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Summer and Fall Term Montgomery Fellows to Focus on Indian History andLiterature

Beginning this summer, the Montgomery Endowment will bring two distinguished Fellows to campus who will enhance learning opportunities around international issues, particularly those related to South Asia. Acclaimed Indian writer, Githa Hariharan, and distinguished historian of India, Romila Thapar, will be in residence as Montgomery Fellows.

Romila Thapar
Romila Thapar
Githa Hariharan
Githa Hariharan

Hariharan will teach in the English department during the summer term. Her course, The Edges of Nation-Making: Perspectives on Modern Indian Literature, will be augmented by meetings with faculty, students, staff, and members of the community, and she will give a public lecture, "In Search of Our Other Selves," Tuesday, July 11, at 4 p.m. in Filene Auditorium, Moore Hall.

In the fall term, Thapar, one of the world's most respected historians, will be in residence at Dartmouth. Her course, The Perception of the Past in Early India, will be taught in the history department and, like the course offered by Hariharan, will enhance curricular offerings. On Tuesday, October 10, Thapar will deliver a public lecture, "Interpretations of Early Indian History," at 4:30 p.m. in Filene Auditorium, Moore Hall.

This will be Thapar's second visit to Dartmouth. In 2003 she delivered the Robert F. Allabough Class of 1934 Memorial Lecture sponsored by the history department to enthusiastic response from students and faculty. She is a graduate of Punjab University and holds a doctorate from London University. She was appointed to the Chair in Ancient Indian History at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi where she is now professor emerita. In 1983 she was elected general president of the Indian History Congress and in 1999 a corresponding fellow of the British Academy. The first holder of the Kluge Chair in Countries and Cultures of the South at the John W. Kluge Center of the Library of Congress, she is an honorary fellow of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University.

In more than four decades of scholarship, teaching, and writing, she has produced over 15 volumes, including the classic The Penguin History of Early India: From the Origins to A.D. 1300. She has held visiting faculty positions in universities around the world and has received honorary degrees from the University of Chicago, Mount Holyoke College, Oberlin College, the Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales in Paris, the University of Oxford, and the University of Calcutta. In 2003 she received the Distinguished Service Award from the Association of Asian Studies.

Thapar is no stranger to controversy. Over the course of her distinguished career she has been an outspoken advocate of views that have, at times, been perceived radical. In the Indian magazine Frontline, she wrote recently on how certain aspects of the teaching of Indian history have been used to serve political ends. "Since the claim to a particular historical interpretation can become a justification for constructing a particular kind of society, there should be an awareness of what history is being used for."

Hariharan was born in Coimbatore, India. She received her B.A. from Bombay University and her M.A. from Fairfield University in 1974 and 1977, respectively. The Washington Post has called her novels and stories, "a heady mix of myth, modern mores, politics, and lust...Heartbreakingly funny, moving, and as relevant as today's headline." She is the author of four novels, The Thousand Faces of Night (1992), The Ghosts of Vasu Master (1994), When Dreams Travel (1999), and In Times of Siege (2003). The coeditor of a volume of stories for children, Sorry, Best Friend!, she has also published two story collections, A Southern Harvest (2004), stories from four major South Indian languages in English translation, and The Art of Dying (1993).

Her first novel, The Thousand Faces of Night, won the Commonwealth Writers Prize. Her other three novels have been nominated for major awards, including the Booker Prize, and in 2004 her latest work, In Times of Siege, was short-listed for the Commonwealth Writers Prize.

In 1995 she was the Charles Wallace Writer-in-Residence at the University of Kent, Canterbury, England. She has been a lecturer at the University of Leeds, and has given readings and seminars at the University of Zurich, the University of Geneva, and the University of Chandigarh. Most recently, she held the World Literature Residency at George Washington University, delivered a lecture on "The Politics of Writing: Women, Language and the Postcolonial" at Yale University, and was a panelist on "Women's Writing: Borders and Boundaries," for the Women's Initiative for Peace in South Asia in New Delhi. Hariharan was asked about feminism and its relationship to her writing in a recent interview for Another Subcontinent, an online community that fosters understanding of South Asian society and culture. "Am I a writer particularly concerned with 'women's issues'? And am I a feminist? The answer to both questions is yes," she responded. "I want to make it quite clear that in my life my choices have been dictated by what I perceive as the feminist choice."

Hariharan's work has been translated into French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Greek, Urdu, and Malayalam, and her essays and fiction are frequently included in anthologies.

"Someone observed once, that all the titles of my novels are plural," she said in her interview for Another Subcontinent. "Perhaps one of the strong points of my work, or perhaps one of the curses of my vision, is that I can never quite see one part of the story or imagine one voice without hearing something in the background...I love the idea of the same story being told by 10 different people."

Hariharan has been a staff writer for WNET-Channel 13 in New York and has worked in Bombay, Madras, and New Delhi as an editor. She writes a monthly column for Calcutta's newspaper, The Telegraph, called "Second Thoughts."

Established in 1977 through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth F. Montgomery '25, the Montgomery Endowment was created to extend and enrich the opportunities available at the College in ways that complement its regular curricular offerings. The program's major objective is to bring to Dartmouth outstanding figures from the academic and nonacademic worlds who are capable of achieving an important and broad-ranging impact on the educational experience of undergraduate students.

By LAUREL STAVIS

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Last Updated: 12/17/08