The University of Chicago Library
South Asia | Fifty Years at Chicago
South Asia at Chicago: Fifty Years of Scholarship


At American universities, the modern study of South Asia dates from the late 1940s when the U.S. government took a practical interest in area studies. World War II caused government officials to view American universities and their scholars as a national resource and forced America to consider more closely regions of the world with which it had not previously been engaged, particularly Asia. Research and scholarship in the post-war era contributed to changing attitudes, and with increased interest and financial support from both the government and private American foundations, the new field of South Asian studies emerged.

The study of South Asia at Chicago involves ongoing intellectual exchange between South Asia and the U.S. Some of the materials exhibited here have come from these ongoing exchanges. They are drawn from the wealth of the South Asia collections at the University of Chicago Library, whose collections are both a repository for current South Asian studies at the University and the foundation for future scholarship.

This exhibition appears in conjunction with global events marking the creation of India and Pakistan as independent nations on August 15, 1947.


Four units make up the current exhibition:

I. The institutional history of South Asian studies at Chicago;

II. Highlights from the Library’s holdings on the region;

III. University of Chicago research projects concerning the subcontinent;

IV. Recurrent themes in the representation of South Asia.



This exhibition is a collaborative venture with roots in meetings and discussions over the course of a year between Bernard Cohn, James Nye, Daniel Meyer, William Alspaugh, and Susan Seizer. Susan Seizer drafted much of the narrative, with major contributions by Library staff, and prepared the bibliography. Gerald Hall and Bronwen Bledsoe made significant authorial and editorial contributions. Valarie Brocato made the vision reality.

Richard Davis’s succinct monograph, South Asia at Chicago, has been an important source of information and interpretation. South Asian studies faculty at the University, most of whom were consulted as this exhibition was prepared, made valued contributions.

South Asia faculty in Foster Hall


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