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. Faheem says:

    Can anyone please give an update on what happened to this eventually?

  2. TechnoTee says:

    I don’t know why but we always think Urdu as a poetic language, because almost every Urdu website consists of Shairi, Dastarkhawan, Tootkey, and a little politics. I found AUS another addition nothing else.
    Urdu is a complete language, which can address scientific and technological issues as well. If we want to promote Urdu, we have to prove it a modern day language not only the language of Mir, or Ghalib, or Iqbal. We need to discuss scientific development, modern technologies and all modern things in Urdu for its promotion.

  3. Watan Aziz says:

    No, “tragic” was how we “dealt” with East Pakistan over Urdu. I ask again, was it worth it?

    Bangladeshi brothers and sisters, we are truly sorry.

    Forgive us.

    Can the $50,000 be send to Faisalabad District Courts? They can have a full scale automation with Dell computers and Xerox high speed scanners for this kind of money.

    Or may be yet one more Ghora Tram Green Lines for another Chak?

  4. Adnan Ahmad says:

    Tragic indeed. One of the best articles on Mustafa Zaidi or his Koh-e-Nida I ever read was in this journal. But then people like me are also too blame who know the worth of such a journal and yet don’t subscribe to it because we can’t find enough time to read.

  5. Tahira Naqvi says:

    The Annual of Urdu Studies is a journal devoted to Urdu scholarship, to the advancement of awareness about Urdu literature, both classical and modern.

    According to Paragraph 1.2 of the American Institute of Pakistan Studies (AIPS) By-laws, “The objectives of this Institute shall be to facilitate scholarly research relating to Pakistan and to encourage the exchange of scholars and the publication of scholarly information.“ ( Bylaws.pdf, p.1). However, the AIPS sees fit to withdraw its support for a publication that “facilitates scholarly research relating to Pakistan.” Does it think that Urdu is not the “qaumi zabaan” of Pakistan and research relating to Pakistan implies only that which is in the area of politics and not literature? Urdu does not represent Pakistan? I think we should ask those who dispense money to the AIPS whether they think Urdu scholarship and its dissemination is not a worthy cause?

    The rich and vast tapestry of Urdu literature showcases the real Pakistan, not the bullet-ridden, Taliban infested images of Pakistan the world has become accustomed to seeing.

    The Pakistani embassy should tell us where the $50,000 is being directed. Why should an excellent journal like the AUS have to be forced to be placed in a position to worry about its very existence rather than putting together the next issue?

    Finally, nothing will be done to save the journal unless we, members of the Pakistani community, make it our business to do so.

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