ASU religious studies professor named Association for Asian Studies president-elect

By

Erica May

Professor of religious studies Anne Feldhaus has begun her position as president-elect of the Association for Asian Studies and is looking forward to connecting with scholars across the world as an advocate for the academic study of Asia. She is the first Arizona State University faculty member to be elected to the association's highest office. 

“[This appointment] is an honor for ASU,” Feldhaus said. “It is a recognition of ASU’s strengths in contributing to scholarship in Asian studies.”

An expert on Hindu traditions in India, Feldhaus looks forward to working with scholars of other parts of Asia. “It’s a chance for me to really be engaged with people who work on different parts of the world that I know less well than India,” Feldhaus said. “I am excited to get to learn from meetings and travels in my new role.”

As an academic organization, the association has approximately 7,000 members across the world. Its annual conference in North American draws 3000 experts on East, South, and Southeast Asia, and it also holds a conference in a different country of Asia each year. The organization strives to broaden the disciplinary and geographical interests of its members. 

“It’s about opening up our awareness of the world,” Feldhaus said. “It makes the world of scholarship and teaching better.” 

Feldhaus is a distinguished Foundation Professor of Religious Studies in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies. She has been the recipient of Fulbright-Hays, Guggenheim, and Alexander von Humboldt fellowships as well as collaborative grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

During her presidency, Feldhaus will travel to give talks at regional conferences to engage with scholars who don’t have the funding to travel to larger conferences. She hopes that through her roles as vice president in 2017-2018 and president in 2018-2019, she will connect social science and humanities researchers and bring together scholars from different parts of the world. 

“A large portion of my role will be fighting for funding to get Americans to understand other parts of the world on a high academic level,” she said. “It will definitely include a certain amount of advocacy.”

In addition to advocacy, Feldhaus will speak about her own research and its significance to teachers and scholars who don’t know about the large region of India she studies. Her work focuses on the Marathi-language region of western India. 

Connecting with scholars from across the world will also aid Feldhaus with her teaching in the classroom on the Tempe campus. She aims to instruct her students on topics from all over the world without ever leaving the classroom. 

“In my ‘Religions of the World’ class, I try using a lot of short video clips, and I found a textbook that had interviews with practitioners of the religion and a lot of visuals,” Feldhaus said. “Some of my colleagues use music to try to bring people into the feeling of a place.” 

In addition to teaching about contemporary cultures, Feldhaus’s classes look into the history of religious traditions.

“Combining the sense of culture with a time reference of someone very far way gives students a sense of life issues and decisions. Whether to engage in the world or withdraw from it, which is a big thing in Hindu culture. Whether their duty to society is more important than their duty to their family. If you can relate really ancient struggles like this to modern human problems, the students can get a sense of what it was like to be someone in those distant places and times."