Woman with dark hair and glasses, dressed in saffron colored sari leaning against a stone pillar.
Archana Venkatesan, professor of religious studies and comparative literature at UC Davis. (Courtesy photo)

Archana Venkatesan Elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Two professors from the University of California, Davis, have been elected as members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, including Archana Venkatesan of the College of Letters and Science. Pamela C. Ronald, Distinguished Professor in the College of Agriculture and Environment Science, was also elected to the academy.

Established in 1780, the American Academy includes those with accomplishments in a wide range of fields, including scientists, artists, performers, poets and political leaders.

Venkatesan is a professor of religious studies and comparative literature whose research interests are in the intersection of text and performance in South India, as well as in the translation of early and medieval Tamil ecstatic poetry into English. 

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Her most recent book, published in 2020, was a translation of the Tiruvāymoḻi, an epic Tamil work from the ninth century. Her translation, Endless Song, received the 2021 Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize from the American Literary Translation Association and the 2022 AK Ramanujan Translation Prize from the Association for Asian Studies.

Her other book translations include A Hundred Measures of Time, her translation of Nammāḻvār’s 100-verse Tiruviruttam; and The Secret Garland, her translation of Āṇṭāḷ’s Tiruppāvai and Nācciyār Tirumoḻi by the ninth-century female poet and mystic Kōta. She is, with Crispin Branfoot, co-author of In Andal's Garden: Art, Ornamentation and Devotion in Srivilliputtur

She is currently working on an interdisciplinary collaborative project on the Nava Tirupati, a network of nine Vishnu temples in Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu, India.

Venkatesan, who came to UC Davis in 2007, has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities; American Institute of Indian Studies; National Endowment for the Arts; Fulbright Scholar Program; and Guggenheim Foundation. She was a Chancellor’s Fellow from 2014 to 2019 and twice served as the chair of the Department of Religious Studies in the College of Letters and Science. She earned her bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and doctorate from UC Berkeley.

— Jeffrey Day, content strategist in the UC Davis College of Letters and Science

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