South Asia Institute Celebrates 50th Anniversary

Press Release No. 9/2012
12 January 2012
Anniversary programme begins with a talk by mountaineer Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner

The celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of Heidelberg University’s South Asia Institute (SAI) begin on 17 January 2012 with a talk by mountaineer Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner about her climbing experiences in the Himalayas. The SAI was established in 1962 as an academic institution of Heidelberg University with a branch office in New Delhi. Research and teaching at SAI focus on India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Given their close links with the South Asian subcontinent, adjacent countries and cultural regions like Afghanistan and Tibet also figure prominently in the work of the SAI. The anniversary of the Institute will be celebrated by numerous events both in Heidelberg and in South Asia itself.

Planned as an interdisciplinary centre for research and teaching, the SAI currently has seven professorships in the fields of development economics, ethnology, geography, South Asian history, cultural and religious history of South Asia (classical Indology), modern-language South Asian studies (modern Indology) and political science. “The SAI is unique in Germany,” says executive director Prof. Dr. Marcus Nüsser. “It links social, economic and earth sciences with cultural studies of an historical and philological nature.” In the meantime, the initial branch office in New Delhi has been joined by others in Kathmandu (Nepal), Islamabad (Pakistan) and Colombo (Sri Lanka).

The South Asia Institute maintains close contact with leading research institutions in Europe, Asia and America. It conducts a large number of projects in and on South Asia, most of them in conjunction with local scholars. In addition, the Institute is incorporated into integrated research ventures, not least via its associations with the Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe”. Visiting scholars and grant-holders work regularly at SAI. Mutual awards from the Indian government and the state of Baden-Württemberg support exchanges. On many occasions, the governments of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have financed visiting professorships at the South Asia Institute. On the teaching side, the SAI offers a broad range of classes, both on individual subjects and in connection with the cross-departmental courses bachelor in South Asian studies and since 2011 master in South Asian studies.

The motto for the SAI’s anniversary programme is “The South Asia Institute: 50 Years of Looking Ahead”. Most of the celebrations will take place in summer 2012. In Heidelberg there will be numerous individual events, a central week of festivities in May and a series of lectures. In South Asia the events include an urban research conference in New Delhi and a workshop in Sri Lanka on new research perspectives after the end of the civil war.

On 17 January, Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, the first woman to climb all 14 “eight-thousanders” (mountains over 26,000 ft. high) without additional oxygen, will be talking about her experiences in the Himalayas. The talk in German is entitled “The Lure of the Great Peaks” and takes place at 7 pm in the large Physics lecture hall, Im Neuenheimer Feld 308. The event has been organised in conjunction with the Heidelberg Geographical Society (HGG). Admission fee EUR 20 (reduced EUR 15) and EUR 10 for members of the HGG.

For more information on the SAI’s anniversary programme, go to

Dr. Martin Gieselmann
South Asia Institute (SAI)
phone: +49 6221 548900

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