We live in a complex, challenging, and intriguing environment, and the pace of change in the world has overwhelmed systems, organizations, and states as they try to understand the impact and the effects of such change. Western approaches to knowing the world and managing people are being shown to be suspect. In this context, knowledge systems inspired by Indic civilization have a great deal to contribute at a global level but are not yet adequately included in Western institutions of higher education, and if at all included, given a marginal, second-class status. European renaissance was encouraged by Europe's "discovery" of Asia and the Americas in general and India in particular. Even the colonialist study of India - Indology -- influenced Europe in significant ways. In the troubled times of the 21st century therefore, we can achieve and experience a second renaissance by learning from various knowledge traditions of Indic civilization. A group of academics, led by Prof. Arvind Sharma of McGill University, Montreal, Canada, have come together to facilitate such a renewal by founding the American Academy of Indic Studies (AAIS).
The brainchild of established Indic Studies scholars specializing in Indic studies, AAIS has four main objectives:
- To pluralize the process of globalization: Many of the ideas circulating globally are dominated by Euro-American cultures and civilizations. The globally interconnected world should have better and more inclusion of Indic civilizational ideas (in addition to other civilizations such as Chinese and Islamic, but that is not the focus of this proposed academy).
- To globalize and pluralize the American education system: Most of the textbooks and syllabi at all levels of American education system lack the serious presentation of Indic civilization. American students are deficient in their understanding of a civilization that is one of the oldest and is today inhabited by the largest number of young people eager to join the global village.
- To develop an academic understanding of Indic contributions to world civilizations: Indic civilization has been a key part of the world economies and cultures through the Silk Route, Buddhism, Colonialism, and now the IT industry. Indic people and ideas have been traversing far and wide and yet their contributions remain alien or unknown to most American students. AAIS will strive to transform this scenario.
- Provide solutions and alternatives to American and global issues: Examples where Indic civilization can offer solutions include environmental issues, attitudes toward religious diversity, gerontology, psychology, and healthcare. Indic civilizational ideas transcend the dichotomy of left and right that has gridlocked American/Western discourse on most of social, cultural, and political issues.
Long range plans for AAIS include establishing a new framework for studying Indic civilization; measuring the effectiveness of scholarly work by tracking citations of papers in journals; encouraging the bottom-up development of Indic studies - from minors and concentrations at the undergraduate level to graduate and doctoral programs; offering value added service to both the learning and the larger community; and developing human resources.
Proposed activities of AAIS include biennial academic conferences; conducting of meetings, seminars, and workshops; the publication of journals, with the first one titled the "American Journal of Indic Studies", to be edited by Prof. Lavanya Vemsani of Shawnee State University; mentoring students and younger scholars (with scholarships, fellowships, assistantships, research grants, study grants, travel grants); program development (concentrations, minors, majors, Bachelors, Masters, Doctorate); curriculum development; the commissioning of textbooks; encouraging professional development; training practitioners and students to understand and implement social applications of Yoga and meditation; teacher training and certification of K-12instructors; certification of Yoga teaching; and providing accreditation services for Indic Studies programs.
The Indic Studies disciplines embrace the wide range of social sciences and humanities fields, including classics, arts and film, gender studies, history, religious studies, philosophy, communication, linguistics, political science, economics and business, and geography and archeology.
A Board of Directors is in place with Prof. Arvind Sharma as Chair, and including Profs. Jeffery Long of Elizabethtown College, Pankaj Jain of the University of North Texas, and Lavanya Vemsani of Shawnee State University.
"We wish not to shake up the world but to wake people up to the bounty and wisdom of Indic Civilization," said one of the AAIS members when asked to sum up the rationale for organizing the American Academy of Indic Studies. More than 225 scholars/researchers from across the world have joined the AAIS so far.
Pankaj Jain, Ph.D.
University of North Texas, Denton
Tel: +1 (214) 724-5611 (Cell)