York prof heads India-Canada institute

York English Professor Arun Mukherjee (right) has been appointed president of the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute, which promotes understanding between India and Canada through scholarly activities and research.

Mukherjee, an expert in post-colonial literatures, women’s studies and anti-racist education who joined York’s faculty in 1991, will serve two years as Shastri president. The institute funds individual research in the arts, culture, religions, literature and history and the exchange of library resources to promote Indian and Canadian studies programs in each country.

“One of our major goals,” says Mukherjee, “is to establish and strengthen linkages between academic and research communities and institutions in Canada and India. We will also be looking for more private sector and corporate participation in our programs.” She has represented York University on the institute’s board of directors since 1996 and served as vice-president in 2001.

Mukherjee plans to broaden scholarly support to include applied policy research in social development, economic reform and environmental management.

Having completed her graduate work in English at the University of Saugar, India, Mukherjee came to Canada as a Commonwealth Scholar to do graduate work at the University of Toronto. She has taught at several universities. Author and editor of several books, she focuses on postcolonial literatures, South Asian Canadian literature and feminist literary theory in her research. She was York’s status of women officer from 1997 to 2000.

Shastri has awarded 500 India studies fellowships to Canadians and 400 Canada studies fellowships to Indians. The institute has also supported collaborative research projects and distinguished speakers programs featuring, among others, novelists Rudy Wiebe and M.G. Vassanji, and York political scientist James Laxer.

About the institute

The Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute (SICI), founded in 1968 by joint announcement of the governments of Canada and India, originally sought to encourage Canadian teaching and research on India. Focusing on the humanities and social sciences, it funded fellowships and distributed Indian books and journals to the libraries of its Canadian member institutions.

The institute’s success in sparking interest in India studies among Canadian academics led to a reciprocal interest in Canada among Indian scholars. In the early 1980s, SICI began to promote Canadian studies in India and in the late 1980s it expanded its activities into development studies.

The Shastri institute is named after Lal Bahadur Shastri, the prime minister of India from 1964 to 1966, a distinguished mediator and statesman. T.T. Krishnamachari, a former finance minister in India, played a key role in the events that led to its founding.

The institute, based at the University of Calgary and in central New Delhi, has a membership that includes 19 major universities across Canada as well as the Canadian Museum of Civilization.