SALC 22482/32482 The Other Woman: Sexual Deviancy in South Asia

(GNSE 22482/32482)

The figure of the public, often sexually deviant, female in South Asia has existed and been imagined in myriad ways over the centuries, including as courtesans, temple workers, and royal mistresses. In the colonial period, multiple forms of supposed female deviancy began to be labeled with another term— “prostitute”—leading to the loss of social status and legal rights of many women. In this course, we will study the evolution of prostitution and female otherness in South Asian cultural and political history. We will explore how the female deviant shaped religious, social and political life; how notions of sex, sexuality and intimacy informed classical dance, music, literature and performing arts; and how sex work came to be defined and stigmatized by the colonial and postcolonial states in South Asia.

2020-21 Winter

SALC 40104 Research Themes in South Asian Studies: Aesthetic Thought

In this seminar we will attempt to understand what the realm of the ‘aesthetic’ is as a phenomenon and what ‘aesthetics’ is as a field of intellectual inquiry. Our goal will be to understand individually and analyze comparatively material from major traditions of aesthetic thought in South Asia in order to understand how people at various times and places have delineated the concept or phenomenon of aesthetic experience and attempted to explain it. One of the salient questions in the course will be whether any distinction can or should be made between ‘critical’ and ‘creative’ works when speaking of aesthetic discourse. Ultimately, our aim is not simply to understand aesthetic discourse on its own terms, but to understand how it intersects other critical, creative, social, and political discourses, such as poetics, ethics, statecraft, metaphysics, etcetera, and to observe how it functions in spheres beyond ‘art’ proper, such as religion, politics, and human sexuality.

2020-21 Spring

SALC 39923 Readings in Indo-Persian Literature IV

In this graduate seminar course, we will read and discuss selections from two sets of Mughal and early modern south Asian texts: 1) some passages from the Persian translations of early Indian Sanskrit texts; 2) commentaries and observations on the classical Persian poetry and prose by south Asian scholars.

2020-21 Winter

SALC 25323 Tolerance and Intolerance in South Asia

(CRES 25323 / HIST 26812 / RLST 25323 / KNOW 25323)

Few places in the world are as embroiled in the problem of diversity as South Asia, where sectarian violence—fought mainly along religious lines, but also along caste, gender, and linguistic lines—is at the center of political maneuvering. South Asia offers important lessons in how people manage to live together despite histories of mutual strife and conflict about communities and castes.
Focusing on the period of British colonial rule, this class explores different instances and ideologies of toleration and conflict. How were South Asian discourses of toleration by such leaders as Gandhi and Nehru different from their European counterparts (e.g., John Locke and John Rawls)? How did their ideologies differ from those articulated by their minority peers such as Ambedkar, Azad, and Madani?
We will analyze constitutive precepts, namely secularism, syncretism, toleration. Our attention here will be on the universal connotations of these ideas and their South Asian expression. Fifth week onward, we will turn our attention to select thinkers: Gandhi, Ambedkar, Azad, Madani. Our focus here will be on the ways that each intellectual negotiated the thorny issues of toleration, difference, ethnicity, and belonging. All the thinkers covered in this class had an active presence in nationalist era politics. Finally, we will read historical accounts of some of the most frequent causes of intolerance, namely cow slaughter, music played before the mosque, and desecration of sacred objects.

2020-21 Spring

SALC 25322 Enlightenment Modernity and Colonial South Asia

(HIST 26811 / KNOW 25322)

In Kant’s words, the work of public reasoning was the condition for “man’s exit from self-imposed immaturity.” In the colony, however, the critique of existing society as insufficiently reasonable came to be caught up in the justification of Britain’s “liberal” colonial project, and the obligation to Reason autonomously was embroiled in the case for empire. The Indian pursuit of enlightened reason was deeply aware of its uncomfortable proximity to empire, yet intellectuals of a variety of stripes advanced claims of "enlightenment.”

Would the appeal to Reason bring about a new moral world or a derivatively imitative landscape? Could the Enlightenment be so truly universal that the colonized could claim it without disowning their past? What relationship would the moral resources of India’s past share with the task social critique for a new generation of radical intellectuals? In order to address the promise and perils of colonial Enlightenment and its most controversial debates, this course will focus on a variety of primary and secondary sources. We will look at arguments penned by a range of Indian and British thinkers and at how the rich historiography of India’s 19th century may be placed in productive dialogue with the normative theory produced by Europe’s “Enlightenment.” Turning to the history of 19th century India will help us complicate the history of the Enlightenment as a whole, and contribute to help draft a new and broader answer: what is “Enlightenment?"

2020-21 Spring

SALC 27904 /43800 Wives, Widows, and Prostitutes: Indian Literature and the "Women's Question"

(GNSE 27902 / GNSE 47900 )

From the early 19th century onward, the debate on the status of Indian women was an integral part of the discourse on the state of civilization, Hindu tradition, and social reform in colonial India. This course will explore how Indian authors of the late 19th and early 20th centuries engaged with the so-called "women's question." Caught between middle-class conservatism and the urge for social reform, Hindi and Urdu writers addressed controversial issues such as female education, child marriage, widow remarriage, and prostitution in their fictional and discursive writings. We will explore the tensions of a literary and social agenda that advocated the 'uplift' of women as a necessary precondition for the progress of the nation, while also expressing patriarchal fears about women's rights and freedom. The course is open to both undergraduate and graduate students. Basic knowledge of Hindi and/or Urdu is preferable, but not required. We will read works by Nazir Ahmad, Premcand, Jainendra Kumar, Mirza Hadi Ruswa, and Mahadevi Varma in English translation, and also look at texts used in Indian female education at the time.

2020-21 Spring

SALC 20902 /30902 Indian Philosophy II: The Classical Traditions

(HREL 30300 / MDVL 24202 / RLST 24202 )

This course follows the first module on Indian philosophy by exploring the debates between several classical "schools" or "viewpoints" (darśanas) of Indian philosophy. In addition to expanding upon the methods of systematized reasoning inaugurated by the Nyāya and Buddhist epistemological traditions, particular attention will be given to systems of scriptural hermeneutics -- Mīmāṃsā and Vedānta -- and their consequences for the philosophy of language, theories of cognitive error, and even poetics.

Andrew Ollett, Anand Venkatkrishnan
2020-21 Spring

SALC 40000 South Asia as a Unit of Study

The central aim of this course will be to closely read and discuss read four recent monographs in the field, with an eye towards thinking through questions of their place in the history of the field and (as is inevitably the case a heterogeneous discipline like area studies) of the connections with other fields or bodies of scholarship. During the even weeks of the quarter we will read these four books in their entirety; in the odd-numbered weeks (except week 1), groups of the students, working in collaboration with the instructor, will generate and present a selection of articles that contextualize the preceding week's monograph both within and without South Asian studies. The course is therefore collaborative and somewhat experimental: the instructor will arrange to meet with the class participants collectively in the beginning of the Fall quarter to get them organized into groups for preparing these selections. These groups will be responsible for leading discussion for their sessions, while a different group will be responsible for presenting and leading discussion for each monograph. Everyone will thus participate in two group presentations, which will be part of the assessment. The remaining part of the grade will be determined by an end-of-quarter essay, based on either of these presentations.

2020-21 Winter

SALC 29002 /39002 Tibet: Culture, Art, and History

This class will introduce students to Tibetan civilization from pre-modernity to the present with an emphasis on literature, society, visual arts, and history. Attention will be paid to Tibet’s relations with neighboring polities in South, East, and Central Asia, as well as distinctive indigenous practices. The course will cover a range of Tibetan cultural forms, highlighting pre-modern sciences of medicine, logic, and meditation, as well as contemporary developments in Tibetan modernity and the diaspora communities. Course materials will include primary sources in translation (e.g. Dunhuang manuscripts and other literature), contemporary scholarship, as well as audio-visual materials.

In addition to informed participation in course meetings/discussions, including regular, timely completion of reading assignments, students are expected to write two short (5–7pg) papers. Students will have the opportunity to work on any topics of Tibetan culture, art and history of their choosing for the final assignment.

2020-21 Autumn
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