AAS Member Spotlight: Lavanya Vemsani

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Dr. Lavanya Vemsani, Professor of Asian History and Religious Studies at Shawnee State University, Portsmouth, OH;
Ancient India, Gandhi, Post-Colonial History, Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism

How long have you been a member of AAS?

8 years.

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

I joined AAS to share my research and meet with colleagues specializing in the Asian Studies subject area. AAS is the best professional organization for specialists in Asian Studies. I have presented at MARAAS conferences since 2007. I always met friendly colleagues and appreciated the professional presentations of Association of Asian Studies. I always appreciated the opportunity to meet Asian Studies scholars to share and learn about interesting topics in Asian Studies.

I will definitely recommend AAS to my colleagues. AAS is the largest professional organization dedicated to serving scholars of Asian Studies and hence it provides the best venue to meet like minded professionals to share research and learn about current directions in one's own subject area of interest.

How did you first become involved in Asian Studies?

As a child I was always fascinated by the numerous monuments in our village and surrounding areas, and perpetually curious to learn about the stories behind them. As I grew up my interest to learn about human past remained a part of me and kindled my passion to study the creative endeavors of the past such as texts and monuments. My passion to learn about human past has taken me in the direction of Asian Studies.  I am passionate about researching about Asian Studies (India) and also presenting and teaching about numerous subjects of Asian Studies. 

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

I enjoy both aspects of knowledge with regard to my work in Asian Studies: to create and disseminate historical understanding. Researching and writing is one part of it while presenting my research and sharing it at conferences and teaching about the subject is the other part. My most rewarding experience is my current research and presenting about my research at Asian Studies conferences. My most rewarding experience came when my Ph.D. thesis, 'Balarama: Examination Hindu and Jain Mythology' completed at McMaster University won the Best Canadian Ph.D. Dissertation on South Asia 2007: Honorable mention Prize of the South Asia Council of the Canadian Asian Studies Association (SACA), while the experience repeated itself when I was awarded the Board of Trustees Distinguished Teaching Award at Shawnee State University. Both researching and teaching had been the most rewarding experiences of my work in Asian Studies.

Tell us about your current or past research. (Please limit to 250 words).

My areas of research are varied and interdisciplinary in nature. I research topics of early historical India and current History of India (especially Gandhi; colonialism and post colonial India with regard to nationalism, and regionalization in India), as well as historical Hinduism, and Diaspora Hinduism. My publications include a number of articles, and a book on Historical Hinduism (Hindu and Jain Mythology of Balarama). My second book Krishna: Encyclopedia of the Lord of Many of Names is slated to be published this Fall. I am also currently editing two of my book manuscripts on History getting them ready for publication: History of India to 1500, and Ancient Settlement Patterns of South India. My recent article, “The Himalayan Ranges, Glaciers, Lakes and Rivers: An International Ecological, Environmental and Military Outlook,” examines the fragile environmental and strategic issues faced by the Himalayan region.

I am currently organizing Uberoi Seminar at Shawnee State University on Indian Culture in the Global Age in October 2015.

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

Be passionate about the subject area that interests you. Read extensively in that area focusing on learning about the research of major scholars. Be knowledgeable about all relevant areas of your subject area and don’t be afraid to take wherever your passion takes you.

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

Outside of my scholarly work on Asian Studies, I am also passionate about vegetarianism and nonviolence.

"Be knowledgeable about all relevant areas in your subject area and don’t be afraid to go wherever your passion takes you."

— Lavanya Vemsani