UCSC’s Center for South Asian Studies positioned for exponential growth

The Anuradha Luther Maitra and Thomas Kailath Endowed Professorship in South Asian Studies will advance the center’s position as a leading hub of research and discourse dedicated to South Asia and the South Asian diaspora.

UCSC’s Center for South Asian Studies has received an endowed professorship by long-time Foundation trustee, former professor, and dedicated supporter, Anu Luther Maitra and her husband Thomas Kailath.

A new endowed professorship for the UC Santa Cruz Center for South Asian Studies (CSAS) will advance the center’s opportunity to elevate a thriving hub for faculty, students, and visiting scholars.  Anuradha Luther Maitra and Thomas Kailath’s gift will accelerate and enhance the impact of research while showcasing South Asia’s contributions and influence.

The Anuradha Luther Maitra and Thomas Kailath Endowed Professorship in South Asian Studies will be held by a new director of the center—a recruitment is currently underway to bring a new distinguished scholar of South Asia to campus. 

UC Santa Cruz’s Center for South Asian Studies—housed by The Humanities Institute—provides a distinctive interdisciplinary perspective into South Asia by connecting all five academic divisions through a faculty advisory board and affiliated faculty. 

“UC Santa Cruz students are citizens of the world,” said UCSC Dean of Humanities Jasmine Alinder. “Anu and Thomas’s generous gift will ensure that the Center for South Asian Studies will contribute to their global perspective. As a region whose geopolitical importance continues to grow each year, South Asia demands our attention, especially through a lens of social and economic justice. This center reflects and builds upon UCSC’s strengths and core values: social justice, cross-disciplinary thinking, student-centered hands-on courses, real-time problem solving, and the centering of the humanities, arts, and social sciences in understanding and contextualizing history and culture.”  

The center’s vision is to deepen our scholarly understanding of South Asia and broaden the scope of academic research, social justice, and art at UC Santa Cruz and globally.

“South Asia, because of its size as well as aspirations and potential for growth, must be seen as linked to the future of our planet. We are hopeful that this gift will spark global interest in UC Santa Cruz’s Center for South Asian Studies and will serve as an inflection point for the center’s trajectory,” Luther Maitra said. “The center is an essentially UCSC institution in that its very structure and approach is cross-disciplinary, its focus is social and economic justice. That makes for market differentiation and the promise that it will soon become one of the world’s leading centers for the study of South Asia and its people (by residence or heritage).” 

The endowed professorship will have broad impact. Arriving at a defining moment in CSAS’s growth, the professorship will support, elevate, and empower the center’s leadership, advancing the important work and path-breaking research for which the center is already known.

“Anuradha Luther Maitra is a longtime supporter of UC Santa Cruz, and especially campus initiatives focused on South Asia,” Chancellor Cynthia Larive said. “This gift from Anu and Thomas will allow us to attract the center’s new leader and seed new and innovative programs, further elevating UCSC’s profile in the social-justice and economic-equity discourse taking place worldwide.”

Launched in fall 2020, the Center for South Asian Studies has been host to numerous speaker series, including the Aurora and Towards Justice lectures, as well as yearlong conversations on histories of dissent and justice, with talks by artists, scholars, and activists from India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

CSAS Founding Co-Directors Anjali Arondekar and Dard Neuman said the UC Santa Cruz community can look forward to collaborations and initiatives with organizations within the South Asian diaspora in the Bay Area that share a commitment to a just and democratic South Asia. The community can also look forward to the establishment of a minor in South Asia studies in the coming years, as well as a broader programming platform involving faculty from across divisions.

“The professorship will provide much-needed resources to amplify our commitment to justice in South Asia and the broader Indian Ocean world,” Arondekar said. “It will allow for the creation of fellowships, research hubs, and teaching resources for the study of South Asia. Most importantly, it will allow UCSC to foreground an interdisciplinary, cross-divisional vision for South Asia that centers histories of struggle, resistance, and democratization.”

Faculty from UCSC’s academic divisions take a distinctive view of the “Indian subcontinent” encompassing India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, the Maldives, and the broader Indian Ocean worlds. Center researchers work on questions of politics, poverty, education, environment, and health. Viewing these universally important issues through the lens of South Asia allows researchers to arrive at solutions of global importance. 

Neuman emphasized the decades-long work that has gone into strengthening and supporting the presence of South Asian studies at UCSC. 

“This professorship encapsulates nearly twenty years of efforts by faculty, staff, campus leadership, and donors at UCSC to build programs and appoint faculty related to South Asian studies and, most importantly, it will spark new interest and investments from others,” Neuman said. “For example, Anu Luther Maitra and Sidhartha Maitra, Kamil and Talat Hasan, Kiran and Arjun Malhotra, and Hardit and Harbhajan K. Singh provided guidance, drive, and leadership, as well as multiple gifts, including two previous endowed chairs in Classical Indian Music and Sikh Studies. Professors Nirvikar Singh and Anjali Arondekar provided the leadership and vision to galvanize multiple efforts across campus into a Center for South Asian Studies. With this gift, we now have the sustainable foundation to continue our new and innovative center into an established global presence.”

With a record of groundbreaking research and education, and a commitment to social and economic justice, the center shapes the cutting edge of the field. The Anuradha Luther Maitra and Thomas Kailath Endowed Professorship in South Asian Studies will help the university attract a new leader who will help position CSAS as a leader in global socio-economic discourse.

“I am very excited for this opportunity for the Center for South Asian Studies to expand its reach on a global scale,” Campus Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Lori Kletzer said. “The critical cross-divisional work and dialogue already taking place at the center is indicative of its renowned faculty, and will be bolstered by Anu and Thomas’s gift.”

Luther Maitra praised campus leadership for their commitment to CSAS, and says she and Kailath were inspired to acknowledge this commitment with their impactful gift. 

“There was a very important commitment made by the Chancellor, the Campus Provost, and the three deans [arts, humanities, and social sciences] in granting and moving forward on a new faculty position devoted to South Asian studies. This was a very important gesture from the leadership of UC Santa Cruz that Thomas and I felt we—and the community—should honor,” Luther Maitra said.

A blend of academic divisions 

The Center for South Asian Studies integrates faculty from all academic divisions to further the program’s vision by creating conversations and projects that reach across historical, temporal, and cultural divides. UCSC Dean of Social Sciences Katharyne Mitchell emphasized the gift’s potential to reinforce the work done by CSAS faculty in the social sciences sphere. 

“I am so grateful to Anu and Thomas for this extraordinary gift,” Mitchell said. “It will enable us to expand our social sciences programming in exciting new ways, as well as shine a spotlight on the superb work of the faculty working on South Asia and the South Asian diaspora. This includes work on migration, food, indigenous rights, racial and ethnic identity, and much more. This is indeed a game changer.”

In addition, CSAS is home to faculty renowned for work in South Asian art forms. CSAS promotes performances and the study of fine art, music, dance, and food across South Asian cultures. 

“Anu Luther Maitra and Thomas Kailath’s gift to UCSC ensures the abundance of knowledge enabled by the interdisciplinary studies of South Asia,” said UCSC Dean of Arts Celine Parreñas Shimizu. “As an Asian Americanist working on visual cultures and film and performance studies that include South Asia, I am so pleased that the focus on the arts—from the work of Satyajit Ray and Bollywood film to the music and dance of the South Asian diaspora—will be bolstered on our campus. To be educated at UCSC is to study these important contributions, traditions, and knowledge that will certainly increase feelings of belonging and expand our understanding of each other in a multiracial society.”

Anuradha Luther Maitra and Thomas Kailath

Anuradha Luther Maitra (Ph.D., Economics, Stanford) taught at UC Santa Cruz and served as special advisor to former UCSC Chancellor George Blumenthal on international initiatives. Anu has been a trustee on the UC Santa Cruz Foundation Board since 2000, including a term as president. She and her late husband, Sidhartha Maitra, provided founding endowments for the Satyajit Ray Film Archives and the Ali Akbar Endowment in Hindustani Classical Music, and Luther Maitra established the Sidhartha Maitra Lecture Series on “Humanism, Reason, and Tolerance” in memory of her late husband. She has also supported programs in economics and Indian classical music and, along with her husband, Thomas Kailath, the Center for Innovations in Teaching and Learning and, now, the Center for South Asian Studies (CSAS).

Thomas Kailath (Sc.D., MIT, 1961) is the Hitachi America Professor of Electrical Engineering, emeritus, at Stanford. He has contributed to many fields in engineering and mathematics, mentored over 100 doctoral and postdoctoral scholars, received several honorary degrees, and co-founded a number of high-tech companies. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is also a Foreign Member of the Indian National Academies of Engineering and of Sciences, the Royal Spanish Academy of Engineering, and the Royal Society of London. In 2006, he was inducted into the Silicon Valley Engineering Hall of Fame. He was awarded the IEEE Medal of Honor in 2007 and the National Medal of Science in 2013 by President Obama.

CSAS faculty includes: Anjali R Arondekar, Dard A Neuman, Vilashini Cooppan, Mayanthi L Fernando, Cynthia Ling Lee, Nidhi Mahajan, ​​Pradip K Mascharak, Megan Colleen Moodie, Madhavi Murty, G.S. Sahota, Juned Shaikh, and Bakthan Singaram. 

Affiliated CSAS faculty members include: Pranav Anand, Raoul Birnbaum, Muriam Haleh Davis, Bryan Donaldson, Mehran Esfandiari, Raja GuhaThakurta, Sikina Jinnah, Suresh Loda, Darrell Long, Jalal Mahmud, Sagnik Nath, Annapurna Devi Pandey, S. Ravi Rajan, Adwait Ratnaparkhi, Vanita Seth, Sriram Shastry, Ajay Shenoy, Nirvikar Singh, Matt Sparke, and Megan Thomas.