The University may be losing Strobe Talbott ’68, the head of the new Yale Center for the Study of Globalization, but it’s gaining “Mr. Globalization.”
Arjun Appadurai of the University of Chicago, dubbed “Mr. Globalization” by Deborah Davis of the globalization center, will fill the first of three new interdisciplinary professorships offered out of the Yale Center for International and Area Studies.
“In the study of globalization, Arjun Appadurai was one of the architects, going back 20 years,” Davis said. “He’s ‘Mr. Globalization’ to some people, so he’s great for us in every dimension. He’ll be in a central position.”
Appadurai, who is currently at the University of Chicago, will begin teaching at Yale in the fall as a senior anthropology professor. He will also have secondary appointments in the Political Science and Sociology departments.
Appadurai’s wife, Carol Breckenridge, will join him at Yale as an adjunct history professor and the new program director for the South Asia Council at the Yale Center for International and Area Studies.
“[Yale] wants to internationalize their own presence in a new way, and I feel privileged to be appointed to this new chair,” Appadurai said from Bombay, India. “This chair has been constructed precisely to cut across disciplines, and my interests have always cut across disciplines. So it’s exciting to take an appointment that recognizes that.”
Appadurai was chosen from an original list of 40 candidates to fill the first professorship, YCIAS Director Gustav Ranis said.
“[Appadurai] is a perfect choice for the first such chair,” Ranis said. “He really is an international man. We need people at the boundaries of departments and schools, and he’s the kind of person that can venture into that ‘no man’s land.'”
Ranis said searches for scholars to fill the other two professorships have not started yet.
Appadurai’s main academic focus is globalization and its impact on urban issues. Currently on a leave of absence from Chicago, Appadurai is conducting research in Bombay, India, the city he has researched most extensively.
With his expertise on urbanization and globalization, Appadurai will lead the YCIAS initiative on global cities.
“It’s a very big issue, and a lot of people have been interested in cities and globalization,” Appadurai said. “But nobody has crossed the T’s and dotted the I’s to show that these will go hand-in-glove.”
Appadurai added that he, along with Breckenridge, would like to establish programs through which undergraduates can travel and study in India for an extended period of time.
Anthropology chairman Andrew Hill said he is excited about the arrival of Appadurai and Breckenridge because the two of them will enhance South Asian studies, a traditionally weak area in many departments at Yale.
In addition to his responsibilities as a professor, Appadurai will work closely with the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization in helping re-evaluate the project after Talbott’s resignation.
Appadurai said Talbott’s resignation — which came shortly after Appadurai committed to Yale — did not prompt any doubts about Yale, mainly because he is confident that Talbott will attempt to build a strong connection between Yale and the Brookings Institution, the prestigious Washington, D.C., think tank where Talbott is headed.
“It was a bit of a surprise, but I certainly don’t see it as giving me second thoughts,” Appadurai said. “It could never work through just one person — Strobe knows that and I know that.”
More than anything, Appadurai said he is looking forward to working with Yale students.
“I’m waiting to find out who all these fabulous Yale undergrads are,” Appadurai said.