Executive Committee


  • Director, Center for South Asian Studies.
  • Ph.D., Ohio State University, 2007
  • Associate Professor in Indo-Pacific Languages and Literatures
  • Email: saib@hawaii.edu

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.


  • MA, Madras University, PhD, University of Texas-Austin
  • Professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa
  • Director of the Creative Writing Program
  • Email: subraman@hawaii.edu

S. Shankar is a critic, novelist,  and translator. His scholarly areas of interest are postcolonial literature (especially of Africa and South Asia), literature of immigration, film, and translation studies. He is Professor of English and Director of the Creative Writing Program in English Department. His most recent book is Flesh and Fish Blood: Postcolonialism, Translation, and the Vernacular(2012; U. of California P.; OrientBlackswan India). Shankar has published shorter pieces in a wide variety of scholarly and general interest periodicals in India and the US. His scholarly articles, poems, reviews, and literary essays have appeared in such academic journals and popular venues as PMLA, Tin House, Massachusetts Review, Outlook, The Hindu, Pioneer, Village Voice, and The Nation. “Midnight’s Orphans, or A Postcolonialism Worth Its Name,” a scholarly article appearing in Cultural Critique 56 (Winter 2004), has been widely read and cited. He has work forthcoming in PMLA and Comparative Literature. Aside from being Professor in the Department of English, Shankar was Director of the Center for South Asian Studies at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa from 2004-2010. He was appointed Convener of XVIth Annual Convention of the Forum on Contemporary Theory (India) in 2013. He is 2016 Scholar-in-Residence at University of Houston-Downtown.


  • BS & BA Illinois, 1994; MA, PhD Iowa, 1998, 2008
  • Assistant Professor in History (South Asia, Africa, Indian Ocean, World History)
  • Email: bertz@hawaii.edu

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, and again in 2016, 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.


  •  Ph.D in Urban Planning, University of California, Los Angeles
  • Assistant Professor of Urban and Regional Planning
  • Email: priyam@hawaii.edu


  • Ph.D in South Asian Languages and Civilization, University of Chicago, 2009
  • Associate Professor of Sanskrit
  • Email: jknutson@hawaii.edu

Scholar, 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.


  • Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology, Columbia University
  • Associate Professor of Asian Studies
  • Email: stirr@hawaii.edu

Anna’s research focuses on South Asia, particularly on Nepal and the Himalayan region. Her research deals with love, intimacy, politics, nature, and religion in Nepal’s performing arts. She is the author of Singing Across Divides: Music and Intimate Politics in Nepal (Oxford University Press, 2017) 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. Another project chronicles the history of Nepal’s politically oppositional “progressive song” from the 1960s to the present, with a focus on  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, ecology, politics and public culture in South Asia and the Himalayas.


  • Ph.D. in Geography, University of Wisconsin at Madison
  • Associate Professor & Graduate Chair, Department of Geography
  • Email: reecej@hawaii.edu

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.