South Asia Institute

SAI Logo

The South Asia Institute (SAI) coordinates activities at Columbia University that relate to the study of the countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. The Institute organizes conferences, seminars, exhibits, films, lecture series, and brown bag talks that bring together faculty with undergraduate and graduate students with diverse interests and backgrounds. SAI partners with departments, centers, and institutes at Columbia, and works with South Asia groups on and off campus to reach new audiences and facilitate an exchange of knowledge. The Institute has ties to the United Nations, the diplomatic community, international agencies, and is located within the largest South Asian community in North America.

The Columbia Libraries have one of the oldest and largest South Asia collections in the country, with some 500,000 volumes—over 150,000 of them in South Asian Languages. Columbia hosts the digital library website, SARAI (South Asia Resource Access on the Internet), which serves as the official South Asia catalog for the WWW Virtual Library Association, the oldest, and one of the most respected, extant web catalogs.

The US Department of Education has designated the SAI as a National Resource Center (NRC), one of ten such South Asian centers in the country. The Institute’s outreach activities as a NRC have included professional development courses for high school teachers, teacher-training workshops, and the collection and development of materials for use in schools and colleges. As an NRC, SAI awards Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellowships for summer intensive language study and academic-year study in degree programs at Columbia. Current graduate students at all Columbia schools and prospective MA students in South Asia Studies are eligible to apply, as are applicants to degree programs in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the School of International and Public Affairs, Teachers College, and other Columbia affiliates. Undergraduates who have at least one year of training in their target language may apply for FLAS.

Affiliated Institute faculty members teach courses on South Asia in fourteen departments and six schools. SAI faculty come from a wide range of disciplines and, with their research and teaching taken together, cover virtually all the countries of the region, as well as some adjacent areas, including Afghanistan, Tibet, and Burma. Columbia offers three-year department-based language programs—elementary, intermediate, and advanced levels—in Hindi, Persian, Sanskrit, Tamil, and Urdu. Two-year language programs at Columbia's Language Resource Center include Bengali and Punjabi, with third-year classes arranged as tutorials or directed study.