The ISARH Vision
The Institute of South Asian Religious History will serve as a physical and digital repository for South Asian-language materials for scholarly use in North America—and specifically in the intermountain west. The Institute aims to house the largest collection of Indian-language religious history material in the western hemisphere. In collaboration with town- and village-level publishers (especially in northern Pakistan, northern India, and Nepal), ISARH will initially offer subcontinental religious history research material in Hindi, Urdu, Tibetan, and Persian, with future plans to add Sanskrit, Bengali, Sindhi, Baluchi, Punjabi, Gujarati, and Pashto collections.
As a research library, the Institute will serve as a locus for:
- local researchers (working at one of several major universities in the area—including Brigham Young University, the University of Utah, Utah State University, Westminster College, Salt Lake Community College, Snow College, Weber State University, and Utah Valley University);
- scholars in the intermountain region (at institutions like Colorado College, Boise State University, Colorado State University, Naropa University, the Air Force Academy, the University of Idaho, the University of Colorado, the University of Wyoming, Idaho State University, the University of Denver, the and the University of Northern Colorado);
- scholars worldwide via ISARH's online database of digitized material; and
- the publishing of the Journal of South Asian Religious History, a peer-reviewed academic journal focused upon South Asian religions as forces in history, with a special concentration on the religion-and-politics phenomenon.
[Artist's rendition of future Institute of South Asian Religious History.]
The scholarly need for the research opportunities that ISARH will provide is great, to say the least—and especially locally/regionally. Despite a relative plethora of major academic institutions in the area, from Brigham Young University just a few minutes away to the University of Utah an hour down the road, a South Asian research materials collection of any significance currently does not exist anywhere in the region. Combined with this lack of materials, there is also an even more unfortunate paucity of South Asian history learning opportunities for students; despite having more than forty history professors among the faculty at BYU, for example (and despite an otherwise fantastic selection), not one course exists dealing with South Asia, home to a fifth of the world's population. While the University of Utah's history faculty does include one South Asianist, the department's South Asia-related course offerings are likewise sparse. No opportunities for such study exist at any other local university or college, despite South Asia's global significance, not to mention its share of the planet's human population. This stark "knowledge and resource gap" must be filled—and that's where the Institute of South Asian Religious History comes in. It is hoped that, over time, ISARH might allow local and even regional universities and colleges to expand their course offerings, taking advantage of the rich research opportunities that ISARH can provide both to students and faculty with South Asian history interests.
It is hoped, too, that ISARH might serve the local South Asian community—thousands strong—as a hub for the study of religion, language, and history.
Additionally, the Journal of South Asian Religious History, an ISARH publication, will publish cutting-edge research in the field, and will be available to thousands of colleges, universities, research libraries, and other academic institutions worldwide. JSARH will be published both in print and online.
In connection with the journal, ISARH will additionally host an annual "ISARH Symposium" (the first to be held in April 2014, hosted by the Department of History at Westminster College in Salt Lake City), an academic conference focused on topics related to South Asia's religious history.
ISARH's subscription-based digitized collection, constantly growing, will allow scholars far from the physical Institute to access much from the library's collections online.
The Institute hopes to regularly fund several academic fellowships benefitting South Asian scholars living and working on the subcontinent, funded partly via ISARH's (hoped-for) endowment and partly via SSARH membership dues.
In addition to the services abovementioned, the Institute may, in the future, host independent academic symposia; offer history and/or language classes in cooperation with local institutions of higher learning; coordinate study abroad; offer online learning services; and participate in preservation-through-digitization projects.