AAS Member Spotlight: Catherine Meschievitz

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Dr. Catherine Meschievitz, Florida Atlantic University, Director of the Office of International Programs

History, Legal History, India and South Asia Law and Society Studies, comparative legal systems, Asia and Europe

How long have you been a member of AAS?

Since 1998.

Why did you join AAS and why would you recommend AAS to your colleagues?

The JAS journal and the magazine/newsletter are great resources for faculty as well as professionals working in the fields of area studies and international education.  The annual and regional conferences are also the best for Asian Studies overall.  I always read the book reviews first, then read the articles of interest. I scan the magazine/newsletter for grants and fellowships I can share with others.  We do teacher workshops too and the AAS is a great source for teacher outreach information.

How did you first become involved in Asian Studies?

I was a South Asian Studies minor as an undergraduate student and eventually got my PhD in Modern South Asian History. 

What do you enjoy most or what have been your most rewarding experiences involving your work in Asian Studies?

I fell in love with India and spent 6 years going back and forth during grad school. It framed my life for many years and I ended up working in area studies and international/global studies as a career, first at the UW-Madison and now at Florida Atlantic University. I helped build several area studies programs at Madison with successful grants (e.g. Title VI, Ford, MacArthur, DAAD) and over the years have traveled over much of Asia (and elsewhere) as I set up study abroad and faculty exchanges with universities around the world. It is wonderful see students come back from a time abroad brimming with excitement at the new experiences they have had.  I work with internationally oriented faculty all the time and it is possibly the best job one can have at a university. These faculty “cross borders and boundaries” all the time, are generous with their time, and grateful for any administrative assistance we can provide.

Tell us about your current or past research.

A long time ago I conducted research and written on informal justice, disputing, and legal history in India. I studied “nyaya” or justice panchayats or “tribunals” in rural North India while in law school. I later did my PhD. dissertation on the legal and land revenue policies of the British East India Company in the Madras Presidency during the early 19th century. My last research before turning to administration full time was comparative work on legal pluralism in Europe, which emerged from my work on mediation and dispute resolution practices in the USA. More recent personal interests have been my own readings on the US-Transatlantic relationship, the demise of the Ottoman Empire, and the emerging politics of the South China Sea.

What advice or recommendation do you have for students interested in a career in Asian Studies?

Study abroad in your country or region of choice, and learn the local language. After graduation with the bachelor’s apply for the Fulbright or consider the new Schwarzman Scholar Program in China. Apply to teach English if there is a program you can join like JET for Japan. Do what you can to be in the country that fascinates you before and during your graduate studies. And maintain some proficiency in your chosen language!

Outside of Asian Studies, tell us some interesting facts about yourself.

I was one of 7 children from a tiny town in northern Wisconsin.  Our parents always said that we would never inherit much money from them (true, we did not) but they made sure we all went to college. Some of us also went to grad school as well. One the best things I ever did in high school was start a small all-girls football league -- this was before Title IX -- and we played football with all the appropriate equipment every fall (often in the snow).  I was the quarterback and we were undefeated for 4 years. Yes, I am still a Green Bay Packer fan!

"Do what you can to be in the country that fascinates you before and during your graduate studies."

— Catherine Meschievitz