Professor Devesh Kapur, 47, has taken over as the new director of the University of Pennsylvania's Center for the Advanced Study of India, succeeding CASI's founding director Professor Francine Frankel.
Kapur recently joined the University of Pennsylvania as an associate professor of political science and holds the Madan Lal Sobti Professorship for the Study of Contemporary India from the University of Texas at Austin where he was associate professor of government and Asian Studies.
Before his one-year stint at the University of Texas, Kapur for many years (from 1997 to 2005) was on the faculty at Harvard University -- first as an assistant and then as associate, -- and the year before he went to Austin, was the Frederick Danziger associate professor of government at Harvard.
In an interview with rediff.com, Kapur acknowledged that he was "absolutely thrilled," to take over as CASI director because 'it is the right time with all of what is going on in India and also terms of Indo-US relations and was looking forward' to his new avatar albeit the myriad of challenges, least of all raising adequate funding for the Center, which is independent of the University.
Kapur said the Madan Lal Sobti Professorship for the Study of Contemporary India 'is attached to the person who is the director of the Center.'
He noted that when CASI was established in 1992, there was 'very little interest in India' and it was a struggle in the 1990s, but in the last four-five years it has come into its own.
Kapur, who was born in Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh, but raised in Kolkata before coming to the US in 1983, said, his top priority will be 'to build CASI to sort of focus on policy relevant issues, but particularly those that are long-term, because the short-term is something that the think tanks do -- they can do it well.'
"But I believe long-term is where being in a University gives you the luxury to think long-term, and so, of course, we know that whether it is India's institutions or environmental issues -- all of these are long-term issues. So there is no doubt that these issues will be essentially what our focus is going to be here," he said.
However, Kapur said that CASI will still continue to sustain its programs and events with all of the seminars and workshops. "I propose to link CASI more closely with U-Penn, both academically as well as from the policy world," he said.
Currently, Kapur, who has published extensively and authored or co-authored several books, is currently completing a book under contract with the Princeton University Press titled, Democracy, Death and Diamonds: The Impact of Migration from India on India.
Kapur is an alumnus of the Institute of Technology of Banaras Hindu University from where he received his B Tech in chemical engineering in 1983; the University of Minnesota from where he received his master of science degree also in chemical engineering (1985); and the Woodrow Wilson Center of Princeton University that conferred on him his PhD in 1994 in public policy (1994). In 2005, he received the Joseph R Levenson Teaching Prize at Harvard.