Faculty approves South Asian Studies major

The proposal for a South Asian Studies major was unanimously accepted by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Thursday afternoon and will be added to Yale’s list of majors in the fall of 2007.

South Asian Studies — which will become the first completely new major added to Yale’s list since Cognitive Science in 1999 — will be offered only as a second major and will consist of seven term courses, a senior project and two language requirements. The major will be administered by the MacMillan Center’s Council on South Asian Studies, whose chair Phyllis Granoff will act as the first director of undergraduate studies. The South Asian Studies major will be reviewed in five years at which time there will likely be discussion about whether the major can stand alone, Granoff said.

Granoff said she is pleased about the implementation of the major and thinks that the University is well-prepared to sustain the students who choose to take on the new major.

“We think this is a wonderful time for South Asian studies at Yale,” Granoff said. “We have wonderful faculty and wonderful resources, so we’re really looking forward to our first five years with the major.”

The decision not to create a stand-alone major was the result of discussion about whether or not area studies majors should only be offered to students to have a “firm grounding” in another discipline, Granoff said. She said about half the students who are currently undertaking area studies majors — including East Asian Studies, African Studies and Latin American Studies — do so as part of a double major, which she said indicates that the structure of the South Asian Studies major is in line with the existing trend.

Committee on Majors chair Pericles Lewis, who presented the proposal to the faculty, said he thinks formalized study of the region is an important offering for the Yale community and that he hopes the major will be an impetus toward greater commitment to the field.

“South Asia is home to a fifth of the world’s population,” Lewis said. “It has a rich cultural heritage and growing political significance. [This is a] part of the curriculum that hasn’t been as well developed in the past. We hope that the major will be a catalyst for further study.”

Lewis said the proposal did not explicitly request new resources — particularly the hiring of additional faculty who study South Asia, which he said is sufficient at this time — but he thinks with a formalized major, more faculty members might develop ties with the program and expand course options for students.

Suyog Bhandari ’09 — the South Asian Society’s South Asian Studies Action Chair — said the faculty’s support in the vote reflects the campus’ interest in the major, which he said SAS tried to demonstrate to the administration during the first stages of process to create the major. He said having a formalized structure within which to study South Asia will allow students to explore the intricacies of the region, particularly as a result of the language requirement.

SAS President Tarana Shivdasani ’08 said the creation of the major will put Yale in line with most of its Ivy League peers, who already have majors devote to South Asia. She said the major is particularly important since it is a region of interest throughout the world and an increasing number of Yalies study abroad in South Asia each year. She said SAS will help to monitor student feedback to the major in the coming years.

Lewis said the seven course requirements will include four core classes in South Asia, which students can choose from departments including anthropology, economics, history, political science and religious studies. The remaining three courses must have a regional component but do not have to specifically focus on a South Asian country.

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