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Oxford professor on list of honours

Aditi Lahiri had commended the university’s 'Diversifying Portraiture initiative' as 'a wonderful programme'
Aditi Lahiri’s portrait by Rosalie Watkins
Aditi Lahiri’s portrait by Rosalie Watkins
Sourced by the Correspondent

Amit Roy   |   London   |   Published 27.12.19, 10:11 PM

A Bengali professor at Oxford has been honoured with an MBE — Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire — in the New Year’s Honours List.

The citation says: “Professor Aditi Lahiri, FBA. Professor of Linguistics, University of Oxford. For services to the Study of Linguistics. (Oxfordshire).”

In 2017, she spoke to The Telegraph when she was among the 20 people whose portraits were selected to demonstrate Oxford University’s ethnic and cultural diversity and that it was no longer a place only for those who were “white, male and stale”.

The paintings were initially displayed at an exhibition at the Bodelian Library in November before they were hung permanently in the Examinations Schools, a “well known public space”.

As the first Indian woman to hold a chair at Oxford, she commended the university’s “Diversifying Portraiture initiative” as “a wonderful programme”.

“(Indian-origin) professors and academics there are aplenty but I am the first woman chair here,” Lahiri said.

“(Sarvepalli) Radhakrishnan was the first (Indian) male to have a chair at Oxford,” she said, referring to the eminent scholar who was the Spalding Professor of Eastern Religion and Ethics from 1936-1952 before becoming vice-president of India in 1952 and President in 1962.

Her name was recommended by Dr Alice Prochaska, then principal of Somerville College, where Indira Gandhi and Margaret Thatcher were once undergraduates and where Lahiri herself is now a Fellow.

Prochaska stressed Lahiri’s credentials: “She is an immensely distinguished Professor of Linguistics, winner of numerous awards and important grants, a Fellow of the British Academy, and the first Indian woman ever to hold a ‘statutory chair’ at Oxford. She is a professorial Fellow of Somerville, and a good friend.”

“Aditi is Bengali, but really a citizen of the world, and has lived, worked and studied in India, the US, Germany and now Britain,” Prochaska said.

Lahiri’s portrait, 1m by 90cm oil, was done by Rosalie Watkins, who went to observe her subject at work in the Faculty of linguistics, Philology and Phonetics before getting five sittings at her studio in London.

“It was a real privilege to spend time with Aditi, and see her world,” commented Watkins.

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