Written by Kanchan Banerjee Tuesday, 31 January 2012 03:11
With India's phenomenal success in the business and technology sectors over the last two decades, studies of Indian culture, history, traditions, science, medicine, arts and religion have flooded American academia, with one notable trend emerging among them: the only voice unrepresented in the dialogue has been the indigenous one, leaving a wealth of information from the sub-continent largely unexplored.
Among the institutions working to reverse this trend is the Center for Indic Studies at University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. Established in 2001, it seeks to diversify the academic conversation on India by bringing up a variety of traditionally marginalized voices, including those of Indian religious leaders, grassroots community organizers, and NRIs.
"India has remained a cradle of civilization for thousands of years. It is perhaps the only culture in the world today, practicing strong pluralistic society, which can provide leadership in harmonious living to an increasingly marred with parochial and religious strife," pointed out Dr Bal Ram Singh, director of the Center.
A survey of the Center’s newsletters reveals a bewildering array of subjects surveyed, including Vedanta studies in consciousness and mindfulness meditation, Indian educational and family traditions, evolution.
Over the years, from cricket legend Sunil Gavaskar; Consul General Neelam Deo, Indian ambassador Dr A R. Kidwai, an academic and Mahatma Gandhi's great granddaughter Dr Uma Mesthie, Dr Subramanian Swamy, an academic and politician, to Swami Yogatmananda, from the Providence Vedanta Center, have all been guest speakers at the Centre. All speakers have one thing in common: their dedication to explore and shed light on the culture of the Indian subcontinent.
Speakers who visit the Center often return to give a seminar, share a panel with others, or even participate in one of its many conferences, such as its recent symposium on Vedanta and Science or its seminal Origins of Civilization conference. The Center's exuberant network of guests and supporters is one of its greatest strengths.
As part of a seminar series this fall on "Culture-ing Education" at UMass, the Center hosted Dr Madhu Suri Prakash and Dr Elana Rosenbaum, who spoke on returning to the soil in development culture and mindfulness in medical practice, respectively, as well as Fulbright scholar and UMass professor Dr Maureen Hall, describing her research in India.