South Asia: The Field

If one was interested in plunging the murky depths of the ways in which US academia began to study “South Asia” – specifically within the Area Studies framework, one could begin with these preliminary sources:

  • W. Norman Brown. “South Asia Studies: A History,” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 356 (1964: 54-62)
  • Maureen L. P. Patterson. “The South Asian P. L. 480 Library Program, 1962-1968,” Journal of Asian Studies. vol. 38, no. 4 (1969: 743-54).
  • Ford Foundation. Annual Report: 1956.
  • The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Annual Report: 1965, 1983, 1985
  • Richard H. Davis. South Asia at Chicago: A History. (Chicago: COSAS New Series, no. 1, 1985).
  • Nicholas B. Dirks. “South Asian Studies: Futures Past.” In ed. David Szanton, The Politics of Knowledge: Area Studies and the Disciplines (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003): 341-86.
  • Timothy Mitchell. “The Middle East in the Past and Future of Social Science.” In ed. David Szanton, The Politics of Knowledge: Area Studies and the Disciplines (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003): 74-118.
  • Nils Gilman. Mandarins of the Future: Modernization Theory in Cold War America. (2003: Johns Hopkins University Press)
  • Bruce Cumings. “Boundary Displacement: Area Studies and International Studies During and After the Cold War,” Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars, vol 29 (1997)

Just letting you all know.

12 Replies to “South Asia: The Field”

  1. As I recall, the first person to raise these issues and also cause much stir by his ‘whistle-blowing’ was Prof. Gerald Berreman of UC Berkeley. In response to my request he kindly sent me the following. Back in those days, Nepal was an important Cold War front.:
    “”In answer to your quest for information on cloak and dagger activities of academic colleagues in India and Southeast Asia. I was indeed involved in trying to expose such skulduggery, as were a number of others. My most succinct, effective written piece — and explicitly on the topic you described was the following; it may suffice:
    1969 Berreman, Gerald, “Academic Colonialism: Not So Innocent Abroad,” _The Nation_ [magazine], 209:16,(Nov.10,1969) pp. 505-508.

    Some others:

    1971 Berreman, Gerald. “Ethics, Responsibility and the Funding of Asian Research,” _The Journal of Asian Studies_, Vol, XXX, No. 2, Feb. 1971: 390-399.

    1968 Berreman, Gerald. “Is Anthropology Alive? Social Responsibility in Social Anthropology,” _Current Anthropology_,” 9: 391-396, 425-427.

    1973 Berreman, Gerald, section editor and contributor: “Social Responsibility and the Anthropologist” (pp. 5-61), and “Anthropology and the Third World” (pp. 109-179). _In_: _Anthropology and Modern Social Issues._ (Thomas Weaver, editor), Glenview Illinois: Scott, Foresman and Company.””

  2. John P. Lewis has some essays on this in “Indian’s Political Economy” and there was a very good article in the 1980s in EPW by PAul Brass; where he argued that US scholars who studies India and South Asia, by large ended up being advocates for their subject of study back in the US in policy and advisory circles. Mostly relevant for India but could be extended to the region as a whole.

  3. Re Rachel

    Leo has moved to teach at Ohio State. He gave a great paper at Wisconsin last year on “Experts Dream of India : Anglo-American Social Scientists and South Asia in the Post-Independence Period”

  4. there is an amazing young anthropologist called leo coleman doing this kind of work (aka, figuring the origins of India as subject matter for social scientists in the 50s & 60s) at Princeton (though perhaps he’s moved on). I would add McKim Marriott’s early works to your list too — and R.W. Nichols.

  5. I would also add Richard H. Davis’s “South Asia at Chicago: A History,” published by the University of Chicago’s Committee on Southern Asian Studies, for a look at these issues through a retrospective lens (the text was published in ’85) focussed on one department’s history.

  6. Thank you for this list. I will soon be a complete outsider joining a History program, for unclear reasons under the “south asia” tab – and I am getting really worried about “area studies”!

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