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Brown Chair in South Asian Studies: Michael Meister

Michael Meister

Dr. Michael W. Meister, professor of South Asian art in the history of art department, has been appointed to the W. Norman Brown Chair in South Asian Studies, SAS Dean Samuel H. Preston has announced.

Dr. Meister received his B.A. in history and literature at Harvard College in 1964. He earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in fine arts at Harvard University in 1971 and 1974, respectively, and joined Penn's history of art and South Asia regional studies departments in 1976. Penn awarded Dr. Meister an honorary degree in 1979. Since 1988, he has served as consulting curator for the Asian Section of the University of Pennsylvania Museum. He is currently the chairman of the newly renamed Department of South Asia Studies and director of the University's South Asia Center.

Dr. Meister specializes in the art of South Asia, focusing primarily on temple architecture of the Indian subcontinent. His work has won numerous grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Smithsonian Institution, and the American Institute of Pakistan Studies, among others. He has also received both junior and senior Fulbright Foundation fellowships. Recently, Dr. Meister won a J. Paul Getty Interpretive Research Program grant for multidisciplinary work on pilgrimage temples in Western India. This project resulted in the collection Ethnography and Personhood: Notes from the Field, edited by Dr. Meister and published by Vedams Books (Jaipur) in 2000. Another recent project, "Cooking for the Gods," examined home worship and ritual in Bengal and culminated in exhibits at The Newark Museum, The Palmer Museum of Art, and the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco. This year, a collection that he co-edited, Multiple Histories: Culture and Society in the Study of Rajasthan, was released from Rawat Publications.

Dr. Meister has been a frequent speaker at universities, galleries, and professional symposia throughout North America, Europe, India, and Pakistan. He was in-residence at the American Academy in Rome from March to June 2002. His articles on South Asian art, architecture, and religious imagery have been published in major journals worldwide, including Artibus AsiaeRes: Anthropology and Aesthetics, and South Asian Archaeology. Currently, Dr. Meister is an editorial advisor for the Yale Dictionary of International Architecture, honorary general editor of the Encyclopedia of India Temple Architecture, and a member of the Advisory Council of Scholars for South Asia Religious Art Studies (SARAS) and the Indian and Himalayan Art Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

In 1979, this endowed chair was established anonymously in honor of Dr. W. Norman Brown who advanced the study of the South Asian subcontinent throughout his career. Founder of the first academic Department of South Asian Studies, Dr. Brown spent the early part of his life in India and was a leading scholar in that area.


  Almanac, Vol. 49, No. 14, November 26, 2002