Structure and Tasks
In 1962 the South Asia Institute was founded as an interdisciplinary centre for research and academic teaching on South Asia. Within South Asia it focuses on the countries of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Due to the close philological and historical bond with South Asia the institute also takes neighbouring countries, for example Afghanistan and regions such as Tibet into account. As a central academic institution within Heidelberg University, the South Asia Institute today has seven professorships namely Anthropology, Development Economics, Geography, History, Cultural and Religious History of South Asia (formerly Classical Indology), Modern South Asian Languages and Literatures (formerly Modern Indology) as well as Political Science. The institute cooperates closely with all those chairs in Heidelberg that have a focus on South Asia, too. In particular, this holds true for the chairs of Global Art History, Visual and Media Anthropology and Buddhist Studies that have been installed within the context of the Cluster of Excellence Asia and Europe in a Global Context. The South Asia Institutes therefore is the only institution of its kind in Germany that manages to combine Social, Economic and Geographical Studies together with Cultural Studies grounded in history of the region as well as philological expertise. This unique academic profile comprises the cultural traditions of South Asia and offers a broad range of opportunities for conducting research on contemporary, modern South Asia studies.
The South Asia Institute maintains contacts with major research centres in Europe, Asia and the US. It conducts numerous projects in South Asia more often than not in close cooperation with local researchers. Guests and scholarship holders from South Asia are regularly in residence at the institute. In the region, the South Asia Institute runs branch offices in India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka that support the exchange between academics in Heidelberg and South Asia. Long-term structures for academic research have led to numerous exchange programmes, among them the Baden-Württemberg fellowship for Indian guest researchers and the decision of the governments of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh to install guest professorships at the South Asia Institute. With six universities in Europe (Aarhus, Edinburgh, Hull/England, Oslo, Paris, Uppsala, Warsaw) there are mutual exchange programmes for graduate students using the SOKRATES/ERASMUS-Programmes of the European Union. Today the Institute hosts the Iqbal Chair that brought historian, Prof. Wiqar Ali Shah (Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad) to Heidelberg (2009-2014). In summer 2010 the newly-founded Heinrich-Zimmer Chair for Indian Philosophy and Intellectual History will be established in Heidelberg which is sponsored by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR).
Courses on offer
Due to its many professorships, the South Asia Institute can offer a wide variety of courses at the Bachelor-level (B.A.) and the Master- (M.A.) levels. The trans-disciplinary BA in South Asian Studies encompasses many disciplinary approaches yet, at the same time, includes a thorough language study – either in the classical language for science and scholarship Sanskrit or in one of the modern Indian languages such as Hindi, Urdu, Bengali and Tamil. The departments of Anthropology, Geography, Political Science and Development Economics contribute to the curriculum of the BA. At the MA-level the South Asia Institute offers three courses, namely Cultural and Religious History of South Asia, Modern South Asian Languages and Literatures and an MA in Health and Society in South Asia that is conducted in English.