Nicholas Dirks

Dear CSAS friends and colleagues,

As Chair of the Center for South Asia Studies [CSAS] at the University of California, Berkeley, I want to signal the immense importance of the appointment of Nicholas Dirks as the Chancellor Designate of this great university. Dr. Dirks is an erudite and passionate defender of the importance of rigorous global and area studies. His selection is of extraordinary promise for the University to continue to meet the practical and intellectual challenges of the contemporary world and remain relevant to these.

We anticipate that all academic and professional scholars across campus whose work engages global and inter-regional problems will benefit from the knowledge, vision, and experience Dr. Dirks will bring to Berkeley. For the faculty, students, and community members of the CSAS, the invitation to Dr. Dirks is of particular significance as he is also among the most influential anthropologists and historians of contemporary South Asia in the world today. His first major work, The Hollow Crown, upended the then dominant analysis of culture, power, and sovereignty in India. But its impact was far broader, for it was a critical publication transforming the ways that the interdisciplinary fields of South Asian Studies more broadly could operate in relation to one another. Dirks went on in an extensive series of further historical studies and books to produce a critical rethinking of dominant twentieth-century conceptions of the social world in the several countries of South Asia.

Throughout his career Dr. Dirks has translated this intellectual vision into powerful institutional forms. At the University of Michigan, he was critical to the creation and growth of an unprecedented graduate program combining history and anthropology, with immense impact on these two disciplines in their study of multiple global regions. At Columbia, long before he became a senior administrator restructuring institutions at the University-wide level, he was responsible for bringing some of the world's most influential South Asia scholars to New York. To do this, he consistently thought outside of the limits of disciplinary silos, and indeed anthropology at Columbia draws on the strengths of several disciplines in reconceiving the study of the human in history.

We are also very excited by the possibility that Professor Janaki Bakhle, Dr. Dirk's partner, will also be joining UC Berkeley. Dr. Bakhle's wide-ranging scholarship links history, anthropology, and musicology and theatre studies to broader concerns in critical theory and the human sciences. Her book Two Men and Music transformed the modern history of performance and patronage in India, questioning approaches to the history of caste and religious community, to the sociology of elites, and to the emergence of new kinds of publics.

Berkeley, long a center for international and area studies, like all universities faces enormous challenges if this mission is not only to be sustained but enlarged to meet the challenges of our much discussed global condition. The future of rigorous interdisciplinary study of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Bhutan, in regional and global context, is at stake. Chancellor Dirks, assuming as we confidently hope that he is speedily approved and accepts the Chancellorship, will we believe not only sustain Berkeley's centrality to scholarship on the global and on the importance of South Asia to the contemporary university, but advance this preeminence in unprecedented ways.


Lawrence Cohen