With a small grant from the Chowdhury Center for Bangladesh Studies, I spent a little over three glorious weeks in the Fall term of 2018 at The Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) at the University of California at Berkeley. My relationship with UC Berkeley began with the Late Professor Saba Mahmood who also had ties to ISAS. Subsequently when the Chowdhury Center was formed, I got to know other scholars: Professors Raka Ray, Sanchita Saxena,Lawrence Cohen and Poulomi Saha when they visited Bangladesh on a trip to explore possible links between BRAC University and UC Berkeley. Right at the outset, the warmth and hospitality of these wonderful scholars set a particularly wonderful tone to my stay, which I would not have expected before my arrival.
While in Berkeley as scholar in residence, I took some time to think, to work on my book, I delivered a public lecture, attended several talks and was invited to lecture in an Anthropology class by Professor Charles Hirschkind. Away from the business of work and everyday life in Dhaka, the array of academic activity gave me a pause, a breather and some renewed creativity. It was the first time since my Graduate work in the US that I was back in a world class library with access to more books and journals than I had time to go through. The South Asia section of the library has very helpful staff, notably Adnan Malik who helped me immensely to navigate the electronic archives and stacks. I felt like a student again. The intellectual vibrancy, the willingness of the professors to read my work, give feedback and the ISAS gang, notably Sanchita Saxena, Puneeta Kala and Margaux Payton, who were always friendly and eager to help, made my stay in Berkeley the best thing I have done for myself- academically and personally- in 2018.
I would like to thank Subir and Malini Chowdhury for setting up the center, for providing opportunities of exchange between UC Berkeley and Bangladeshi institutions and scholars, and in general creating a space for critical thinking on Bangladesh to flourish. I hope that the Center and BRAC University will find ways to continue such exchanges. I, for one, look forward to that and to be back in Berkeley.
Samia Huq, Ph.D
Associate Professor of Anthropology
Department of Economics and Social Sciences
Dr. Samia Haq's Chowdhury Center lecture may be viewed below:
Samia Huq | Thinking about the Secular: Practices, Dispensations, and Possibilities in Bangladesh Lecture: Chowdhury Center | October 2 | 12-1:30 p.m.|10 Stephens Hall