South Asia Institute
South Asia Institute

Faculty Advisory Committee

The primary governing body for SAI is an elected faculty advisory committee (FAC) that follows the by-laws in SAI’s governing document. Elections for two-year terms take place each summer. The FAC reflects diversity of rank, discipline, college affiliation, and gender, and meets once each semester to review the working of SAI, its budget, and plans for program development. The Institute's voting member list is updated each academic year, in consultation with the FAC. In addition, the Director, through personal meetings and online communication, keeps all faculty affiliates aware of programs and strategic initiatives.

2019-2020 Committee

Oliver Freiberger, Associate Professor, Asian Studies

Oliver FreibergerOliver Freiberger is Associate Professor of Asian Studies and Religious Studies. He completed his Ph.D. in Indology, with concentrations in History of Religions and Tibetology, at the University of Göttingen in 1999 and received his Habilitation degree in Religious Studies from the University of Bayreuth in 2009. He was a Harrington Faculty Fellow at UT in 2002-03 and joined the faculty in 2004. Prof. Freiberger's primary research interests include the history of Buddhism in South Asia, asceticism, and comparison in the study of religion. He has (co-)written three monographs, (co-)edited eight volumes, and published multiple articles and book chapters on these and other topics in Asian religions and method and theory (see "Publications" for details). His most recent book (2nd ed. in 2015) is a handbook of and introduction to Buddhism, co-authored with Christoph Kleine. He is currently working on a book on the comparative method in the study of religion.

Sumit Guha, Professor, History

Sumit Guha"My education began in Italy but I completed high school in New Delhi, India. I received a BA from St. Stephen's College and an MA in History from Jawaharlal Nehru University, both in Delhi. An Inlaks Scholarship enabled me to attend the University of Cambridge. I was awarded a Ph.d. in History in 1981 and returned to teach in St. Stephen's College from 1981 to 1996 (with periods of research leave at the Centre for Development Studies, Trivandrum, the Program in Agrarian Studies, Yale University and the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, Delhi.) From 1996 to 1999 I was Professor in the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta and moved to the USA in 2000 as S.P. Das Distinguished Professor at Brown University. In 2004 I joined the Department of History in Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey and came thence to the University of Texas at Austin in 2013. I began my research as an economic historian with interests in demography and agriculture. These widened into the study of environmental and ethnic histories. My first book was The Agrarian Economy of the Bombay Deccan 1818-1941 (1985) followed by Environment and Ethnicity in India, c. 1200-1991 (1999).  Courtesy of Cambridge University Press, this is now available as an ACLS E-book to members of subscribing libraries. It was followed by Health and Population in South Asia from earliest times to the present (2001). In 2013 I published Beyond Caste: Identity and Power in South Asia, Past and Present (Leiden: Brill, 2013) with a corrected Indian edition from Permanent Black (Delhi, 2016). A draft monopgraph titled The Social Frame of Historical Narrative c.1200-2000 is under review by the University of Washington Press."

Heather Hindman, Associate Professor, Asian Studies

Heather HindmanHeather Hindman is Associate Professor of Asian Studies and Anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin. She has published Mediating the Global: Expatria's Forms and Consequences in Kathmandu (Stanford, 2013) and co-authored Inside the Everyday Lives of Development Workers: The Challenges and Futures of Aidland (Kumarian, 2011). Her interests include, gender, bureaucracy, entrepreneurialism, social theory, critical development, transnational labor and finance.  Recently, she has published articles about Nepal-Korea labor migration and voluntourism and is currently working on a project on the anthropology of garbage and waste disposal sites. Hindman served for several years as President of the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies, and worked with SAI to host the 2016 Himalayan Studies Conference at UT-Austin.  She has also been the Book Review Editor for the Journal of Asian Studies for Comparative and Transnational Scholarship for the past several years.  She is deeply invested in graduate training, working with a half-dozen PhD students in the Department of Asian Studies, as well as scholars in Anthropology, Radio, Television and Film (RTF), Sociology and Geography at UT, as well as several anthropology doctoral candidates in the US, UK and Australia. 

Erin Lentz, Associate Professor, Public Affairs

Erin LentzErin Lentz is an Assistant Professor of Public Affairs at the LBJ School, at UT Austin. Erin has a PhD in Sociology (2014) and Masters in Applied Economics and Management (2005), both from Cornell University. Her research explores food security; gender, nutrition, and agriculture linkages in South Asia; early warning systems; and U.S. food aid and food assistance policies. Her work is interdisciplinary: her collaborators include agricultural economists, nutritionists, and sociologists. Erin and her collaborators have developed the Women’s Empowerment in Nutrition Index, recently developed for and field-tested in rural South Asia. Erin has also received a Fulbright fellowship to Bangladesh to research the secondary effects of food aid in local communities.

Mary Rader, South Asia Librarian (Ex Officio Committee Member)

Mary RaderMary Rader is the South Asian Studies Liaison Librarian and the Head of the Arts, Humanities, and Global Studies Engagement Team. She works closely with the communities associated with UT's South Asia Institute, the South Asian Cooperative Collection Development Workshops and the South Asia Open Archives.


Ahmed Shamim, Lecturer, Asian Studies

Shamim AhmedAhmed Shamim is a lecturer in the Department of Asian Studies. He has taught Bangla at UT since 2015. He taught Linguistics and Modern Bangla Literature at CUNY LaGuardia Community College and Bangla Language at SASLI, University of Wisconsin, Madison. He completed his MA in Linguistics from the City University of New York and now is a doctoral candidate in Linguistics in the same university. His research interests include Endangered Language Documentation and Description, Phonology, Morphology, Grammar, and Language Policies and Ideologies. He is currently working on a morphophonological description of Koda, an endangered Munda language of Bangladesh. He penned two books on Bangla language, literature, and linguistics: Bangla Kotha (2013) and Shobdo Hoy Shobder Ghore (2018).

Stephen Slawek, Professor, Ethnomusicology

Stephen SlawekStephen Slawek is Professor of Ethnomusicology in the Sarah and Ernest Butler School of Music at The University of Texas at Austin. He specializes in the musical traditions of South Asia and has secondary interests in Southeast Asian music and American popular music. His publications draw upon extensive field experience and personal studies of performance practice in India. A senior disciple of the late Pandit Ravi Shankar, he has an international reputation as an accomplished performer on the Indian sitar. In addition to teaching undergraduate academic courses and graduate seminars in ethnomusicology, Professor Slawek directs the Indian Classical Music Ensemble and the Javanese Gamelan Ensemble.

Cynthia Talbot, Professor, History

Cynthia TalbotProfessor Talbot is the author of Precolonial India in Practice: Society, Region, and Identity in Medieval Andhra (Oxford University Press, 2001); co-author, with Catherine B. Asher, of India Before Europe (Cambridge University Press, 2006); and editor of Knowing India: Colonial and Modern Constructions of the Past (Yoda Press, 2011). Her latest book is The Last Hindu Emperor: Prithviraj Chauhan and the Indian Past, 1200-2000 (Cambridge University Press, 2016), winner of the A. K. Coomaraswamy book award for 2018 from the Association for Asian Studies. Her research interests include the social and cultural history of medieval and early modern India (ca. 1000-1750), historiography and historical memories, Hindu-Muslim relations, and the emotional regimes of Indian warrior cultures.