Image: Courtesy of Dev N. Pathak, Sociology, SAU.
About The Department - Vision and Beyond

Over the last half century or so, a vast body of knowledge(s) on the region has evolved within South Asia that mostly remain within the countries of their origin due to a number of reasons. In this specific context, there is a crucial need to share some of this knowledge in contemporary times when, despite assertions of localisations and mini-narratives, the universal does retain its emphasis through a constant dialectics of the two. The debate between the local and universal or mini-narratives and meta-narratives continue to rage, and is more clearly visible in the context of South Asian context. Even so, we are acutely aware of the non-existence of regular and serious forums for South Asian scholarship in social sciences to showcase our own research and thinking. We are also quite conscious of the fact that the process of establishing sociology in the region has created its own peculiarities which has established close inter-relationships between sociology and social anthropology, history, cultural studies, archeology and other related disciplines. We consider the porousness of South Asian sociology one of its most enduring strengths. On the other hand, we are not unaware of the unfortunate regressions sociology has experienced in different South Asian contexts over the last 30 years or so marked by numerous institutional failures.

It is within the context(s) outlined above that the Department of Sociology at South Asian university, initiated in 2011 witihn the Faculty of Social Sciences contributes to teaching, training and knowledge production. It is not intended to be a mere forum for the production of cutting-edge intellectual knowledge and exchange of that knowledge traversing across national borders in South Asia and beyond. Our expectation is that this knowledge would dislocate the persistence of an imposed framework emanating from the colonisation process and postcolonial politics of knowledge. Despite the passage of over fifty years since the process of official decolonization began in the region, much of the analyses of our problems, situations, histories and dynamics emanate from Euro American academia; this is certainly the case when it comes to conceptual formulations and theoretical approaches that are being employed in exploring the region’s social and cultural complexities often without much self-reflection.

The Department of Sociology strongly believes in the need to reformulate this situation by effectively centering South Asia without naively shunning thought from these established centers of knowledge be they in Europe or North America. We believe in an active and robust engagement with these issues within South Asia. In this context, through the work of its faculty and the research of graduate students, the Department would bring forward the newer forms of knowledge that comprehends and represents the South Asian context with a more authoritative and nuanced voice. We strongly believe in the need to actively intervene in the process of knowledge formation through a constant sharing of knowledge that the region produces as well as through interaction with the world beyond the region.

The courses taught in the Department as well as the research carried out by its faculty members reflect this overall vision and our collective commitment towards innovation, move beyond untenable stereotypes, and explore a new world of knowledge within the discipline of Sociology.

Class of 2011, Department of Sociology, South Asian University; Image: Courtesy of Dev N. Pathak, Sociology, SAU.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Museums and the Present: Issues of Community, Locality and Contextual Relevance

Department of Sociology
Faculty of Social Sciences
South Asian University


India International Centre


Museums and the Present:
Issues of Community, Locality and 
Contextual Relevance


Karen Exell
University College London - Qatar Campus

Synopsis of Lecture

National Museum, Colombo
Museums were developed in many parts of the world during the colonial period to ‘visualise and objectify’ the colonised people and country for the coloniser, as Shaila Bhatti has argued in relation to the Lahore Museum, or to collect and display archaeological material that supported western interests. 

Lahore Museum
Following decolonisation a certain perception has remained amongst some local communities that these ‘colonial’ museums are irrelevant to their contemporary concerns. This contrasts with museological approaches in some northern European countries, where museums have become central to social policy agendas of community support, or the focus of grass-roots cultural initiatives. 

National Museum, Delhi

Using models from a variety of countries, Dr Exell argues that museums in post-colonial countries such as India have the opportunity to significantly enrich the lives of their local communities through creative interventions, and to realign these museums with contemporary socio-political concerns.

Biographical Note on the Speaker

Dr Karen Exell is Lecturer in Museum Studies and Programme Director of the MA in Museum and Gallery Practice at University College London, Qatar campus. Her research interests include the social and political role of museums and the impact of museums on cultural identity, within the context of non-western societies. Her recent publications include the co-edited volume, Heritage Debates in the Arabian Peninsula (Ashgate, 2014), and the forthcoming monograph, Museums in the Arabian Peninsula: globalisation and the politics of representation (working title) (Routledge, 2016). For more information on her work, please visit:

Time and date 
06.00 pm to 07.30 pm, o6th August 2o15

At Seminar Halls, 1,2 and 3,
Kamala Devi Complex
India International Centre
New Delhi

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