SALC 65601 Extra-Ordinary Ordinary: Reading and Writing Grassroots and Microhistory

(HIST 65601 / EALC 65601)

This graduate colloquium confronts the challenges of writing history from the bottom up. Although the syllabus engages with debates launched by the Subaltern Studies Collective, our investigation will not adopt a specific regional or temporal focus. Students can experiment beyond their usual writing style or topic. We will engage with the theoretical legacies and challenges of postcolonial history writing, the linguistic turn, and microhistory. The course pays special attention to different ways to grapple with sources and the construction of diverse archives.

Johanna Ransmeier
2020-21 Winter

SALC 26111 Queer Asias I

(CMLT 26111)

This course explores representations of queerness, same-sex love and sexualities and debates around them by introducing students to a variety of literary texts translated from Asian languages as well as Asian films, geographically ranging from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to China, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Korea and Singapore. We will also read scholarship that will help us place the production and reception of these primary sources in historical, political, cultural and religious contexts. In particular, we will examine questions of history and continuity (recurrent themes and images); form and genre (differences of representation in mythological narratives, poetry, biography, fiction, erotic/legal/medical treatises); the relationship of gender to sexuality (differences and similarities between representations of male-male and female-female relations); queerness as a site for exploring other differences, such as caste or religious difference; and questions of cross-cultural and transnational dialogue and cultural specificity. This course is part one of a two-quarter sequence, with the second part offered in Winter Quarter 2021. Each quarter can also be taken separately. Students need to be available for 2 synchronous online meetings per week.

Nisha Kommattam
2020-21 Autumn

SALC 26112 Queer Asia(s) 2

(CMLT 26112 / HMRT 26112 / GNSE 26112)

While this course is conceptualized as a sequel to Queer Asia(s) 1 from last fall, it is nevertheless a standalone course that can be taken separately, without prerequisites. This course continues to explore representations of queerness, same-sex love and sexualities and debates around them by introducing students to a variety of literature and films in both Asian languages and English. The geographic regions represented include India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, China, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Korea and Singapore. There will be a focus on the modern/contemporary period as well as queer diasporas. We will also read scholarship that will help us place the production and reception of these primary sources in historical, political, cultural and religious contexts. Questions of cross-cultural and transnational dialogue and cultural specificity will be addressed. Students need to be available for 2 synchronous online meetings per week.

Nisha Kommattam
2020-21 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. *Taught MW 1:30-2:50pm*

2020-21 Winter

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 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
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