Andrée F. Sjoberg Endowed Scholarship in Dravidian Studies
Andrée F. Sjoberg was born in New York City in 1924. She earned a B.S. degree in Geology from the University of New Mexico in 1947 and an M.A. degree in Anthropology in 1951 from The University of Texas at Austin. In 1957 she earned the first Ph.D. awarded by the linguistics program at UT Austin. Her doctoral dissertation, directed by W.P. Lehmann, on the influence of Sanskrit on the phonology of Telugu was the start of what was a career-long interest in Dravidian language and culture.
Over her forty-year tenure at UT, first at the newly established Hindi-Telugu program and later incorporated into the Department of Linguistics,1Dr. Sjoberg authored numerous publications including historical ethnographies on American Indian groups in Texas and the Uzbeks in Afghanistan. Much of her scholarship focused on the Dravidian language and culture. Indeed, as scholars have since recognized, Dr. Sjoberg’s major contribution is to establish the connections that the Dravidians played in the development of Indian civilization.
In pursuit of her research, Dr. Sjoberg made many trips to major locations throughout India. She was one of the founders of the Center for Hindi and Telugu Studies in 1962 at The University of Texas, which eventually developed into the current South Asia Institute. In 1968, she organized the Conference on Dravidian Civilization, the first ever conference of its type held outside of India. The proceedings were published in book form, titled Symposium on Dravidian Civilization by UT Austin in 1971.2Dr. Sjoberg was an invited speaker at the Second World Telugu Conference in Kuala Lumpur in 1981 and she was invited to participate in the groundbreaking ceremonies for the Dravidian University in Kuppam, A.P. in 1996. Dr. Sjoberg was a Dravidian Linguistics Association member and also served on the Editorial Board of the International Journal of Dravidian Linguistics.
World-renowned linguistics professor, the late Dr. V.I. Subramoniam3described, with some irony, stumbling upon Dr. Sjoberg’s work in a footnote of a Finnish publication despite having friends and visiting Fellows with appointments in Austin. It is clear that Subramaniam was highly appreciative of her work as he quotes it extensively in an introduction he wrote for a book that as he noted overlapped much of the same terrain already covered by Dr. Sjoberg.4
Recognition for Dr. Sjoberg’s contributions to the advancement of knowledge particularly regarding the role that Dravidian culture and language played in the development of India, continued after her retirement from the University of Texas in 2000. For example, the proceedings from the Tokyo Symposium on South Asian Languages Contact, Convergence, and Typology for which she participated were published in 2001.5The compilation of her works at the behest of Dravidian University occurred almost a decade into retirement in 2009.6And in 2012 the book was positively reviewed in Comparative Civilizations Review by John Grayzel, a career foreign service officer at the US Agency for International Development and former Holde1r of the Baha’I Chair for World Peace at the University of Maryland. Per Grayzel:
Sjoberg deserves thanks and appreciation for this book distilled from her toils among the rarer settings of scholarship in comparative civilization and in pursuit of the expansion of our understanding of how human civilizations, and their manifestation in particular forms and places, are the products of a myriad of influences, often from underappreciated peoples – in this case the Dravidian-speaking people of the Indian subcontinent.7
Dr. Sjoberg died in March 2018. She leaves an extensive body of work to be enjoyed, debated and ultimately expanded by scholars including recipients of the Andrée F. Sjoberg Endowed Scholarship in Dravidian Studies.
1Currently the Department of Asian Studies
2Symposium on Dravidian Civilization. Edited by Andree F. Sjoberg Austin, TX: Jenkins Publishing Company. 1971.
3Pro-Chancellor of the Dravidian University at Kuppam; former Vice-Chancellor of the Tamil Univeristy, Thanjavur; professor and Head of the Department of Linguistics at the University of Kerala; and founder of the Dravidian Linguistics Association.
4Kasipandian, P.S. India, That Is, Sidd. New Delhi, India: Allied Publishers, 1996.
5Sjoberg, Andree F. (2001) “Convergence and Resistance to Morphological Change in Agglutinative Languages of South and Central Asian,” in The Yearbook of South Asian Languages and Linguistics: Tokyo symposium on South Asian Languages Contact, Convergence and Typology. Peri Bhaskararao and Karumuri Venkata Subbarao, Guest Editors. New Delhi, India: Sage Publications.
6Sjoberg, Andrée F. Dravidian Language and Culture. Kuppam, India: Dravidian University, 2009.
7Grayzel, John (2012) “Sjoberg, Andree, Dravidian Language and Culture.,” Comparative Civilizations Review: Vol. 66: No. 66, Article 17. Available at Scholars Archive.