The newest of the University of Chicago’s global teaching and research communities, the Center in Delhi celebrated its opening in March 2014. Like its counterparts in Paris and Beijing, “the center is intended to serve the intellectual interests of all parts of the University,” says faculty director Gary Tubb, a Sanskrit scholar and professor in South Asian Languages and Civilizations.

The 22 faculty projects that the center will fund in its first year reflect that broad mandate. The center will host, for example, a conference on social enterprise and sanitation, a project to annotate essential films from India’s Art Cinemas movement, and a workshop to explore future partnerships in particle physics research. A UChicago poetry professor will give a reading with a Delhi novelist. Cancer researchers from India and UChicago will explore possibilities for collaboration.

Most of the projects bring together interdisciplinary teams; many involve partnerships with Indian institutions. They all fall within the center’s three areas of scholarship: business, economics, law, and policy; culture, society, religion, and arts; and science, energy, medicine, and public health.

The Center in Delhi plans to make an annual call for proposals from UChicago faculty, encouraging not only India specialists but also scholars who have never worked there to submit their ideas. “We hope to be of use to faculty, students, and projects throughout the region of South Asia,” says Tubb, who will serve a three-year term as faculty director.

Located in Connaught Place—a busy financial district—the center offers meeting and office space for faculty, staff, undergraduates, and graduate students as well as spaces for conferences, exhibits, and public events. The goal is to give UChicago scholars venues to work with Indian researchers and students from a wide array of institutions and with colleagues from around the world. The center will also schedule regular programming to engage UChicago alumni and friends in the region.

Six projects spearheaded by Humanities faculty members will receive center funding in 2014–15. They include two workshops, on audio cultures of India and on archaeological looting and antiquities trafficking; a project to study traditional Tibetan books from the National Library of Bhutan; and a research trip that will give MFA students exposure to contemporary arts in Delhi, Mumbai, and Kerala.

Such efforts are timely, says Tubb, because the humanities are at risk in India: “There’s an understandable tendency to focus on what are seen as more urgent, practical needs in the sciences, economics, and so forth.”

In India and many other countries, the humanities are sometimes seen as a luxury and less productive than other endeavors. “But it’s already become clear that there is a great interest in India in the humanities, despite these problems,” says Tubb. Over time, he hopes the center will function as “a very visible locale for the exchange of ideas and the development of new knowledge,” in the humanities and many other fields.


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