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

Executive Committee

sai bhatawadekar

  • Director, Center for South Asian Studies.
  • Ph.D. in Ohio State University, 2007
  • Associate Professor in Indo-Pacific Languages and Literatures
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Sai Bhatawadekar is an Associate Professor of Hindi-Urdu at University of Hawaii and the Director of the Center for South Asian Studies. Her cross-cultural, interdisciplinary, and creative work spans comparative philosophy and religion, film studies, creative performance based language pedagogy, theater, music, dance, and now positive peace studies. On the philosophy front she works on Hegel and Schopenhauer’s interpretation of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam. Her current group project is on Apophasis or Negative Theology in five major world religions. In film studies she has worked on film adaptations of literature in German cinema and also on Bollywood’s global orientation. She is on the board of the Honolulu Museum of Art’s annual Bollywood Film Festival, which brings popular, art, and regional cinema to Hawaii audiences. In language pedagogy and program development, after teaching German for a few years, she single handedly created a Hindi language program and curriculum at the Ohio State University and ran it very successfully giving rise to a thriving South Asian initiative. At University of Hawaii she continues that work and innovates her Hindi-Urdu program with creative project and performance based learning: most rewarding have been her theater and film projects, in which students co-write, direct, perform, and make short films of parodies of classic cinema. These projects have contributed to the National Foreign Language Resource Center’s great work on Project Based Language Learning. Her Indian dance group – Aaja Nachle – (literally) sprung out of Hindi classes, and is now a thriving community group with regular free classes, energetic choreographies that combine classical and folk dances, performances and workshops all over Honolulu. These varied aspects of Sai’s work essentially embody the cross-cultural creative movement of Indian philosophy, languages, and art and are being recognized within positive peace studies as a way to build self-esteem, genuine relationships, and happy communities.

monica ghosh

  • PhD (University of Hawaii at Manoa/UHM); MA (UHM); MILS (University of Michigan); and BA (UHM)
  • Email:

imageMonica Ghosh manages the South Asia materials in the Asia Collection where she selects materials in all formats and several languages from and about Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. She has served as the Director of CSAS (2002-2004), Head of the Asia Collection (2012-2013), and Interim Associate University Librarian (Spring 2015). Her research interests include South Asians writing in English; literature of the South Asian diaspora; representations of South Asians in U.S. popular culture; and the Anglo-Indian and Chinese communities of India. She runs regularly and has finished four Honolulu Marathons.

Ned bertz

  • BS & BA Illinois, 1994; MA, PhD Iowa, 1998, 2008
  • Assistant Professor in History (South Asia, Africa, Indian Ocean, World History)
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Originally from Chicago, Ned Bertz attended the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign), including a year abroad at the University of Aberdeen (Scotland), and graduated with undergraduate degrees in History and Accountancy. He was trained in modern South Asian and African history while completing his M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of Iowa. Seeking to bridge area studies approaches and write about historical exchanges between South Asia and East Africa, Professor Bertz has spent many years conducting fieldwork in India and Tanzania, including studying Swahili, Hindi, and Gujarati. His first book traces the transoceanic connections of the Indian diaspora in Tanzania through the themes of colonialism, nationalism, race, and urban space, linking western India to East Africa across the history of the twentieth century. His current project is a transnational history of the Partition of India, reframing this critical event within a longer-term process in which new ideas about territoriality, mobility, and belonging reshaped people’s lives all around the western Indian Ocean.

Professor Bertz teaches courses about the history of South Asia, Africa, and the Indian Ocean, in addition to world history, history and film, history and literature, senior thesis, and historiography, among other offerings. In 2010, he was awarded the University of Hawaiʻi Regents Award for Excellence in Teaching.  In 2013-14,  he served as the Resident Director of the UH Study Abroad Center’s program in India while a Visiting Faculty Member at Ambedkar University Delhi.  He is teaching there again in Fall 2016 and then is on research sabbatical until August 2017.

Priyam Das

  •  Ph.D in Urban Planning, University of California, Los Angeles
  • Assistant Professor of Urban and Regional Planning
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Monisha Das Gupta

  • Ph.D. in Sociology, Brandeis University, 1999
  •  Associate Professor, Ethnic Studies and Women’s Studies, University of Hawai’i
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  • On sabbatical 

Dr. Das Gupta joined UHM in 2002 as a joint appointment in Ethnic Studies and Women’s Studies. She received her PhD in Sociology at Brandeis University. Her involvement with various types of social justice movements in the United States, and her life as a migrant are central to her academic work. Her first book, Unruly Immigrants: Rights, Activism and Transnational South Asian Politics in the United States (Duke, 2006), examines feminist, queer, and labor organizing in post-1965 South Asian communities in the United States to mark the development of social justice politics that forwards immigrant rights.  She grew up in Kolkata, India, where she did her undergraduate degree in Geography at Loreto College, and worked in the city for a few years as a journalist.

Jesse Knutson

  • Ph.D in South Asian Languages and Civilization, University of Chicago, 2009
  • Assistant Professor of Sanskrit
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jesse-KnutsonScholar, teacher, and activist, Jesse Ross Knutson is Assistant Professor of Sanskrit in the department of Indo­Pacific Languages and Literatures at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He is the author of Into the Twilight of Sanskrit Poetry: The Sena Salon of Bengal and Beyond (U.C. Press, 2014), as well as numerous articles on Sanskrit literature and premodern South Asian history, culture, religion, and sociopolitical life. His research centers on the question of art as a state apparatus in the in the courtly world of the classical and early medieval periods, a radical non­autonomy of premodern art and thought that may provide perspective on modernity and its birth. His central concern is the broad mutual constitution of sociopolitical and aesthetic life, and the materiality of aesthetic form and rhetoric in general. Rooted in literary studies, his work speaks to broadly history and historiography of early South Asia. He intends to enlarge the comparative scope of his work in coming years, while maintaining his intense focus on Sanskrit poetry, poetics, and the structure of early South Asian thought and language.

miriam sharma

  • PhD University of Hawai‘i
  • Professor of Asian Studies

Dr. Sharma’s scholarship deals with ethnography, class formation and gender relations, feminist theory, international labor migration and social science methodology. She has published on income generations schemes and women in rural India, the political economy of reproductive activities in Rajasthan, and the impact of dairy ‘development’ on the lives and health of women in rural Rajasthan.

Dr. Sharma is currently running the UHM Study Abroad in Delhi as Resident Director.

Anna stirr

  • Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology, Columbia University
  • Assistant Professor of Asian Studies
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150430162140-anna-stirr-headshot-large-169Anna’s research focuses on South Asia, particularly on Nepal and the Himalayan region. She is currently working on two projects that deal with love, intimacy, and politics in Nepal. The first looks at improvised dohori question-answer songs as culturally intimate, gendered expressions of ideas of nation, belonging, and heritage, within a cycle of migration and media circulation that spans the globe. The second chronicles the history of Nepal’s politically oppositional “progressive song” from the 1960s to the present, with a focus on ideas of love, development, and communist thought as interrelated ways of imagining a better future. Articles from these projects have appeared in various journals and edited volumes. Anna also maintains active research interests in the relationship between music, religion, politics and public culture in South Asia and the Himalayas.


Reece Jones

  • Ph.D. in Geography, University of Wisconsin at Madison
  • Associate Professor & Graduate Chair, Department of Geography
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Reece Jones studies border security, violence, and migration in South Asia and globally. He is the author of two books, Border Walls: Security and the War on Terror in the United States, India and Israel (2012, Zed Books), which won the 2013 Julian Minghi Outstanding Book Award for best book in political geography from the Association of American Geographers, and the forthcoming Violent Borders: Refugees and the Right to Move (2016, Verso). He also edited Placing the Border in Everyday Life with Corey Johnson (2014, Ashgate Border Regions Series), which won the Past Presidents’ Gold Book Award from the Association of Borderlands Studies. He is the Forum and Review Editor at the journal Geopolitics and also sits on the editorial board of Political Geography. His work has been featured in dozens of media outlets around the world including the New York TimesTime Magazine, and the Economist. He is currently working on an edited bookwith Azmeary Ferdoush for the Asian Borderlands Series at Amsterdam University Press entitled Borders and Mobility in South Asia and Beyond.

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