For most scholars, one our greatest academic challenges is pursuing a second language for the purpose of supporting individual research interests or program requirements. Chris Diamond isn’t like most scholars though, because the complexities of South Asian languages are his forte. Chris’ pursuit of South Asian languages at the UW culminates with a floppy cap this year, the designation of Doctor of Philosophy in South Asian Languages and Literature will soon join his signature line.
Chris has accepted a position as lecturer of Hindi Language and Literature at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, Australia. The position is equivalent to an assistant professorship in the US. According to Chris, Australia is actively trying to increase the level of Hindi language training across the country as part of an initiative to sponsor South Asian language learning, much like the South Asian Summer Language Institute at Wisconsin-Madison.
ANU is the only institution in the Southern Hemisphere offering a Hindi major. This fact coupled with Chris’ desire to incite meaningful change inspires him to seek new ways to teach South Asian Languages. He hopes to develop new methodologies for South Asian language and area studies learning at an institution that welcomes innovative pedagogies.
Our Pacific Northwest weather and inclusive social atmosphere added to Chris’ enjoyment at the University of Washington. When asked to identify the most rewarding aspects of his experience at the UW, Chris returned, “I don’t know if it’s because of being on the West Coast or the cooling effect of the rain, but there is a relaxed and collegial atmosphere here at UW. It’s such a natural feature of most of our experiences here at UW, that we don’t realize is so special and not universal when we go elsewhere.” This congenial outlook on life made Chris an effective language TA and research contributor in the Asian Languages and Literature department.
Chris was supported by numerous FLAS awards and distinguished fellowships throughout his edification process. He had originally hoped to chase a career in music as an undergrad at SOAS, until he added a Hindi element. A year in Jaipur, India in the AIIS Hindi program, a requirement for the Hindi major at SOAS, inspired Chris to realize his best academic path.
He exclaims how his experience in India found “that the nitty-gritty features of grammar and the diversity of South Asian literatures were my real passions. It all kind of snowballed while I was here at UW and I ended up learning Sanskrit, Bengali, and Persian.” This is how it happens for most scholars who study South Asia – one language is never enough.
We’ll miss his walking Hindi dictionary abilities and jovial approach to inclusion within the department. However, our academic community is globally connected, so we haven’t seen the last of Chris. Please join us in congratulating Chris Diamond’s diligence and commitment.
Interview with Chris Diamond
South Asia Center Graduate Student Assistant Brook Alongi interviewed Chris about his new job. Below is their exchange.
Brook Alongi (BA): What do you look forward to the most about your new move?
Chris Diamond (CD): I am looking forward to navigating and figuring out a different educational model and approach to language and South Asian area studies. I got my BA at SOAS in the UK, am here at UW now, and so I’m looking forward to taking all of my experience with me to see how they do things down under. The Australian government has recently invested a lot in promoting “Asian education” on the national level to re-orient Australia to its Asian neighbors. India and South Asia have not had such a sharp focus as East Asia has had for the Australian government, but there is increasing interest at looking at Australian-South and Southeast Asian relations. ANU is the only institution in the Southern Hemisphere where one can major in Hindi. I am excited to contribute to the increased interest in learning South Asian languages down under.
BA: Can you identify the most rewarding aspects of your experience at the UW?
CD: The UW South Asian Studies community is large, welcoming, and well-connected. Although my time at UW was based in the Department of Asian Languages & Literature, I never felt disconnected from students and faculty working on different aspects of South Asia elsewhere. I don’t know if it’s because of being on the West Coast or the cooling effect of the rain, but there is a relaxed and collegial atmosphere here at UW. It’s such a natural feature of most of our experiences here at UW, that we don’t realize is so special and not universal when we go elsewhere.
BA: Why did you choose to pursue languages as your academic field?
CD: I actually started out as a wannabe musician/artist. I earned my BA at SOAS in Indian Classical Music and Hindi. The language aspect was tagged on as a supplement for my studies and because I had always enjoyed learning languages (having done French, Spanish, Latin, and Chinese at school). As I progressed through my degree, I realized that music, while a lifelong passion, was not going to be a viable career for me, I turned to the language and literature half of my degree with renewed determination. After a year at AIIS in Jaipur on the Hindi program (a required feature of the BA in Hindi at SOAS), I decided that the nitty-gritty features of grammar and the diversity of South Asian literatures were my real passions. As anyone working with South Asia can tell you, one language is never enough. It all kind of snowballed while I was here at UW and I ended up learning Sanskrit, Bengali, and Persian.