Center for South Asian Studies | University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa

Director’s Message

A message from Monisha Das Gupta…

The CSAS has had an active year of programming. In the academic year 2010- 2011, it has organized and hosted a mix of academic talks, performances, and community events. The collaborations we have been able to enter with departments across campus to host South Asian Studies experts as well as the support for our events from community members outside of the university have allowed the Center to continue to be dynamic, and made my first year as the director very fulfilling. The Center has been able to maintain its support for the teaching of Urdu. We have welcomed a newly-hired colleague in Philosophy, Dr. Rajam Raghunathan, to our affiliate faculty. She brings a rare expertise in Indian, Buddhist and Ancient Greek philosophical traditions. In the coming year, we hope to welcome scholars who work on South Asia or teach about the region in Anthropology, English, Geography, and Urban and Regional Planning. At a time of economic challenges, we are encouraged by the growing visibility of and interest in South Asia at the university.

During the summer, the CSAS held a very unique event to celebrate Urdu poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s centennial with an afternoon of his liquid poetry, and a glimpse into Faiz the poet, the political figure, and a father in his daughter, Moneeza Hashmi’s reminiscences. We also learned about the time he spent here as an East-West Center scholar through historian Arfa Sayeda Zehra. The gathering gave me chance to meet many members of our community in Honolulu, who were crucial to the very first CSAS event in the fall semester, a teach-in about the floods in Pakistan and the havoc it had wreaked. Faculty and student presenters shed light on the causes and cost of the disaster, and pointed out the various ways in which we could help. I want to thank our community members, students, and faculty for the tremendous outpouring of support, and for their donations – half of which went to the Edhi Foundation, one of the largest humanitarian assistance organization in Pakistan, and the other half to Tahira Abdullah, human rights activist, who has been working directly with those affected by the flood in Swat Valley.

In addition to the academic ferment created by the speakers who are brought to campus through the Rama Watumull Collaborative Lecture Series, we were able to host two dance lecture-demonstrations, one featuring Bharatnatyam, and the other Kathakali. We are delighted to announce that Bharatnatyam dancer and teacher, Dr. Anita Shanmugathan, the creative director of the Aeka Academy of Fine Arts in Chennai, will be the Rama Watumull Distinguished Indian Scholar in the fall of 2011. She will be based in the Department of Theatre and Dance.

Our annual Spring Symposium between April 6 and April 8 themed, “Media, Culture, Democracy” was launched with a celebration of the 75th anniversary of our library’s South Asia collection at which members of our community and faculty, and our students mingled. Our keynotes shared their passion for and analysis of various forms of visual culture, film making, music, and social justice. We were lucky to have DJ Jenkins Cookiehead treat us an evening of music created in the South Asian diaspora. Our panelists introduced us to several ways of thinking about media, and their presentations generated wonderful conversations. The symposium was preceded by the Asian Studies conference held in Honolulu this year. There are more than 50 panels and roundtables on South Asia, and we got a chance to reconnect with several out-of-town friends of CSAS.

As we come to the end of our busy year, it is obvious that our ability to be as active has been fueled by the interest on this campus and among our community members in South Asian Studies. We hope to see you next year at our regular events, and plan new ones with your help.

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