The Annual of Urdu Studies: An Academic Journal Struggles to Survive

Posted on March 10, 2010
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Art & Literature, Education, Media Matters, Urdu
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Adil Najam

Even when print publications were not under the type of pressures that they are today (because of internet based publishing), academic journals have always been a rather difficult enterprise to sustain. They survive mostly to the extent that libraries are willing and able to pay the high library subscriptions. Therefore an academic journal, produced in the United States, on a subject as esoteric (for the U.S. academic market) as Urdu, published only once a year, and serving really a relatively tiny market, could never have been an easy proposition. Yet, for 24 years now – this being its 25th anniversary issue year – The Annual of Urdu Studies has survived and been the flag-bearer of academic Urdu studies in the West.

But that may not be so for very long. It is now struggling – literally, for its survival. It is not at all clear whether it will. But it will be a sorry shame if it does not.

Published out of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, The Annual of Urdu Studies (AUS), is clearly one of a kind. The journal describes itself thus:

The aim of the AUS is to provide scholars working on Urdu humanities in the broadest sense a forum in which to publish scholarly articles, translations, and views. The AUS will also publish reviews of books, an annual inventory of significant Western publications in the field, reports, research-in-progress, notices, and information on forthcoming events of interest to its readers (conferences, workshops, competitions, awards, etc.). Each issue of the AUS also includes a section in the Urdu script featuring old and new writing.

But a visit to the Journal’s homepage today will show you an appeal for survival:

Dear Readers and Friends of The Annual of Urdu Studies (AUS),

As you know, the AUS is not a profit-making enterprise and it has managed to stay alive largely thanks to the hard work of its two-person, part-time staff and to the financial support of the Center for South Asia, the Graduate School, and the College of Letters and Science of the University of Wisconsin, and, mainly, the American Institute of Pakistan Studies (AIPS), which has heroically assumed the responsibility to pay the half-time salary of the Assistant Editor Jane Shum, without whose exemplary service the AUS would have folded a long time ago.

Sadly, the AIPS has decided it must curtail drastically its funding to $4000 a year, effective 1 July 2010. This amount is too small to keep the AUS alive. We immediately need to raise $7000 to even publish the next issue, our 25th. What will happen next depends on whether all of you in the Urdu community at large are willing to assume responsibility for the dissemination of knowledge regarding Urdu humanities. A sum of about $23,000 for the Assistant Editor’s half-time yearly salary/benefits will be needed to keep the AUS alive.

Please take a moment and think seriously about whether this journal, the only one of its kind in the West, merits being kept alive. If you think it has performed a valuable service to the scholarly world and the Urdu community, please send a contribution payable to: University of Wisconsin Foundation with “Annual of Urdu Studies/12546746” in the memo line.

Send checks directly to:

UW Foundation
U.S. Bank Lockbox
P.O. Box 78807
Milwaukee, WI 53278-0807

Online gifts can be made at

Please select “Other” from the Designation drop down menu and type “Annual of Urdu Studies/12546746” in the free text box.


It is a sad appeal to read. But also an unusual one for a Univeristy-based academic journal to make. This is not what academic journals usually do. It is a sign of desperation that The Annual of Urdu Studies has been forced to do so.

It is also sad and unfortunate that the American Institute of Pakistan Studies (AIPS) is forced to make the cut in AUS’s funding at this time for cumpulsions of its own and one is sure for pressures that has on its own resources.

Right now it seems that there is more money than anyone knows how to spend for the academic study of Pakistan in the US. Yet it seems that all of it is for the study of terrorism, violence and things violent. How sad it is indeed that the study of literature, culture and language cannot be supported. How sad. And how shameful. For all the money that is being indiscriminately thrown at anyone talking about issues of war and violence in Paksitan, may a little – just a little – can actually be invested also in those who make it their business to talk continuously about peace, love and goodwill!

12 responses to “The Annual of Urdu Studies: An Academic Journal Struggles to Survive”

  1. Zafar Iqbal says:

    Here is introduction of my article:
    The history and evolution of the languages both have the closest relationship according to age and nearly equal of the age of human life. There are some peculiar characteristics and attributes to a language for long term restoration to sustain itself as a language. In this article some peculiar properties will be probed out by analysis of existing literature. Firstly, the parameters of a universal language will be discussed which are very important for any language survival and without these attributes a language can not survive and neither be popular nor can be spread around the world. If these properties are not a part of a language, it can not survive itself for a long time and will die after some decades. The absence of these characteristics will not be accepted by any human community. Actually if a language is not supported by some necessary elements of linguistics then it may disappeared rapidly. In this article the main emphasis is given to some of the linguistic characteristics and author have tried to search out some universal factors & its characteristics upon which a language can stand as an international language. According to latest linguistic survey the total no. of world’s spoken languages is nearly 6809. [1] A small no of languages about (10) have been popular at the world level due to different historical and linguistic reasons.

  2. Zafar Iqbal says:

    Salam to all
    I tried to submit my article about urdu in AUS but still no response. I think either work is too much or it has lost favour of the urdu community. I may be wrong in my opinion but one can conclude like this if he finds a cold response. Can you please tell me the matter what is the actual problem with AUS Journal. Thanks

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