Culture, Society, Religion, and the Arts
Current Programs and Partnerships
South Asia has played a key role in the Divinity School ever since the arrival of Mircea Eliade at UChicago in 1956, who took over the field of History of Religions and made India the center of it. The Divinity School continues a strong tradition in the study of Indian and South Asian religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam. Currently the faculty includes Wendy Doniger, Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor, who focuses on translating, interpreting, and comparing elements of Hinduism through modern contexts of gender, sexuality, and identity.
Professor Dipesh Chakrabarty is a founding member of the Subaltern Studies collective and has written widely in such areas as modern South history and historiography; subaltern, indigenous, and minority histories; history in public life; theory and history; decolonization; and environment history and the implications of climate change for human history.
The Tata Institute of Social Sciences and the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration have joined forces to better understand urban poverty and social welfare. Each summer since 2010, students visit India to participate in a formal and intensive four-week study abroad program focused on urban poverty and community practice that combines fieldwork at community agencies with classroom instruction and seminar discussion. Since 2011, Tata students visit UChicago campus during the fall quarter and attend classes, shadow students in their field placements, and participate in other School of Social Service Administration events.
UChicago professors travel to Pune to teach 25 undergraduates in the College each fall. The South Asian Civilizations Program in India is operated in cooperation with the American Institute of Indian Studies, an academic organization with an office in Pune and American headquarters at the University of Chicago.
South Asian studies at the University of Chicago engages sixty-two faculty in nineteen departments and five professional programs, offering nearly 200 courses every year that include South Asian content. The Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations regularly offers nine modern and two classical languages of South Asia, which constitute more regional language offerings by full-time instructors than at any other university outside of South Asia.
A $1.5 million gift from India’s Ministry of Culture helped establish a UChicago visiting professorship in Indian Studies in 2012 to build on the University’s strong ties with India. The Indian Ministry of Culture Vivekananda Visiting Professorship, a one-quarter visiting appointment, will be given to distinguished scholars from a variety of disciplines.
In three major projects, the Vijayanagara Metropolitan Survey, Early Historic Landscapes of the Tungabhadra Corridor, and Biodiversity as a Social Process: Paleoenvironments of Peninsular India, Kathleen Morrison and Mark Lycett have investigated the political ecology of southern India. Their work integrates history, archaeology and environmental sciences to document the ways in which humans have both shaped and been shaped by their environments, from agriculture and forests to cities and monuments
The University of Chicago Library holds the leading South Asia private collection in the United States—including 703,500 volumes, 4,417 current serials, 4,850 audio-visuals, and 12,200 maps—and is the only US library to collect in all regional languages. The library also works with Indian institutions like the Roja Muthiah Research Library and the Adyar Library and Research Center in Madras and the Urdu Research Center in Hyderabad to digitize materials for the global public, granting UChicago researchers access to Indian collections remotely.
The Neubauer Family Collegium for Culture and Society funds fellowships and research into large-scale questions requiring expertise from many disciplines. One of the collegium’s inaugural seed projects is Audio Cultures of India: New Approaches to the Performance Archive, an exploration of how the methods of “big science” might elucidate and facilitate the humanistic understanding of music, speech, and other audio expressions.