Please join us as we celebrate 50 years of the
South Asia Conference of the Pacific Northwest
A Note on the Origins of SACPAN*
(Distributed at the 40th Anniversary Meeting of SACPAN, February 2006)
By Peter Harnetty
The idea for an inter-university colloquium first came up in a conversation between Paul Brass (Political Science, UW) and Barrie Morrison (Burke Museum) in June 1966. Morrison had been hired by UBC and was to take up his appointment on 1 July. He wrote to Peter Harnetty (Asian Studies/History, UBC) on 2 June 1966 saying that he and Brass had been “talking about the possibility and desirability of setting up a rotating seminar on South Asia to include UBC, SFU, Washington with visitors from Oregon and Reed etc.. welcome.”
Morris D. Morris (Economics, UW) followed this up with a letter that fall to William L. Holland (Head, Asian Studies, UBC) formally suggesting such a seminar. Holland asked Harnetty to make the necessary arrangements. Harnetty accordingly sent out invitations on 28 November for a meeting to be held at the UBC Faculty Club on 10 December 1966. Among those present at that first meeting were Holland, Harnetty, Morrison, and Michael Ames (Anthropology, UBC) from the University of British Columbia; T. Bottomore, R.P. Srivastava, and D.G. Bettison (all in Political Science, Sociology, Anthropology, Simon Fraser University); and Morris, Ed Harper, Edwin Gerow, and Obeyesekera from UW. Others may have been there whose names were not recorded.#
At this first meeting no formal papers were presented. Each side described the state of its program, the direction it hoped to move in, and problems likely to be encountered on the way.
Three months later a second meeting was held in Seattle (March 1967). Papers were now read. One was by M.D. Morris on “The Indian Handicraft Industry in the 19th Century.” A third session was held at Simon Fraser University on 3 February 1968. It was at this time that the twice-yearly rota began. In 1970 a rare summer meeting was held at UBC. Papers presented at this session included: Barrie Morrison, “The Organization of a Sacred Complex – The Lalmai-Mainamati Hills of East Pakistan”, and R.S. McGregor (University of London, Visiting Lecturer at the UW Summer Program), “Nanda-Dasa: Life and Poetry.” W.H. Morris-Jones (Commonwealth Institute, University of London) was teaching at the UBC summer school and probably read a paper. 15 UBC Faculty and 20 visitors from UW attended this sunny session. Other early presenters of papers from UBC were Nirmala Cherukupalle (Planning) and Brenda Beck (Anthropology).
Biannual sessions became regular in the 1970s, alternating between Vancouver and Seattle, with the formal Saturday sessions preceded by a social gathering on the Friday evening. In 2000 meetings were reduced to one each year, again alternating between the two cities. This (i.e. 2006, February) is the current situation as South Asianists from the Pacific Northwest gather for this 40th anniversary session. [Note made on 27 Jan. 2010: The meeting in 2010 will therefore be the 44th year that SACPAN has been meeting, though not the 44th session – there have been many more sessions; in fact getting close to 100].
Source of the above Note: UBC Archives, Harnetty Fonds, Box 1-27, “SACPAN – South Asian Colloquium of the Pacific Northwest”. [Note made on 27 Jan.. 2010: These sources are open to anyone; there may be additional information in them but probably not enough to warrant the trouble of consulting them].
Addenda to Professor Harnetty’s excellent history
By Keith Snodgrass
SACPAN continued to meet once per year starting in 2000, with meetings alternating between UW and UBC, with occasional diversions to Simon Fraser University. Presenters were UBC and UW faculty, faculty from other local universities, visiting lecturers at the host institutions, or invited speakers.
In 2005 SACPAN added a graduate student conference, held on the Friday of the event. This was the first time graduate students presented at SACPAN, with feedback from university professors. Response to this was very strong, so it was made a permanent part of the event.
In 2010, SACPAN had its first multi-presenter panels, which included faculty and grad students. In 2011, this format was expanded – multi-presenter panels engaged in short presentations, followed by extended discussion and q&a as a panel. This presented an opportunity for many panelists to present work “in progress” or otherwise, and to receive valuable feedback from a multi-disciplinary audience.
In 2016, SACPAN welcomed the University of Oregon on as an official sponsor. UO hosted a wonderful SACPAN in their Portland, OR, facility.
So, 2017 marks the 50th anniversary, but probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 120 meetings, of this premier academic event for South Asianists in the Pacific Northwest. Please join us on Febrary 10-11, 2017, in Seattle, Washington, to celebrate this milestone.