Center for South Asia at UW-Madison: Tradition and Innovation


  • The tradition of Indian studies started on the UW-Madison campus in the mid-1880s when a Professorship of Sanskrit was established. In 1958, the Department of Indian Studies (today part of Asian Languages and Cultures) was inaugurated, followed in 1963 by the Center for South Asia, a federally funded National Resource Center.
  • The renowned bio-chemist Dr. Hargobind Khurana received his Nobel prize in 1968 while on UW-Madison faculty.
  • The Center for South Asia serves as an intellectual hub to promote generation of new knowledge and perusal of collaborative intellectual inquiry. It has close to 50 affiliate faculty all across campus.
  • UW-Madison has hosted the South Asian Summer Language Institute since 2003, and Project Global Officer which funds ROTC students since 2011.
  • One of the oldest South Asia Study abroad programs is the UW in India program in Varanasi. We recently added a new intensive Hindi-Urdu Program in summer held at the American Institute of Indian Studies in Gurgaon.
  • Memorial Library has over 250,000 titles related to South Asia.

2019 marks 70 years since the formal beginning of the collaboration between UW-Madison and India. In November 1949, a few months into the centennial celebrations of the State and the University of Wisconsin, Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India visited Madison. In his welcoming speech, Governor Oscar Rennebohm drew similarities between the people of Wisconsin and the citizens of the young nation of India: “We too, have the love your poets and people have for the countryside and things of the soil. […] We too, are a heterogeneous people with different mother tongues, religions, and cultures.” In his own speech, Nehru stressed on significance of cooperation: “Today, with all the world its neighbor, no country can be indifferent to what happens at the end of the world. […] There is no way left except world cooperation.” The idea of using education and research to foster understanding, cooperation, and peace were at the core of this event.