SALC 26075 South Asian Sensoriums

(ARCH 26075 / SIGN 26075)

What is a ‘sense’? How do we attune, coordinate, and interpret our senses and the information that we receive through them? How do we structure and shape the world around us for and through the senses? We will address these questions by diving into the multi-sensory worlds of South Asia—a region that includes the present states of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, and Sri Lanka—and learning how peoples of the region have theorized and employed the senses to understand and shape their aesthetic, social, and religious worlds. We will taste spices, smell fragrances, listen to music and street sounds, ‘visit’ temples, mosques, and museums, read literary, philosophical, and religious texts, and view works of visual and sculptural art in order to better understand which aspects of sensory experience are indeed ‘universal’ and which are conditioned by history and culture.

2022-23 Spring

SALC 40105 Research Themes in South Asian Studies: What is Brahmanism?


2021-22 Spring

SALC 20200 Introduction to the Civilizations of South Asia II

(ANTH 24102 / HIST 10900 / SOSC 23100)

The second quarter analyzes the colonial period (i.e., reform movements, the rise of nationalism, communalism, caste, and other identity movements) up to the independence and partition of India.

2022-23 Spring

SALC 21352 Coming of Age: Youth Cultures in Postcolonial India

(CRES 21352 / GLST 21352 / GNSE 21352 / HIST 26906 / KNOW 21352 / SOCI 20533)

In this course, we will gain a deeper understanding of how certain key moments in postcolonial India–from student protests to an economic transition to globalization, from rise of Bollywood to the omnipresence of social media–have shaped the youth of the country and how young people in turn have been at the forefront of some of the major events and have created history on their own terms. We will ask-if youth is a construct like gender and caste then how was it constructed over the last seventy years? We will keep two guiding questions in mind–who all are considered to be the youth in postcolonial India? And–what are the lived experiences of young people during this time? The ever changing, seemingly arbitrary, and conflicting definitions of youth in government reports, commercial advertisements, or popular culture demands a thorough analysis of this category inside out.

We will take an inter-disciplinary approach and examine how the identity of being young intersects with other identities such as class, ethnicity, linguistic abilities and so on. By identifying the constitutive elements of being part of the young generation in a young nation such as India, we will challenge any homogeneous perception of “the youth” and read young people’s experiences in their own contexts. Focusing on youth culture in South Asia will help us think critically about youth culture studies where the Global South remains underrepresented.

2021-22 Winter

SALC 20100 /30100 Introduction to the Civilizations of South Asia I

(ANTH 24101 / HIST 10800 / MDVL 20100 / SOSC 23000)

The first quarter focuses on Islam in South Asia, Hindu-Muslim interaction, Mughal political and literary traditions, and South Asia’s early encounters with Europe.

2022-23 Winter

SALC 26250/46250 Padavali: Vernacular poetics in eastern South Asia (ca. 14th-18th AD)

(BANG 26250 / BANG 46250 / MDVL 26260 / MUSI 23121 / MUSI 33121)

Padavali (vernacular lyric poetry) is one of the threads that tied together the cultural region of eastern India from Tripura to Bihar, and from Assam to Odisha. In this course, we will study the making of this tradition rooted in the courtly poems of Vidyapati (ca. 1370-1460, Mithila) and follow its spread in Nepal, Assam, Bengal, and Odisha. We will discuss the very close relation between form and content in this poetic tradition that was closely connected with music. We will also study the expressive use of a complex prosodic system that was never described in the form of treatises and the many debates around the trans-regional aspects of Brajabuli as an artificial vernacular poetic idiom. Moreover, we will compare padavali literature with other premodern traditions from Medieval Europe, especially Old Occitan troubadour poetry and lyric poetry in Andalusian Arabic. This comparative approach is motivated by the many parallels one can observe between Medieval southern Europe and eastern South Asia, starting with the conscious crafting of lyric vernacular traditions in multilingual contexts against the background of classical literary cultures.

2021-22 Autumn

SALC 28602/48602 Persian Poetry and Philology

(NEHC 48602 / PERS 48602)

This course offers an introduction to Persian philology as it developed in South Asia during the late Mughal period. Our aim is to observe how Persian was studied as a literary idiom and how poems were read taking grammar as a point of entry.
The first sessions will provide an introduction to some fundamental methods and basic terminology of Indo-Persian philology. We will read the short prefaces of two traditional grammars: Anṣārī Jaunpūrī (d. 1225/1810, Murshidabad)'s Qawāʿid-i fārsī and ʿAbd al-Wāsiʿ Hānsawī (fl. 2nd half 17th)'s Risala-yi ʿAbd al-Wāsiʿ. Then, we will look at a selection of examples to see how this grammatical knowledge was used to analyze the language of classical mathnawīs by closely reading the comments made on some verses taken from Jāmī's Yūsuf o Zulaykhā.
After these introductory classes, will focus on Akbar (r. 1556-1605)'s poet laureate (malik al-shuʾarā) Faiḍī's Nal Daman. Nal Daman is a mathnawī that is part of an unfinished project of khamsa. The poem is the adaptation of a very popular story found in the Sanskrit Mahābhārata and in several South Asian vernacular versions. In class will use a 19th-c. lithographed edition of Nal Daman that contains a ḥāshiya.

2021-22 Autumn

SALC 22605 /32606 Classical Literature of South Asia: Part One

This is a broadly chronological survey of South Asia’s literary traditions. In the first part of this two-part sequence, our focus will be on the first millennium CE, and we will read a wide variety of literary works in translation: lyric poetry, stage plays, courtly epics, romances and satires. We will read these texts as representing both evolving traditions of literary art and a diverse constellation of social imaginaries. Our conversations will thus range over: questions of language, genre, form and style; subcontinental traditions of poetics, which elaborated the themes and techniques of literary art; issues of sexuality and gender; the intellectual and religious traditions with which works of literature were in conversation; contexts of performance; and issues of literary history. We will sometimes read short texts in the original languages (Prakrit, Tamil and Sanskrit) to gain a better understanding of their texture and technique, but no prior knowledge of South Asian languages is required. The second part of this two-part sequence will cover South Asian literature from about 1000 to 1750. The courses may be taken in any order.

2021-22 Autumn

SALC 24000 /34000 Language, Power, Cultural Identity: The Hindi-Urdu Controversy in Historical Perspective

Central to the cultural politics of nineteenth-century North India, the language debate over Hindi and Urdu has been viewed both as an instance of Hindu-Muslim elite competition over economic and political power and as an ideological process of identity formation in which language and script became charged cultural and political symbols. This course traces the history of the Hindi-Urdu controversy from its local beginnings in the North-Western Provinces of British India in the 1830s to the debates over the national language of India and Pakistan in the years leading up to Independence. We will explore the role of prominent figures and institutions in the divisive process in which Hindi came to be exclusively identified with Hindus, and Urdu with Muslims. Paying close attention to a variety of primary sources, we will discuss the cultural, political, and socioeconomic implications of the language debate in the context of Indian nationalism and Muslim separatism.

The course is open to undergraduate and graduate students. Basic knowledge of Hindi and/or Urdu is required.

2021-22 Autumn

SALC 20203/30203 Caste and Race: The Politics of Radical Equality

(GLST 20203 / GNSE 22233 / GNSE 32233 / KNOW 20203 / KNOW 30203 / SOCI 20529 / SOCI 30529)

This course will explore the bodies of knowledge surrounding the politics and practices of caste in South Asia. We will study the emergence and development of radical social movements in the colonial and postcolonial periods that were opposed to caste oppression, along with scholarship that seeks to understand how such a form of social hierarchy and difference operates within regional and national communities. We will also examine how caste interacts with forms of identity such as class, gender, and religion. Caste has often been compared to race: we will study historical parallels as well as present scholarship and activism that aligns political struggles against caste and racial injustice in South Asia and the United States.

Through close readings of primary sources and secondary literature in the fields of history, political science, anthropology and literature, the course will foreground the ubiquity of caste in everyday life in South Asia; the epistemologies that have developed to explain, understand and accommodate it; and finally the urgent, radical struggles that seek to annihilate it.

2020-21 Spring
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