About the Department

The geographical region South Asia, which includes the Indian subcontinent and surrounding areas, may be studied as an academic area of focus from within a number of departments at the University of Chicago, which is one of the foremost centers of South Asian Studies in the world. Each Department has its own disciplinary focus: Anthropology, History, Political Science, Divinity, English, and so on.

The Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations (SALC) in the Division of the Humanities, founded in 1966, emphasizes a text-based approach. Historical, social, literary, and political issues of South Asia are addressed here through fine-grained textual analysis and studies of South Asian textual traditions. That is why training in South Asian languages - four years minimum for the language of concentration, two years minimum for the secondary language - is seen as an integral part of the department's program. The languages regularly taught in the department are:

  • Bangla
  • Hindi
  • Pali
  • Sanskrit
  • Tamil
  • Telugu
  • Tibetan
  • Urdu
Persian is also available, mainly through the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, though some advanced courses in the language are also offered through SALC.


The research interests of individual faculty members are described in the faculty pages of the Department's website.

In the University as a whole, especially in the Humanities and Social Sciences Divisions, there are a number of areas in South Asia of special focus, which involve at least one member of the SALC Department faculty. They include (with relevant languages):

  • West Bengal and Bangladesh (Bangla)
  • Buddhist Studies (Pali, Sanskrit, Tibetan, Chinese, Japanese)
  • The Deccan (Telugu)
  • North India and Pakistan (Hindi, Urdu)
  • Sanskrit Studies (including special attention to regional uses of Sanskrit)
  • South India (Tamil, Telugu)
  • Southeast Asia.


For the larger history of South Asian studies at the University, see South Asia at Chicago: Fifty Years of Scholarship.