bringing the past to the present

David Kopf

Ph.D. University of Chicago, 1964

David Kopf's first book, BRITISH ORIENTALISM AND THE BENGAL RENAISSANCE, was one of three selected for the Watumull Prize as the best monograph on South Asia published in the U.S. in 1969-70. The book was largely a study of the process of modernization in the context of East-West cultural contact and acculturation.

Mr. Kopf has published a number of his papers for learned societies dealing with the formation of a modern class of professional intelligentsia in nineteenth-century Bengal. His think-piece linking anthropology and history together through the study of renaissance as a revitalization movement appeared in a Duke University anthology on the PROBLEMS OF MODERNIZATION IN SOUTH ASIA IN 1970.

Mr. Kopf returned in 1971 from two years in India where he collected materials for a second book on Bengal dealing with the social history of a community known as the Brahmo Samaj. In 1971-72 Kopf gave papers on aspects of Brahmo history to learned bodies and universities throughout the U.S. He returned to India in October 1972 to participate in an international symposium on "Rammohun Roy as Father of Modern India".

He has also been a co-author with other Asianists in the department of the text COMPARATIVE HISTORY OF CIVILIZATIONS IN ASIA published in 1977. He was invited to Bangladesh to participate in the newly-created Institute of Advanced Studies at Rajshahi University and was awarded a quarter leave to spend three months there in the winter of 1975. He returned to Bangladesh in the fall of 1976 as a Ford Foundation Fellow and Visiting Professor at the Institute of Bangladesh Studies.

He published his THE BRAHMO SAMJ AND THE SHAPING OF THE MODERN INDIAN MIND in 1979 (Princeton Press). In that same year he received a Guggenheim Fellowship to begin a new line of research on the genesis and early development of Hindu counter-traditions in Bengal. His new interest deals with the broader comparative problem of sexuality and religion, about which he has written two papers and around which he has constructed a new graduate course.

Meanwhile, Kopf continues his research and teaching interest in comparative world history. In September 1981 he participated in a colloquium on "East West: Mutual Perceptions" at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton; in November 1981 he was speaker at another comparative conference on Religion and Revolution given at the University of Minnesota. Professor Kopf was invited on a lecture and seminar tour of South Asia centers in Australian universities during July-August 1982.

Since 1982, several of Kopf's papers given at conferences on comparative themes have been published. These include traditionalism in the modernization process, designs of selfhood, and education in colonial societies. In 1984, Professor Kopf was invited as a delegate to the International Seminar Commemorating the Bicentenary of the Asiatic Society of Bengal in Calcutta.

In the winter of 1984, Kopf was a visiting Professor in the Department of History at the University of Calcutta. Since 1984, Professor Kopf has several articles including "A Look at Nehru's World History From The Dark Side of Modernity in the JOURNAL OF WORLD HISTORY (Spring 1991), on: Rabindranath Tagore as Bengali Prophet of Twentieth Century Genocide" in a book on Tagore, and "A History of Historical Writings on British Orientalism" in a book of papers given at a world conference at Toronto, 1990. Kopf has given several papers on comparative world history in Amsterdam, Berlin, and Shanghai, among other places.

The genocide in Cambodia under Pol Pot was a topic that he began to pursue in earnest in 1986. In 1988, he was invited to give a lecture on the subject at the Second International Scholars' Conference on Cambodia in Washington, D.C. (September, 1988). His interest in genocide became comparative and his first lecture on the subject was given as a Keynote Address for the International Society for the Comparative Study of Civilizations at Berkeley (University of California) in June, 1989. He is at work on a book dealing with war and genocide during World War II with a sociologist, Eric Markusen. Kopf was elected vice-president of the ISCSC in 1992. The book by Markusen and Kopf was published in 1995 by Westview with the title The Holocaust and Strategic Bombing: Genocide and Total War in the Twentieth Century. Kopf received a Bush Sabbatical Supplement Grant to complete research on a book dealing with war, nationalism and genocide since World War II.