American knowledge of India is shaped by the American Institute of Indian Studies, a consortium of universities and colleges in the United States at which scholars actively engage in teaching and research about India. Since 1961, the Institute has provided fellowship support for scholars and PhD candidates in America. It has offered on-site training in Indian languages through the superb facilities of its Language Centers. And it has extended knowledge of Indian culture through its two Research Centers. As a member of the Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC), AIIS's online photo archive is also linked as part of CAORC's Digital Library for International Research.
More than 5,500 scholars have received AIIS support. Their work has spanned fields ranging from anthropology to zoology. The outcome of their work has resulted in literally hundreds of books and thousands of articles, the basis of America's knowledge about India. Collections of some 3,000 books directly or indirectly resulting from AIIS-sponsored research have been given to major libraries in India, including the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library in New Delhi, National Library in Calcutta, the Adyar Library in Madras and the Deccan College in Pune. The
listing of these books forms the core of a widely used and highly appreciated work by N. Gerald Barrier, India and America, published by the Institute.
AIIS scholars also have come together with colleagues from India and often from other countries as well at major international conferences organized by the Institute. These conferences have resulted in the publication of selected papers that often form the core of knowledge in many disciplines. Nearly seventy books have so far been published directly by the Institute.
Through its programs of research and documentation, the Institute has endeavored to achieve an accurate and probing knowledge of India's cultures, history, languages and present-day dynamics. Through its own publications and those of its fellows, the Institute seeks to make the results of this research widely and easily accessible to people in the United States and India, indeed throughout the world.
Background : 1961 TO 2000
The Institute was established in 1961 by a group of American scholars involved in programs of Indian studies at leading American universities. They were led by W. Norman Brown, Professor of Sanskrit at the University of Pennsylvania, who brought a long-held dream to reality with the creation of a non-governmental academic consortium to facilitate research on Indian culture and history. Funding came from various public and private sources.
Under the leadership of five presidents, the Institute has flourished and is today recognised as the leading proponent of Indian studies in the United States. Its operations rely heavily on volunteer help from countless scholars in the United States and India and a small, dedicated staff at the American headquarters in Chicago and the Indian headquarters in Delhi as well as at regional offices in important Indian cities.
In the first decades of the Institute's existence, the Institute grew from the small fellowship-granting agency to an internationally renowned research and language teaching institution. The addition of active regional offices, an internationally regarded Language Program, two major research centers, and facilities for short-term accommodation of scholars have made the Institute indispensable to American knowledge about India.
Financial support for the Institute has come from a wide variety of sources. Originally, it was funded by private foundations. Prominent among them were the Ford, Old Dominion, Carnegie, Rockefeller Foundations and the JDR 3rd Fund. Today the Institute receives primary funding from the Smithsonian Institution, the United States Information Agency, the Council of American Overseas Research Centers, the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for Humanities, and the US Department of Education.
Training and Research Programs
Although the Institute has grown, its primary objective - the promotion of scholarly studies on India in the United States, remains unchanged. Through its fellowship programs, scholars receive direct support for research in India, while hundreds of other scholars each year are provided with various sorts of assistance by the Institute. Help with government formalities, travel arrangements, introduction to archives and other research facilities and local accommodations, all have proven invaluable to scholars. As a result, more than 5,500 scholars have received support from the Institute to produce books and articles on topics as varied as:
- Indian foreign policy
- National and local electoral processes
- Industrial management
- Government organizations
- Employment patterns among factory workers
- Family, kinship and village organization
- Urban development and planning
- Agricultural crop yields and distribution
- Role of women in modern Indian education
- Growth of technology
- Incidence of Cancer
- Tibetan meditation systems and physical stress
- Folklore in South India
- Buddhist philosophy and psychology
- Muslim mystical poetry
- Ancient Sanskrit and Tamil texts
- The art and architecture of India
- Indian Music
The two research centers of the Institute draw scholars from all parts of the globe to use the easily accessible facilities of unparalleled quality. The Center for Art and Archaeology, for example, houses an archive of more than 120,000 photographs and color slides, documenting Indian art and archaeology. In addition, the open-stack library, which houses some 55,000 volumes including journals available nowhere else in India, provides the most comprehensive and easily accessible resource for the study of Indian art. Among the major projects of the Center for Art and Archaeology has been a comprehensive documentation of India's monuments. Each monument has been carefully photographed, and plans of all buildings have been prepared by an outstanding team of professionals. Perhaps the most significant product of this effort has been the highly-acclaimed multi-volume Encyclopedia of Indian Temple Architecture.
The Archives and Research Center for Ethnomusicology (ARCE) was established in 1982 to provide a centralized location for collections of Indian music and to stimulate the study of ethnomusicology in India. The collections at ARCE today are a testimony to the generosity and commitment of more than a hundred scholars and collectors who have voluntarily deposited their collections, making the archives one of the most extensive audio-visual repositories of oral traditions and performing arts of India. The recordings housed at ARCE are made as part of research project by scholars. A major focus has been the repatriation of collections which are housed in archives abroad and have not been accessible in India. This includes the collections made by the Dutch ethnomusicologist Arnold Bake in the 1930s.
A major project of the ARCE has been the collection of all recordings of Indian music located abroad; included is an extensive video coverage of Indian performances. Recordings as old as 1930s are now maintained by the Center in strict climate controlled vaults.
The archive of field recordings is supported by a large collection of commercial recordings and an extensive library with a focus on study of ethnomusicology in India. The facilities at ARCE include audio-visual laboratories as well as listening and viewing facilities.
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