anthropologist Cabeiri deBergh Robinson in the human rights panel brought forth a new perspective on human rights."


Rafeel Wasif, Fulbright student from Pakistan, talks about his experience at UW

Rafeel WasifI did my Undergraduate from the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) in Pakistan. After graduation I worked in the Education sector in Pakistan and coordinated a survey on education called Annual Status of Education Report (ASER 2011). Before getting interested in Area studies, I had no idea about the University of Washington and the South Asia Center. Like many other people, I thought that there was only Washington in the US. However, I researched my options for South Asia Studies and found the Faculty at UW matched my research interests. I wanted to concentrate on contemporary issues in South Asia and UW South Asia Center has excellent resources for my field of research. Looking back, I feel UW is an excellent choice not only in terms of studies but also because Seattle is a very livable and diverse city.

The biggest surprise for me was of course the fact that there was another Washington in the US. Secondly, I was astonished that Football was called Soccer and American Football had little to do with Foot. Third was of course the rain. One of my friends gave me a raincoat as a parting gift, saying that I would one day thank him for it. However, I have to my surprise adapted well to the weather in Seattle. I have traveled through large parts of the US, and whenever I come back I feel happy. In simple words, I am most surprised by the fact that Seattle has so quickly become home.



UW Professor honored in a recent volume of the Bulletin of Asia Institute

UW Asian Languages and Literature Professor Richard Salomon was presented with the “Salomon Festschrift” at a conference in Germany.  The Festschrift is a volume of the Bulletin of Asia Institute commemorating Dr. Salomon’s 65th Birthday.


To view a copy of the Festschrift table of contents, click here



UW South Asia Emeritus Lorraine Sakata is featured in this interview about Qawwali.  It also includes footage from Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s 1993 performance at Kane Hall at UW (which was outstanding- who else was there?)


Read Dr. Sakata’s interview here.

Watch Amin Najibi’s short film about Qawwali here.


Washington South Asia Report


South Asia & Evans School graduate student, Kevin Johnson, has published his piece, "A Review of Poverty Capital: Microfinance and the Making of Development," in the Evans School Review.


Read it here.  





Recent grad, Kristen Zipperer, has published an article,"Smugglers' Paradise: Life and Lucre on the Open Border Between Nepal and India," based on her JSIS honors thesis in HIMAL.


Read it here.







Roots & Reflections: South Asians in the Pacific Northwest by Amy Bhatt and Nalini Iyer


Review by Kathryn Zyskowski


Roots and Reflections is the culmination of a multiple year South Asian Oral History Project run by the University of Washington libraries. Setting out to document the narratives of South Asia migrants to the Pacific Northwest, this book maps out migration periods, immigrant narratives, and the diaspora experience in the Pacific Northwest. Originally, the project aimed to capture the life histories of a few migrants to the PNW during the 1940s and 1950s. This end result of this project, however, is a collaborative endeavor of South Asian diaspora, the MOHAI museum, the University of Washington libraries, and authors Amy Bhatt and Nalini Iyer. What emerges is a blueprint for innovative collaborations across public institutions, local community members, and the academy. 
The book traces the migrations to the Pacific Northwest through labor—first, at the beginning of the 20th century the timber and forestry industry, and later the aerospace, biomedical, and technology industries. The narratives trace movement as well as settling down, and argue for South Asians to be a central part of PNW history in the 20th century—as Superintendents, Microsoft workers, UW students, and Imams. Furthermore, the trajectories from South Asia to the PNW were also diverse—some through Madagascar, others through the East Coast. Chapters One, Two, and Three covers historic shifts in the reasons and forms of travel of South Asians to the Pacific Northwest, starting with Punjabis migrating for work in the lumber mills at the turn of the 20th century. Through tracing the narratives of leaving, the experience of travel, and of arriving—these chapters draw together commonalities of this immigrant experience across generations and regions. Chapters Four, Five, and Six focus more on the narratives of shipping and multiple identities attendant to the migration experience. Here, the process of making a home and understanding oneself in the Pacific Northwest is central. Each chapter focuses on a different migrant demographic, such as the professional or the woman. The final chapter focuses on the processes of South Asian communities in the Pacific Northwest building community. This traces the growth of South Asian food and retail outlets, student clubs on campuses, as well as South Asian cultural and religious organizations in the Pacific Northwest.
Many of the immigrant narratives stories carry excitement, newness, and adventure. Narratives tell of the thrill of travel on a ship, and of the excitement of finding the environment so drastically different that one’s home. Besides the joys of discovering a new place, a common experience of migrants is also one of racism and exclusion. Noting the first riots towards South Asians, the authors note that South Asians have avoided Whatcom County since the 1907 riots. Much later, South Asian students at the UW all share stories of stark moments of realization of how little Americans new of their country, and of the offensive experiences stemming from that. One man relates how his professor gave him a zero on a paper, only because he didn’t believe that he had written it, claiming that migrants must not know English. Another relates having fellow students ask if the Taj Mahal was her family’s home. Experiences like these both ostracized migrants, and made them realize how little many did know about the region they came from.
Authors Bhatt and Iyer contextualize the book by front-loading their own positionality. Framed within a feminist praxis, reflecting on how their perceived positionality—as part of the Indian diaspora themselves—and as scholars, affects their relationships with interviewees, and the process of research, throughout this process. While this book contributes to the growing body of literature on the South Asian Diaspora in the United States, I would have liked to see it situate the South Asian Diaspora within other migrant communities in Seattle more, and to compare the South Asian Diaspora in the Pacific Northwest to those of Chicago, New York, and the Bay Area. This book will be a useful addition to American studies, history, or South Asian studies courses. Additionally, I think that this book will find an audience within the broader Seattle community. 


AIIS 2013 Book Prize Awarded to South Asian Studies Professor Sunila Kale for Electrifying India



The American Institute of Indian Studies is pleased to announce that its 2013 Joseph W. Elder Prize in the Indian Social Sciences has been awarded to Sunila Kale of the University of Washington for her book manuscript, Electrifying India: Regional Political Economies of Development. The book is under contract with Stanford University Press.
In the book, Professor Kale investigates why, more than six decades after independence, so much of India—especially rural India—is still not electrified or has intermittent and poor quality electricity delivery. Throughout the 20th century, electrification was considered to be the primary vehicle of modernity and development, as well as its quintessential symbol.  In India, electricity was central to the conceptualization of Indian modernity by early nationalists and planners and huge sums were spent on electrification from then until now.  Yet despite all this, today nearly 400 million Indians have no access to electricity.
The author offers three in-depth case studies of the states of Maharashtra, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh, telling the story of the history of electrification and electricity supply in each, as well as offering a careful analysis of the various interest groups in each state which stand to gain from cheap electricity provision, such as sugar cane farmers in the districts to the east of Mumbai. The author has spent considerable time trying to reconstruct, from often scanty records in the State Electricity Boards, the history of electrification, investments and policies in each of the three states. The author argues that ‘the axiomatic view of Indian federalism’ as highly centralized is overstated. In the case of electrification, and the history of the policies that have been pursued to bring it about, there has been enormous variation among states. The key factor has been whether and in what ways rural political coalitions have developed. The history of these politics and their effects on policy and practice regarding the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity in the long period of the interventionist state, up to the beginning of the 1990s, are shown to have had a profound influence upon the responses of different states in the present era of privatization.
Professor Kale argues that the earlier period of an advancing state apparatus conditioned in important ways the manner of the state’s retreat in the contemporary moment of market reforms. In those parts of the countryside that were successfully electrified in the decades after independence, the gains were due to neither nationalist idealism nor merely technocratic plans.  Instead, rural electrification occurred either when rural constituencies became politically influential in state governments, or when farmers emerged to demand a larger share of development resources.  Electrifying India explores the political and historical puzzle of uneven development in India’s vital electricity sector.
Sunila S. Kale is an assistant professor in the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington, where her teaching and research focus on Indian and South Asian politics and the political economy of development.  She obtained an undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago and a doctoral degree from the University of Texas, Austin.
[Text from the AIIS website]




UW Professor Heidi Pauwels coedits new volume: Indian Satire in the Period of First Modernity



Satire reveals fault lines and incongruities between ideal and practice. Satirical discourse may be independent or invade and parody literary genres. It unmasks, ridicules and thereby deconstructs evil and hypocrisy to reconstruct honesty and reason, and at its farthest end may amount to moral utopia. 

The volume edited by Monika Horstmann and Heidi Pauwels brings together essays on satire in the Indian vernaculars and in painting, mainly from the period of first modernity (ca. mid-fifteenth to mid-eighteenth century). These are framed by a contribution on the more ancient Tamil Jain satire and two essays on colonial satire. Among the contributing researchers are Purshottam Agrawal, France Bhattacharya, Ludwig Habighorst, Hans Harder, Monika Horstmann, Hephzibah Israel, Rohini Mokashi-Punekar, Anne E. Monius, Christina Oesterheld, and Heidi Pauwels.






UW Affiliate Professor Publishes New Book on Afghan Musical Traditions




"Afghanistan Encounters with Music and Friends" is a personal account based on the author’s past fieldwork experiences in different regions of Afghanistan and more recent work in Kabul spanning some forty-four years from 1966 to 2010. Although the fieldwork is ostensibly about music, it is the fieldwork experience that becomes the focus of the book. The individual journeys described in the book are more than simply routes or pathways from one place to another; they are about connections and encounters with Afghans who become the travel guides along the way and at destinations. The guides reveal the importance about being an Afghan; they convey their concepts of time, place, identity and music; they express their moral and ethical values; and they willingly share their customs and worldviews with the researcher who seeks a common bond with them. Readers who accompany the author on her journeys will gain a perspective of Afghanistan that is often overlooked or sorely lacking in the current popular discourse on the war in Afghanistan.
For the general reader the book is first and foremost about travels and encounters, and secondly about the music that necessitates the travels. For the ethnomusicologist, the book is about the music and the fieldwork experience. The main framework of the book is geographical and chronological, yet chapters include leaps in time and place to illustrate connections between the past and present, and between one place and another including Tajikistan, Kirghizstan, Pakistan and India. 
The book is divided into three parts; the first two are about two extended periods of research in Afghanistan. The third part covers brief periods of research and projects in Kabul and outside Afghanistan in Pakistan and the United States. Ethnomusicologist Mark Slobin writes the foreword to the book. The work is illustrated by a political map of Afghanistan and three travel routes in the provinces, and by more than thirty photographs of people, places and events taken during fieldwork in Afghanistan. Song texts are transcribed and translated, including a translation of the late Ustad Sarahang’s rendition of "jan-e kharabatam" by author and translator, Dick Davis. A glossary of Persian terms used in the book is also included.
Hiromi Lorraine Sakata
Hiromi Lorraine Sakata is Professor Emerita of Ethnomusicology at UCLA. Before joining the UCLA faculty as Professor and Associate Dean of the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture, she was Professor of Music and Head of the Ethnomusicology Division in the School of Music at the University of Washington. She is the author of "Music in the Mind: The Concepts of Music and Musician in Afghanistan" and the producer of the recording, "Ustad Mohammad Omar: Virtuoso from Afghanistan for Smithsonian Folkways." In addition to Afghanistan, she has conducted music research in Pakistan, India and Tajikistan.




"Indology is a fascinating ocean..."

A chat with Heidi Pauwels, Professor, Asian Languages and Literature


When Agatha Christie’s ace detective Hercule Poirot took up new cases in London, he always made it clear to his employers – “I’m not French, I’m Belgian.” Prof. Heidi Pauwels had to maintain a similar line of defense in her virginal days of research at Vrindavan in North India, when she was accused of being an “Angrez.” – “I’m not Angrez, I’m Belgian,” was her reply, trying to wrestle out historical encumbrances. Some of those sleuth-like qualities would come handy in her current mission to uncover the poetry and miniatures of the 18th century crown Prince of Kishangarh, Nagaridas. The South Asia Bulletin met her for a chat in her office - the same Gowen Hall room that once belonged to the legendary Prof. Alan Entwistle. UW’s eminent South Asian medievalist Prof. Pauwels tells us that Indology is a fascinating ocean that a student can make a meaningful contribution to - by simply editing and translating just about any pre-colonial manuscript. Click here for the full interview


The South Asia Center does not issue paper copies of the newsletter any more. Instead, we  periodically publish news stories online. Previous issues are listed below.

Previous Issues:


2011-2012 South Asia Report

Spring/Summer 2010 South Asia Report

Winter 2010 Washington South Asia Report

Spring 2009 Washington South Asia Report

Fall 2008 Washington South Asia Report

Spring 2008 Washington South Asia Report

Fall 2007 Washington South Asia Report

Fall 2007 Washington South Asia Report

Spring 2007 Washington South Asia Report

Fall 2006 Washington South Asia Report

Spring 2006 Washington South Asia Report

Winter 2006 Washington South Asia Report

Fall 2005 / Spring 2005/ Winter 2005

Winter 2004

Fall 2003/ Spring 2003/ Winter 2003

Winter 2002

Spring 2001

Fall 2000/ Spring 2000 / Winter 2000

Fall 1999 / Spring 1999 / Winter 1999

Fall 1998 / Spring 1998 / Winter 1998

Fall 1997 / Spring 1997 / Winter 1997

Fall 1996 / Spring 1996 / Winter 1996

Fall 1995 / Spring 1995 / Winter 1995

Fall 1994/ Spring 1994 / Winter 1994

Fall 1993 / Spring 1993 / Winter 1993

Fall 1992 / Spring 1992 / Winter 1992

Fall 1991 / Spring 1991 / Winter 1991

Fall 1990 / Spring 1990 / Winter 1990

Fall 1989 / Spring 1989

Fall 1988 / Spring 1988 / Winter 1988

Fall 1987 / Spring 1987 / Winter 1987






South Asia Center
University of Washington
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(206) 685-0668 fax

Anand Yang, Director

Keith Snodgrass, Associate Director

Molly Wilskie-Kala, Program Coordinator

Nick Gottschall, Graduate Student Assistant

Robyn Davis, FLAS Coordinator

Sunila Kale, Graduate Program Coordinator