President Lee C. Bollinger has announced that Nicholas Dirks, a widely respected scholar whose areas of expertise include South Asian history and British colonial history, has been named the new Vice President for Arts and Sciences, effective September 1.
Dirks currently is the chair of Columbia University's Department of Anthropology and the Franz Boas Professor of Anthropology and History, dual positions he has held since joining Columbia in 1997.
"Nick is a highly distinguished scholar, dedicated to intellectual life within the academy and in public affairs, internationalist in scope and embracing of diverse perspectives," Bollinger said. "He is eager to take on the serious and complex responsibilities of this distinctive role in the academic world."
Prior to joining Columbia , Dirks held a joint appointment in the Departments of History and Anthropology at the University of Michigan , Ann Arbor . While there, he founded the interdepartmental program in anthropology and history and directed the Center for South and SouthEast Asian Studies. From l978 to 1987, he taught at the California Institute of Technology.
Dirks succeeds Ira Katznelson, Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History, who served as interim Vice President for Arts and Sciences for the 2003-2004 academic year. Katznelson will resume his faculty position in the fall.
In announcing the appointment, Bollinger said, "I also want to express my gratitude to Ira Katznelson for his extraordinary service as the interim vice president. The University is significantly better for it."
An historian and anthropologist whose focus and work spans two scholarly disciplines, Dirks has published widely. Among his best-known writings are The Hollow Crown: Ethnohistory of an Indian Kingdom (1987, 2nd edition, 1993), "Is Vice Versa? Historical Anthropologies and Anthropological Histories" (1996), "Colonial Histories and Native Informants: Biography of an Archive" (1993) and Castes of Mind: Colonialism and the Making of Modern India (2001). He has also edited Colonialism and Culture (1992) and In Near Ruins: Cultural Theory at the End of the Century (1998).
"The Arts and Sciences at Columbia University are at a critical juncture," Dirks said. "As we move forward, I hope to work with the administration to address a range of issues affecting the intellectual environment, pedagogical resources and quality of life for faculty. Building on my own background in and commitment to interdisciplinarity and internationalization, I also look forward to working with the faculty to make the Arts and Sciences more diverse, vital and innovative in the years ahead."
Dirks received his bachelor's degree in 1972 from Wesleyan University and his master's (1974) and doctorate (l981) from the University of Chicago . Among other honors, Dirks is a former Guggenheim Fellow, MacArthur Fellow and Fulbright Scholar, and in 2002 received the Lionel Trilling Award for Best Book (Castes of Mind). He is now completing a manuscript about Britain and the imperial conquest of India , tentatively titled The Scandal of Empire.