Reading South Asia

Reading South Asia logoReading South Asia is a new initiative that was launched by the ISAS in Spring 2010. This program invites eminent scholars in South Asia related studies living in the Bay Area to lead a reading group in their particular field of expertise. The purpose of this program is, very simply put, to provide a means by which people with shared South Asia related intersts can gather together and learn. The focus is the South Asian region and the books for discussion are usually chosen by a consensus. The group is run as a cooperative venture between faculty and graduate students and typically meets once a month for the duration of semester.

Past Sessions:

  • Bazm-e-Adab, Jasoosi Novels - A Persian-Hindi Reading Group for Spring 2019: If any writer of Hindi-Urdu fiction exemplifies the cosmopolitan and transregional character of Hindi-Urdu literature it is Ibn-e-Safi (1928-1980). The novels in his Jasusi Dunya (Spy World) and Imran series have been immensely popular with Urdu readers in India and Pakistan since they appeared in the early 1950s. They have been similarly popular in Hindi translation. Their taut prose, thrilling plots, witty narrative, and unforgettable characters have influenced some of the most celebrated popular Hindi-Urdu writers of the 20th and 21st centuries, including Javed Akhtar (b. 1945), who has penned some of Bollywood’s greatest thrillers. The novels are also remarkable sources for discussions of gender, Hindi-Urdu literary culture, politics, translation, and the movement of texts across the porous borders of postcolonial nation-states. Bazm-e-Adab will meet for an hour each week in the Spring 2019 semester to read the second novel in Ibne Safi’s Imran series, Chattanon men Aag (Hindi) / Chatanon men Fire (Urdu) / Shootout at the Rocks (English). Copies of the novel in Hindi, Urdu, and English will be provided. The group is open to UC Berkeley faculty, staff, and students at all levels. It is led by Dr. Gregory Maxwell Bruce, who teaches all levels of Urdu at Berkeley.
  • Baharistan dar Mausam-i Khizan (Fall 2018): The Baharistan by Abd al-Rahman Jami is among the most fascinating works of Persian belles-lettres. This reading group will meet, once a week on Wednesdays from 1-3 pm, in the Institute's conference room in 10 Stephens Hall, to read the Persian text alongside an annotated English translation by the convener. The group is open to UC Berkeley faculty, staff, and students. It is led by Dr. Gregory Maxwell Bruce, who teaches all levels of Urdu at Berkeley.
  • Bazm-e-Adab: An Urdu Reading Group (Spring 2018): 

    Bazm-e-Adab was an informal, not-for-credit Urdu reading group organized by the Urdu Studies Program and the Institute for South Asia Studies. The group met once a week to read a beautiful marsiya by Mir Anis commemorating the martyrdom of Hurr at Karbala. Copies of the marsiya in Urdu, along with an English translation, were provided. It was led by Dr. Gregory Maxwell Bruce, who teaches all levels of Urdu at Berkeley.

  • “[In aesthetic pleasure] what is enjoyed is consciousness itself.” (Abhinavagupta, 11th century CE) -- A Reading Group on Pre-modern Indian Literature and Aesthetic Theory (Spring 2014): Led by Professor of English, Vikram Chandra and Doctoral candidate, Luther Obrock, this group will investigate India’s rich tradition of literary criticism, aesthetic theory, and linguistics through primary texts. Readings will include literature (including Aśvaghoṣa, Kalidāsa, Bhavabhūti) and theory (including Anandavardhana, Abhinavagupta, Jagannātha). Meeting times: Thursdays, 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm (First Meeting: Thursday, February 13, 2014) in Wheeler 306To be added to the group’s bSpace site or for more information, please contact Vikram Chandra ( or Luther Obrock (
  • Books that Cross Disciplines (Spring 2009): Led by Barbara Metcalf, the eminent scholar and leading authority on the history of South Asian Islam.
  • New Thinking about Indian Civilization (Spring 2010):  Led by eminent Political Scientists. Susanne Rudolph and Lloyd Rudolph.
  • Afghanistan (Spring 2011): Led by Melanie Gadener, a doctoral candidate in Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley,  this reading group included sessions chaired by leading schoalrs in this region, such as Dr. Siddieq Noorzoy, Emeritus Professor of Economics, from the Department of Economics, University of Alberta, Canada whose publications on Afghanistan stretch over four decades from the 1970's to the present, Dr. Sandra Cook, Co-Chair of the Louis and Nancy Hatch Dupree Foundation for the Afghanistan Centre at Kabul University and Ambassador Chinmoy Garekhan, India’s former Permanent Representative to the United Nations.
  • Diwan-e Ghalib (Fall 2011 session): Led by SSEAS graduate student Ali Hassan, this group meets every week on Monday from 1 to 2 pm in the CSAS Conference Room. The group plans to go through Ghalib's Diwan of Ghazals in order. Every week Ali Hassan will bring one or two ghazals and the group will go through them, couplet by couplet. The group is open to non-native speakers and copies of the poems will be made available in Nastaliq, Devanagri, and Roman scripts.