The Berkeley Urdu Initiative

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URDU@Berkeley Newsletter 
20142013 | 2012

The University of California at Berkeley is a global leader for the study of South Asia, and one of very few institutions in the United States to offer both undergraduate and graduate degree programs focusing on numerous aspects of this vital region. As an integral part of the South Asia curriculum at Berkeley, interest in the study of Urdu is growing rapidly. We are strongly committed to strengthening our engagement with this subject in the years ahead.

Urdu Language Instruction

Urdu has been part of Berkeley's South Asian language curriculum since the late 1950s. Currently, we offer instruction in Urdu at all levels, from beginning to advanced. Berkeley does not combine Urdu and Hindi instruction.

Urdu Poetry GroupEvery semester we also sponsor an Urdu poetry reading group. In 2011-12, the focus was on Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib's poetry. The group is open to non-native speakers and copies of the poems are made available in Nastaliq, Devanagri, and Roman scripts.

Our Urdu Language instructor is Dr. Gregory Maxwell Bruce. Prof. Bruce joined the UC faculty in Fall 2016 as Lecturer in Urdu language and literature in the Dept. of South & Southeast Asian Studies. Prof. Bruce holds a Ph.D. in Asian Cultures and Languages from the University of Texas at Austin, where he taught Urdu-medium courses on literature, Islamic mysticism, and South Asian culture in the Hindi-Urdu Flagship Program. His research interests lie at the intersection of literary aesthetics, intellectual history, and religious studies. Dr. Bruce writes ghazal poetry in Urdu and Persian, and has performed at mushairas and other literary events in the United States and India. .

BULPIP-AIPS Urdu Training Program

We are extremely proud to announce that after a 5 year hiatus -- thanks to a $3.1 million grant from the US government -- the Berkeley Urdu Language Program in Pakistan (BULPIP) will recommence training students. Originally founded in 1973 and based in Lahore, BULPIP's purpose was to provide intensive Urdu language training to American students, scholars, and teachers who had research and professional interests in Urdu language and literature, Pakistan, Islam, and the Muslim communities of South Asia. The program ran continuously until 2001, when due to a State Department travel warning prohibiting students from traveling to Pakistan, BULPIP was forced to first temporarily move to Lucknow, India, and then subsequently shut down in 2008. Under the terms of the revived program, ISAS will run BULPIP in conjunction with the American Institute of Pakistan Studies (AIPS). The program will award fellowships to i) up to ten US-based graduate students per year to spend fifteen-weeks in the fall semester undertaking intensive Urdu language training at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) in Pakistan and ii) to train up to ten Pakistan-based Urdu teachers over the lifecycle of the grant in contemporary second-language teaching pedagogy through internship appointments (spanning two to four months) at US-based universities. Click HERE for further information on eligibility requirements or application procedures.

Urdu-related Library Collections


Berkeley’s South and Southeast Asia Library (SSEAL), contains one of the largest collections of publications in Urdu ( as well as other languages from South Asia) in the world, with over 22,000 books in Urdu. Under the able stewardship of SSEAL Head Librarian Adnan Malik, the library continues to build on its already substantial Urdu collection (widely considered one of the finest university collections in the world). Adnan Malik has also been at the forefront of an innovative web-based project called e-Kitab that aims to digitize the entire Berkeley Urdu collection and make it freely available to any one with access to the internet.

Urdu-related Programming

Over the years, the Institute has offered a diverse offering with respect to Urdu-related programming.

Spring 2016Jawani Kay Rang: The 11th Annual Urdu Culture Show 
Fall 2015Max Katz: Muslim Musicians and Music Reform 
Manto, A film by Sarmad Sultan Khoosat: A screening with Director present 
Spring 2015Lehron ki Awaaz: The 10th Annual Urdu Culture Show  
Abd al-Jalil Bilgrami's Ode to a Troubled Marriage: On Poetry and Politics in the Late Mughal EmpireVideo
Afghan National Public Health Institute Speaker 
Prospects For The Future Of Afghanistan 
U.S. Public Diplomacy and Cultural Heritage Preservation in Afghanistan 
Fall 2014Urdu Cinema During the 1950s 
Circa 1190 - The Transformation of Geopolitics through Material Culture in North Indi 
Negotiating Community and Citizenship: Muslim Women's Activism in Contemporary Hyderabad 
Spring 2014Zamanay Ke Andaz: The 9th Annual Urdu Culture Show 
Kala Pul (The Black Bridge): A film by Saqib Mausoof 
A Persianate Empire?: Sanskrit Literature and Literati at the Mughal court, 1560-1660Video 
Fall 2013A Festival of Dastangoi at BerkeleyVideo
Underserved and Overdosed?: Muslims and the Pulse Polio Initiative in rural north IndiaVideo
Spring 2013    Feisal Alkazi's, "Noor - Empress of the Mughals" 
William Dalrymple reads from, "Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan, 1839-42"Video
On Becoming a Monument: Landscaping, Views, and Tourists at Delhi’s Qutb Complex 
Jashn-e-Bahara: The 8th Annual Urdu Culture Show 
The 'Ulamâ' and Science: Some Engagements in 19th Century India 
Fall 2012    The Shifting Landscapes of Mughal Poetry and Painting in the Early Eighteenth-Century 
Princes of the Mughal Empire, 1504-1719: Munis Faruqui discusses his latest book 
Manto and his Peers: Celebrating the Manto Centenary 
Dastangoi: The Lost Art of Story-telling in UrduVideo
Spring 2012 Sitaron Se Aage: The 7th Annual Urdu Culture Show 
40 Years of Camp Life: Bangladesh’s ‘Bihari’ Camps 
Typologies of Portraiture: A Case Study from Mughal South Asia  
Fall 2011   Celebrating Faiz Ahmed FaizVideo
The Last Mughal 


In the Fall of 2011 we launched a fundraising drive to create a permanent endowment to protect the position of the Urdu lecturer as well as Urdu instruction at UC Berkeley. In the spring of 2013, we reached our goal of raising $300K. Among our individual supporters were: Nasreen and Asghar Aboobakar, Shaista and Muhammad Akbar, Vasudha Dalmia, Helen and Raj Desai, Gunpreet Dhindsa and Safwan Shah, Javed Ellahie, Fariha and Aaref Hilaly, Sara and Javaid Iqbal, Amna Jaffer and Rafat Pirzada, Rehana Kausar and Farooq Khan, Uzma and Ahmed Khaishgi, Imrana and Muhammad Khalid, Ameer Khan, Shaheena and Javed Khan, Shaq Khan, Zareen and Umair Khan, Z.A. Khan, Aruba and Adnan Lawai, Barbara and Tom Metcalf, Naila and Khalid Mahmood, Sohail Muhammad, Irum and Bilal Musharraf, Amjad Noorani, the Pakistani Students Association (Berkeley), Steve Poulos, Tabinda and Syed Rahman, Shameela and Hasan Rizvi, Wasim Siddiqi, Jalil Shaikh, Naheed and Aamir Shaikh, Amir Shakil, Sadia and Sajid Sohail, Nasir Sufi, Clare Talwalker and Munis Faruqui, Javed Umerani, Paru and Zia Yusuf, and Aisha and Fawad Zakariya. Among our corporate benefactors, we are especially grateful for the support of Computers and Structures Inc. and the Habib Foundation.

The $300k, along with with the generous support of UC Berkeley and the US Dept. of Education's Title VI Grant, help reaffirm the university’s place as one of the premier instructions for the study and propagation of Urdu in the United States.

The Berkeley Urdu Initiative was officially launched on September 25, 2011, with a Guftugu celebrating the birth centenary of the Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz. Read media coverage about this launch here.

Our present priorities for Urdu Studies at Berkeley include raising money to:

— Establish a journal dedicated to Urdu Studies
— Create a fund to support Urdu programming
— Create an artist/scholar-in-residence program
— Create an endowed book prize

We look forward to working with supportive individuals and organizations to accomplish these goals. For further information, please contact:

Sanchita Saxena, Executive Director
Institute for South Asia Studies
(510) 642-3608
Munis Faruqui, Professor
Dept. of South & Southeast Asian Studies
(510) 643-9188
Saba Mahmood, Professor
Dept. of Anthropology
(510) 642-3392