Stanford Global Studies faculty are essential to the division's efforts to grow international awareness and understanding at Stanford and beyond. The 364 faculty affiliated with SGS centers and programs represent every school at Stanford - business, earth sciences, education, engineering, law, medicine, and humanities and sciences - as well as many of Stanford's centers and institutes.
In this series, faculty members who make up the SGS community discuss their life experiences, research interests and scholarship.
I first chanced upon the field of South Asian religions, and Religious Studies as a whole, as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago. The academic study of religion, as I first discovered as an enthusiastic and impressionable first-year student, addressed many of the foundational questions that had inspired my pursuit of an academic career. For instance: how do cultures generate worldviews that give meaning to human life? I was fortunate to encounter the religions of South Asia early on in my studies through the mentorship of faculty members specializing in Hindu and Buddhist Studies, and Sanskrit. I first traveled to south India as part of my undergraduate research to read Sanskrit with a classically trained scholar in Mysore, and the rest is history. Read more.
As an undergraduate student in St. Xavier’s College, Bombay, in the early 1990s, I was an English literature major (after battling parental insistence that I study medicine or engineering!). Amidst all the Chaucer, Donne, Austen, and Hemingway, we happened to watch — in a course on adaptation taught by Sangeeta Datta (now an independent scholar-filmmaker in the UK) — the films of Satyajit Ray: Charulata (“The Broken Nest”), Pather Panchali (“Song of the Little Road”), and Ghare Baire (“The Home and the World”). Until then, I had mostly watched popular Hindi cinema (now often referred to as Bollywood), Hollywood movies, and some social-realist films by New Wave filmmakers like Shyam Benegal and Govind Nihalani ... Read more.
I’m from Pakistan so a lot of the questions I think about are informed by having grown up in the region, as well as through the cumulative experience of working on these topics over time. At Lahore University of Management Sciences, I worked for my undergraduate thesis supervisor as a research assistant on one of his projects, which was about the intergenerational mobility of education in rural Punjab. It was this early work that initially got me thinking about these development questions. When I started working after graduate school, my job was basically to connect academics who were working on similar topics with actual policymakers in Pakistan. That got me really interested in how all of these things are put into practice from the very top, and that is very similar to what I do now in my own research. Read more.