After just three semesters at Yale, Arjun Appadurai — a Yale Center for International and Area Studies interdisciplinary professor — will leave his post in December to become a top administrator at the New School University in New York City.
In Appadurai’s departure, Yale President Richard Levin will lose a star of the burgeoning internationalization initiative that he has heavily endorsed and promoted. Appadurai, who joined the Yale faculty last fall from the University of Chicago, will take over as provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at New School starting Jan. 1, 2004.
At Yale, Appadurai held joint appointments in the Anthropology, Political Science and Sociology departments. In addition, he was involved in the “Crossing Borders” initiative and led the “Cities and Globalization” center, both out of YCIAS.
“My experience at Yale has been tremendous,” Appadurai said. “I join the New School with a great deal of excitement of what’s possible there, but I leave Yale with very good feelings and real regrets.”
YCIAS director Gustav Ranis said Appadurai’s departure is a disappointment. He said Yale fought off a threat from the University of Chicago to lure Appadurai back, but the New School’s offer was not one Yale could match.
“This is a very unusual thing because he is really changing his career,” Ranis said.
Ranis said an offer is likely to go out within a month to fill another YCIAS interdisciplinary professorship, this one a joint appointment between the Economics Department and the Law School.
Anthropology chairman Andrew Hill said Appadurai went out of his way to show that his departure had nothing to do with any dissatisfaction at Yale.
“He wasn’t using this to bargain,” Hill said. “It’s not like when someone has a similar job offer somewhere else. We can’t provide anything analogous.”
Although the switch from professor to administrator will change his focus, Appadurai said he is interested in the function of the New School University because it is an interdisciplinary university in a global city.
“I do know that I will have to think about my scholarship in a new way,” Appadurai said. “I have made a decision, at least for some years, to put research on the back burner.”
Appadurai said he is interested in exploring the junctures between the different parts of the New School University, such as the music school and the design school. New School University President Bob Kerrey said Appadurai’s interests in globalization and urbanization fit well with the school’s location in an international city like New York.
“We really clicked,” Kerrey said. “The location of the university in New York City matters. If we were in any other location, I think he would not have been interested.”
Kerrey also said he is happy to have such a distinguished academic as Appadurai join the administration because he himself does not have an academic background.
As for the projects he was involved in at Yale, Appadurai believed his peers would continue the work he started.
“I feel that I have made a contribution to Yale [in] that I am eminently replaceable,” Appadurai said.
But the future of the Initiative on “Cities and Globalization” has not been decided, Ranis said.
“It’s not clear who else will have the same interest as Appadurai,” Ranis said. “It’s very likely that we will close that center.”
Hill said he thought Appadurai will likely maintain connections and close relationships at Yale.
“[The New School University] is just down the road,” Hill said.