From the Director's Desk - 2011
-Cecilia Van Hollen, Director of the South Asia Center
It has been a tremendous honor to begin my tenure as the new
Director of the South Asia Center, following the many years of inspired and
tireless leadership of my predecessors, Susan Wadley and Ann Gold. Thanks to
their efforts and those of our colleagues at Cornell, we are delighted to
report that the Cornell-Syracuse South Asia Consortium has been awarded another
four year National Resource Center grant and four years of continued support
for our Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellowships, both from the
Department of Education. With this, our Center will continue to be able to
offer funding for both undergraduate and graduate students and programs that
seek to enhance people’s understanding of the South Asia region – a goal which
continues to be of utmost importance as political violence rages in Afghanistan
and Pakistan and erupts again in Kashmir; a fragile peace emerges in Sri Lanka;
and President Obama endorses India’s bid for a permanent seat on the UN
Security Council on his recent visit to the country.
Three broad themes run throughout our events this year:
Afghanistan, South Asian foreign policy concerns, and water.
We have many activities planned for this year that highlight
Afghanistan. Pashto language is being offered for the first time at SU and we
welcome Habib Sangar as our Pashto instructor (see page 2). This spring, Susan
Wadley is offering a new course on the anthropology of Afghanistan and
Pakistan. There will also be a number of other events including a one day film
festival, an Afghan musical concert (featuring John Baily on rubab and Dibyarka
Chatterjee on tabla), and two speakers, Margaret Mills and Noah Coburn, who
will discuss their research in Afghanistan. We hope to provide outreach
programs on Afghanistan (with the help of our graduate assistant, Akbar
Quraishi) to schools throughout Central New York and in particular, the school
districts surrounding Fort Drum, near Watertown.
The Center will also be increasing programming on critical
matters of foreign policy. To that end, in September, Philip Oldenburg from
Columbia University presented his work on the question of why India has been a
strong democracy while Pakistan has not. In January, we hosted Robert Blake,
the Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, who spoke on “The
India Model: The Beneficial Rise of an Economic Power.” Later in the spring,
Zia Mian from Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International
Affairs will discuss security issues in the region. And in April, the Sri
Lankan Ambassador to the UN and a representative from the United States Tamil
Political Action Council will come to campus to engage in a critical dialogue
on political and economic developments, plans, and recommendations for Sri
Lanka, in the post-war era.
As we began the 2010-11 academic year, the people of
Pakistan were experiencing one of the world’s most devastating natural
disasters with a flood which took the lives of more people than the 2010
earthquake in Haiti, the 2004 tsunami, and Hurricane Katrina combined. It was
heartening to see our students at (continued on page 8) (continued from page 1)
SU mobilize a major humanitarian effort to respond to this crisis through a
series of fundraising initiatives under the banner of “Syracuse Cares” and the
South Asia Center was proud take the lead role in sponsoring this endeavor.
Thus far, this initiative has raised $6000 to be donated to Oxfam and the Edhi
Foundation (a Pakistan based NGO) for relief to victims of the flood.
Given the magnitude of this flood, it is appropriate that
this year’s Consortium conference, to be held on April 8th at Cornell, will be
on the theme of “Water in Changing Environments,” examining a range of issues
including climate change, drinking water, agriculture and managing rivers.
Farhana Sultana (Geography) and Emera Bridger Wilson, our Center Outreach
Coordinator, have been actively involved in organizing this conference and we
encourage all to attend. Emera and Victor Tzen (Architecture) will also be
leading a new SU Abroad program, “A Path to Water,” to study water management
in India during the summer.
We have several exciting outreach activities planned this
spring. In early February, members of the Bhutanese-Nepali refugee community in
Syracuse will speak about their experiences in Bhutan, Nepal, and the U.S. We
hope that this event brings awareness to the plight of these refugees. We are
also holding a meeting of the North East Scholars of South Asia (NESSA) on
February 18th in conjunction with the Afghan musical concert. Furthermore, in
addition to our work in the North country, we continue to provide our services
to improve the international curriculum in our local schools. In the fall,
Subho Basu, (History) and Anirban Acharya, a Ph.D. student in the Political
Science, presented a brief history of the political economy of India at the
Central New York Council for Social Studies (CNYCSS) Annual Conference. This
spring, we will be teaching sixth graders in the East Syracuse-Minoa about the
foods of South Asia.
Finally, I want to thank Anand Dwivedi, the Center’s
Associate Director, and Emera for all of their help, facilitating the
transition into my new role as the Center Director. Anand, Emera, and I all
welcome and encourage ideas and help with future programs for next year.