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South Asia Institute


The South Asia Institute coordinates activities at Columbia University that relate to study of the countries of Bangladesh, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, as well as related areas such as Afghanistan, Bhutan, and Burma.

The South Asia Institute (SAI) coordinates activities at Columbia University that relate to study of the countries of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The Institute organizes conferences, seminars, exhibits, films, lecture series and brown bag talks that bring together faculty and undergraduate and graduate students with diverse interests and backgrounds. SAI partners with departments, centers, and institutes at Columbia, and works with South Asia groups on campus and off, in order to reach new audiences and facilitate an exchange of knowledge. The Institute has ties with the United Nations, the diplomatic community, and international agencies; and is located within the largest South Asian community in North America.

The Master of Arts Program in South Asia Studies, administered by the Institute, combines a core curriculum on South Asia with a coherent set of courses from a variety of disciplines across the university. Each student selects an individualized program of study under the advice and approval of the M.A. Coordinator. Students in the M.A. Program will join a larger cohort of students working on South Asia at Columbia in other degree programs. There are options to pursue undergraduate and graduate study of South Asia in a number of departments, primarily Anthropology, Comparative Literature, History, Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures, Political Science, and Religion. Master's students at the School of International and Public Affairs may pursue a Regional Concentration in Southern Asian Studies. All graduate students of the university may take a defined set of courses to qualify for a Certificate in South Asia Studies.

Affiliated Institute faculty members teach courses on South Asia in fourteen departments and six schools. SAI faculty come from a wide range of disciplines and, taken together in their research and teaching, cover virtually all the countries of the region -- and some adjacent areas, including Afghanistan, Tibet, Burma and Southeast Asia. Columbia offers three year department-based language programs (Elementary, Intermediate, and Advanced levels) in Hindi, Persian, Sanskrit, Tamil, and Urdu. Two year language programs at Columbia's Language Resource Center include Bengali and Punjabi, with third year Advanced classes arranged as tutorials or directed study.

The Columbia Libraries have one of the oldest and largest South Asia collections in the country, with some 500,000 volumes -- over 150,000 of them in South Asian Languages. Columbia hosts the digital library website, SARAI (South Asia Resource Access on the Internet) which serves as the official South Asia catalog for the WWW Virtual Library Association, the oldest extant web catalog and one of the most respected.

The US Department of Education has designated SAI as a National Resource Center (NRC), one of ten such South Asia centers in the country. SAI NRC outreach activities have included professional development courses for high school teachers, teacher training workshops, the collection and development of materials for use in schools and colleges.

As an NRC, SAI awards Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellowships for Summer Intensive Language Study, and for Academic Year study in degree programs at Columbia. Students at all Columbia schools, including those who will apply to our MA in South Asia Studies, are eligible to apply, as are applicants to degree programs in the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, the School of International and Public Affairs, Teacher' College, etc. Undergraduates who have at least one year of training in their target language may apply for FLAS as well.


  • University Professor
  • Sidney Morgenbesser Professor of Philosophy, Director, South Asia Institute
  • Professor of Anthropology and of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies, Director of the South Asian Institute
  • Senior Advisor for Global Affairs, Senior Research Scholar in Global Studies
  • Alan and Carol Silberstein Professor of Earth and Environmental Engineering and of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, Director, Columbia Water Center in the Earth Institute
  • Professor of Mechanical Engineering
  • Jagdish N. Bhagwati Professor of Indian Political Economy
  • Associate Professor
  • University Professor