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South Asia Studies: S/SEAL and the South Asia Collections

South/Southeast Asia Library

Description.  The South/Southeast Asia Library (S/SEAL) serves as the center for UC Berkeley’s South and Southeast Asia collections, housing a core collection of over 4,000 non-circulating items. This collection is particularly strong in the social sciences and humanities and features general and specialized reference and bibliographical materials, as well as high-use journals and newspapers.

In addition to its core collection, S/SEAL coordinates collections comprised of over 600,000 items across campus. Collections can be found in the Gardner (Main) Stacks, The Bancroft Library, the Newspapers/Microforms Library, the Media Resources Center, and various subject libraries. Low-use materials are stored off campus in the Northern Regional Library Facility (NRLF), located in Richmond, California. S/SEAL also provides access to local, regional, and international online catalogs and databases. 

History. Beginning in the early 1950s, S/SEAL existed as the Reading Room of the joint Centers for South and Southeast Asia Studies. In the mid-1960s, the reading room, then located at 2538 Channing Way in Berkeley, attracted increasing numbers of students as South and Southeast Asia’s significance rose in the eyes of U.S. policy-makers. In 1970, following the U.S. invasion of Cambodia, demonstrators targeted the Center for South and Southeast Asia Studies after one of its faculty members accepted grants from the Pentagon for counterinsurgency research. Consequently, previously existing plans to move into Doe Library were expedited and in September 1970, the collection was integrated into 438 Doe Library, becoming the South/Southeast Asia Library. Finally, in the summer of 1998, S/SEAL moved to its present location in 120 Doe Library.

Hours. S/SEAL is open Monday through Friday from 10 am to 5 pm and serves both the UC Berkeley community and the general public. 

Reference. Reference is available by phone, email, or in-person appointment. Drop-in assistance can be provided when library staff is available. Reference guides outlining research strategies and listing appropriate reference sources are available on the library homepage.

Bibliographic Instruction. Library catalog and research instruction is available by appointment to both classrooms and individuals. Please contact library staff for assistance.

Circulation. The S/SEAL collections are "Library Use Only." A scanner is available for public use.

South Asian Countries and Languages. South Asian countries include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Materials in South Asian vernacular languages are primarily in Bengali, Dari, Hindi, Nepali, Newari, Pali, Panjabi, Persian, Prakrit, Pushto, Sanskrit, Sinhalese, Tamil, Telugu, and Urdu.

Description. Berkeley develops and maintains a world-class South Asia (South Asia includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka) studies collection of approximately 450,000 monographs in many languages. Materials in South Asian vernacular languages are most commonly collected in Bengali, Dari, Hindi, Nepali, Newari, Pali, Panjabi, Persian, Prakrit, Pushto, Sanskrit, Sinhalese, Tamil, Telugu, and Urdu. Materials in South Asian languages, particularly those previously listed, focus on literature, history, and religion while materials in English span an array of subjects found within and across the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Berkeley also subscribes to approximately 500 South Asian language journals and newspapers, as well as 3,300 publications in English and other western languages. 

Berkeley's South Asia holdings also include multiple special collections. These collections feature primary sources, rare materials, manuscripts, ephemera, maps, and charts. They range in topic from a northern California-based Indian nationalist movement (South Asians in North America Photograph Collection) to British tax collection from colonial India in the late 18th century (Court Fee and Revenue Stamps of the Princely States of India).

In general, most of Berkeley's circulating South Asia materials are most closely associated with language and literature, history, political science, economics, sociology, government documents, philosophy and religion, South Asian art and art history, women's studies, and the South Asian diaspora. Most of these materials are housed in the Gardner (Main) Library or at the Northern Regional Library Facility (NRLF). However, materials can be found in multiple libraries across campus.

Both the depth and scope of these collections reflect the diversity and dramatic growth of South Asian studies at Berkeley. This growth may be due, in part, to South Asia's claim to 1) a fifth of the world’s population and 2)  home of the world’s 2nd and 6th most spoken languages, Hindi and Bengali respectively. Another contributing factor to this growth may be South Asia's booming publishing industry that includes indigenous as well as English language materials.

History. Berkeley's South Asian research and collection interests date back, at least, to 1906 when Sanskrit was first taught at the university. At that time, the Library's acquisitions included, both in Sanskrit and Western languages, Indic religion, history, philosophy, and literature. In the early 1950s, grant funds were used to hire a librarian to assist with the campus' Modern India Project and, in 1958, a South Asia bibliographer was hired to create a reference collection to handle materials coming to the university through the recently established Public Law 480 Program, now the Library of Congress South Asia Cooperative Acquisition Program (SACAP)Throughout the 20th and early 21st centuries, as faculty interest in South Asia has increased, Berkeley's scope of subject area focuses and collection interests has expanded to the social sciences and humanities and to a variety of South Asian and Western European languages. 


Description. Both the depth and scope of Berkeley's South Asia collections reflect the diversity and dramatic growth found in South Asian studies at Berkeley. This growth may be due, in part, to South Asia's claim to a fifth of the world’s population, as well as the region being home of the world’s 2nd and 6th most spoken languages (Hindi and Bengali respectively). Another contributing factor may be South Asia's booming publishing industry that includes indigenous/vernacular as well as English language materials.

1740 Seutter Map of India, Pakistan, Tibet and Afghanistan - Geographicus - IndiaMogolis-seutter-1740Whatever reasons most responsible for this growth, Berkeley's South Asia faculty are among the premier scholars in their fields and our South Asia-related academic programs are among the nation’s best. Roughly 40 faculty members on the Berkeley campus affiliated with the Institute for South Asia Studies conduct research in a multitude of academic disciplines. These disciplines include, but are not limited to, anthropology, political science, public health, women’s studies, linguistics, theater, and history of art. A sampling of research topics related to South Asian studies, many of which are cross-disciplinary, include transnational feminist theory, religious social movements, electoral politics in India, colonial and post-colonial Hindi literature, South Asian folklore, social forestry, diaspora communities, Tamil literature and poetry, Gandhian thought and practice, Sanskrit literature, water management and transnational river conflicts, ethnomusicology, and the Bollywood film industry.

History. The Department of South & Southeast Asian Studies can trace its history to the Southeast Asian studies program founded in 1954 by the Southeast Asia Studies Committee. Movement toward the creation of this program gained momentum when post-World War II American universities and scholars recognized an increase in public interest the region as grounds for the establishment and cultivation of both South and Southeast Asia teaching and research programs. Chaired by Professor Woodbridge Bingham and supported by Chancellor Clark Kerr, the committee founded the program with funding from the Ford Foundation. The Committee's founding members included Professors Thomas C. Blaisdell, Jr., C. M. Li, Robert A. Scalapino, Denzell R. Carr, and Mary R. Haas.


Resource Overview          S/SEAL and the South Asia Collections          Exhibits and Galleries          Special Collections          Subject Guides

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