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New faculty focus: Anthony Cerulli

October 11, 2016



Anthony Cerulli

Anthony Cerulli, associate professor of Asian languages and cultures • Hometown: Minneapolis • Educational/professional background: B.A. in political science and theology, Loyola University Chicago; M.A. in religious studies, Yale University; Ph.D. in history of religions, University of Chicago

How did you get into your field of research?

Around my sophomore or junior year of high school, I took a course that explored Asian religions, and I was instantly drawn to the varieties of religious thought and practice around the world. Texts like the Bhagavad Gita and the Dao De Jing, and writers like Jack Kerouac and Gary Snyder, were important early influences on me. In college, a couple of my professors further amplified my interest in Hinduism, Buddhism, and the history of India. From there, a lengthy stay in Varanasi, India, sealed the deal for me. I decided to pursue graduate studies in Sanskrit language and literature and the history of India. Along the way, I also developed a keen interest in the medical humanities and the history of medicine (especially in India).

What attracted you to UW–Madison?

UW-Madison is an international leader in South Asian Studies and it has been for a long time. Since grad school I’ve paid attention to what the South Asian Studies faculty here have been doing in the classroom, in the field, and in print. Moreover, every October scholars from all over the world who study South Asia descend on UW–Madison’s campus for the Annual Conference on South Asia, which is run by the Center for South Asia. It’s a fantastic event! I presented my very first academic paper at this conference, and I’m excited to be a part of the institution that hosts the event every year.

What was your first visit to campus like?

I first visited campus in the early 1990s while visiting friends who were pursuing their B.A.s here. I remember being especially taken by the Memorial Union terrace and the numerous fun activities on and around campus.

Favorite place on campus?

Observatory Drive Overlook

What are you most enjoying so far about working here?

My colleagues, the excellent and innovative research environment on campus, and the many opportunities to get involved in transdisciplinary discussions. So far Madison has been a wonderful city to live in, too.

Do you feel your work relates in any way to the Wisconsin Idea?

Yes. The subjects we study in my courses are important to our lives outside of the classroom. We examine and discuss cultures in South Asia, and the knowledge we discover and create is useful for developing an appreciation for ideas and customs that originated from that part of the world. It also often fosters a curiosity for learning about the endless ways people understand and grapple with the human condition and its challenges.

What’s something interesting about your area of expertise you can share that will make us sound smarter at parties?

Four major religions of the world originated in South Asia: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism.

Hobbies/other interests:

Traveling, jogging, photography, crossword puzzles