SAI Turns 50: A Week of Festivities at the South Asia Institute

Press Release No. 105/2012
2 May 2012
Programme includes opening ceremony, alumni evening, open day and SAI party


Suedasien 460x175Heidelberg University’s South Asia Institute (SAI) will be celebrating its 50th anniversary with a week of festivities from 8 to 12 May 2012. In the framework of this programme, which begins with a central ceremony, the institute invites all interested to an alumni evening, an open day and an SAI party. Another new fixture in the SAI’s anniversary year is the “Academic Lunch Break” featuring brief daily talks on various topics concerning South Asia.

The central ceremony on Tuesday, 8 May 2012, is entitled “The South Asia Institute: 50 Years of Looking Ahead”. After words of welcome from the rector of Heidelberg University, Prof. Dr. Bernhard Eitel, the executive director of the SAI, Prof. Dr. Marcus Nüsser, will give an introduction to the institute and what it stands for. The speech at the heart of the ceremony will be delivered in English by Prof. Dr. Sheldon Pollock, an expert on South Asian research from Columbia University in New York (USA). The title is “What Is South Asian Knowledge Good For?”. The ceremony, which is open to the public, takes place in the Great Hall of the Old University and begins at 5 pm.

On Friday, 11 May 2012, the alumni of the South Asia Institute – visiting scholars, former staff members, graduates – are cordially invited to an alumni evening. At dinner, Prof. Dr. William Sax, head of the anthropology department of the South Asia Institute, will speak on the subject “An Ethnography of the SAI”.

With its Open Day on Saturday, 12 May 2012, the SAI presents itself to the broader public. Between 1 pm and 6 pm, the departments of the institute and the associated chairs will outline their research endeavours. Also planned are a reading by author, journalist and India expert Gabriel Neumann (1.15 pm), two dance performances (3 pm and 3.45 pm) and the presentation of the film “Peepli Live” (4.30 pm). Visitors will have plenty of opportunity to join in the proceedings. They can make Masala Chai, learn South Asian board games or take a crash course in Hindi. From 1 pm, the Tibetan calligrapher and poet Puntsok Tsering Duechung of the Tibet House in Frankfurt will give a demonstration of the art of Tibetan writing. One of the two dance performances is the world premiere of „Kadhalai payanam – A Voyage for Love“. Students of the South Asia Institute have immersed themselves in topics associated with “prearranged marriage” and “multicultural relationships” and worked their ideas into a dance drama. There are also attractions for children, including face painting, dressing up and a paper chase. All these activities are located at the SAI building, Im Neuenheimer Feld 330.

On Saturday, the week of festivities rounds off with a party that is also open to one and all. It takes place in the SAI building, features DJs Twist and Laila Abu-Er-Rub and begins at 7 pm.

The “Academic Lunch Break” is designed for interested citizens and guests of the city of Heidelberg as well as schoolchildren, students and university members from all faculties. Here experts offer readily understandable talks on subjects associated with India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The audience is invited to ask questions of the speakers. The talks take place Mondays to Fridays up to 27 July 2012 (except on public holidays) from 12.30 to 1 pm. The venue is Peterskirche church, Plöck 70.

The 50-year-old South Asia Institute – the oldest of its kind in Germany – was conceived as an interdisciplinary centre for research and teaching. It currently has seven professorships in the fields of development economics, anthropology, geography, history, cultural and religious history of South Asia (classical Indology), modern South Asian languages and literatures and political science. “Unique in Germany”, explains Prof. Nüsser, “the South Asia Institute thus ties together the social and economic sciences as well as geography with the cultural sciences embracing history and philology.” In addition to the branch office in New Delhi another office was set up in Kathmandu (Nepal). Intensive scientific exchanges also exist with Pakistan and Sri Lanka – the SAI had branch offices in both countries over a long time – and more recently Bangladesh became the focus of increasing research activities.

For more information on these and other anniversary events at Heidelberg University’s South Asia Institute, go to

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