A South Asian in American Academia

An annual conference which has its downside, but the ups seem to more than make up for it.

Does Conferencing on South Asia provide "intellectual fun?" It does, says Prof. Joseph W. Elder of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, the acknowledged centre of South Asian learning in North America. The "fun" event which brought over 460 academics from all over the U.S. to this mid western city in late October was the annual meeting on South Asia, which will celebrate its 25th anniversary next year.

There are enough reasons to criticise this annual gathering of PhDs. It is North America-dominated, the subjects are India-centric, and the region's own voice is absent. There is also grumbling that the organisers favour theory rather than "action-research" or policy prescriptions. However, the three-day affair is the only conference in the world that looks at South Asia with any continuity. The papers may be theoretical, but they provide analytical insight that people closer to the ground may well miss and whose views may reflect nationalist or other biases.

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