An interdepartmental program in South Asian Studies

Last updated: August 28, 2009 at 11:17 a.m.


The South Asian studies program provides a minor (open to students in any major) for those who wish to structure their studies of South Asia or the South Asian Diaspora. The minor offers an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the literatures, histories, societies, cultures, religions, arts, and contemporary importance of South Asia and diasporic South Asian communities. South Asia, one of the world’s most populous and significant regions, includes the modern nations of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, and in certain contexts Afghanistan, Maldives, Myanmar, and Tibet. Students completing the minor will come away with a strong understanding of the intellectual, cultural, political, economic, and social developments at key periods in South Asia’s history and in the contemporary era.

How to Become a Minor

To enroll in the program, students must see one of the undergraduate advising head. Together they will select as an advisor a faculty member who seems best suited to that student's interests. Students in the minor work closely with the advisor to develop an individual plan of study. In addition to selecting courses at Brandeis, students may take advantage of the resources of neighboring institutions through the Boston Area Consortium. Courses may be taken at Boston College, Boston University, Tufts University, and Wellesley College. Study abroad in South Asia for a semester is also encouraged.

Program Faculty

Sarah Lamb, Program Co-Chair

Harleen Singh, Program Co-Chair and Undergraduate Advising Head
(German, Russian and Asian Languages and Literature)

Ulka Anjaria
(English and American Literature)

Shilpa Davé
(American Studies)

Nidhiya Menon

Ellen Schattschneider

Govind Sreenivasan

Requirements for the Minor

The minor in South Asian studies requires a minimum of five semester courses, distributed as follows:

A. Introduction to South Asia (SAS 100a), the South Asian studies core course.

B. Four additional courses from the approved South Asian studies curriculum, taken from at least two different departments.

C. A minimum of three of the five courses required for the minor must be taken from Brandeis faculty. Courses taken at other institutions for credit must be approved by the student’s advisor and program chair.

D. No course with a final grade below C- can count toward the SAS minor.

E. No more than two courses taken for the SAS minor can double-count toward any other single major or minor.

Students are also encouraged to spend one or two semesters abroad at an approved academic program in South Asia during their junior year. Appropriate courses taken abroad may count toward the minor. More information can be obtained in the Office of Study Abroad in Usdan 127.

Courses of Instruction

(1-99) Primarily for Undergraduate Students

SAS 92a Internship
Combines off-campus experience in a South Asia-related internship with written analysis under the supervision of a faculty sponsor. Students arrange their own internships. Counts only once toward fulfillment of requirements for the minor.

SAS 98a Independent Study
Usually offered every year.

(100-199) For Both Undergraduate and Graduate Students

SAS 100a Introduction to South Asia
[ nw ss ]
An exploration of the history, societies, cultures, religions, and literature of South Asia--India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Uses perspectives from history, anthropology, literature, and film to examine past and contemporary life in South Asia. Usually offered every year.
Ms. Lamb, Ms. Singh, or Mr. Sreenivasan

SAS 101a South Asian Women Writers
[ hum nw ]
Includes literature by South Asian women writers from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. Some of the works were originally written in English, while others have been translated from the vernacular. Usually offered every year.
Ms. Singh

SAS 110b South Asian Postcolonial Writers
[ hum nw ]
Looks at the shared history of colonialism, specifically British imperialism, for many countries and examines the postcolonial novel written in English. Works read include those from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. Usually offered every year.
Ms. Singh

SAS 140a We Who Are at Home Everywhere: Narratives from the South Asian Diaspora
[ hum ]
Looks at narratives from various locations of the South Asian Diaspora, while paying close attention to the emergence of an immigrant South Asian public culture. Examines novels, poetry, short stories, film, and music in order to further an understanding of South Asian immigrant culture. Usually offered every second year.
Ms. Singh

SAS 150b Indian Film: The Three-Hour Dream
[ hum nw ]
A study of Hindi films made in India since 1947 with a few notable exceptions from regional film, as well as some recent films made in English. Students will read Hindi films as texts/narratives of the nation to probe the occurrence of cultural, religious, historical, political, and social themes. Usually offered every second year.
Ms. Singh

SAS 170b South Asia in the Colonial Archive
[ hum ]
Looks at colonial constructions of gender and race through a historical and literary investigation of British colonialism in South Asia. Examines intersections and constructions of gender, race, class, and sexuality within the parameters of British colonialism. Usually offered every second year.
Ms. Singh

Core Elective Courses

ANTH 134a South Asian Culture and Society
[ nw ss ]
May be repeated for credit if taught by different instructors.
Examines the diversity and richness of the cultures and societies of South Asia, with a focus on India. Concentrates on the lived experiences of class, caste, gender, religion, politics, and region in people's everyday lives. Usually offered every third year.
Ms. Jassal or Ms. Lamb

ANTH 154b Gender and Development: Perspectives from South Asia
[ nw ss ]
Examines the gendered nature and impact of major development projects in South Asia over the past sixty years, with a focus on India. Topics include the role of states in institutionalizing gender inequalities; women's and men's comparative access to land, jobs and education; steadily falling sex ratios; environmental policies and access to resources; gendering globalization; and efforts to promote social justice. Special one-time offering, spring 2009.
Ms. Jassal

ENG 20a Bollywood: Popular Film, Genre, and Society
[ hum nw ]
An introduction to popular Hindi cinema through a survey of the most important Bollywood films from the 1950s until today. Topics include melodrama, song and dance, love and sex, stardom, nationalism, religion, diasporic migration, and globalization. Usually offered every third year.
Ms. Anjaria

ENG 22a Filmi Fictions: From Page to Screen in India
[ hum nw ]
An introduction to filmic adaptations of Indian novels from Bollywood, Indian art cinema, and Hollywood. Readings include novels as well as theoretical approaches to adaptation. Films include Slumdog Millionaire, Pather Panchali, Devdas, Guide, Umrao Jaan, and others. Usually offered every third year.
Ms. Anjaria

ENG 127a The Novel in India
[ hum nw wi ]
Survey of the novel and short story of the Indian subcontinent, their formal experiments in context of nationalism and postcolonial history. Authors may include Tagore, Anand, Manto, Desani, Narayan, Desai, Devi, Rushdie, Roy, Mistry, and Chaudhuri. Usually offered every second year.

Additional SAS Elective Courses (requiring a paper and prior approval from the SAS chair)

The following courses include South Asia as one of the several areas studied. These courses would count toward the minor only if students discuss course content with the instructor and obtain prior permission from the program chair. Normally students wishing to take such a course for the minor will write a paper on South Asia or the South Asian Diaspora.

AMST 140b The Asian American Experience
[ oc ss ]
Examines the political, economic, social, and contemporary issues related to Asians in the United States from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. Topics include patterns of immigration and settlement, and individual, family, and community formation explored through history, literature, personal essays, films, and other popular media sources. Usually offered every second year.
Ms. Davé

AMST 142b Love, Law, and Labor: Asian American Women and Literature
[ ss ]
Explores the intersection of ethnicity, race, class, gender, and sexualities in the lives and literatures of diverse Asian American women. Discusses the historical, social, political, and economic forces shaping those lives and how they are reflected in literature. Usually offered every second year.
Ms. Davé

ANTH 111a Aging in Cross-Cultural Perspective
[ nw ss wi ]
Examines the meanings and social arrangements given to aging in a diversity of societies, including the U.S., India, Japan and China. Key themes include: the diverse ways people envision and organize the life course, scholarly and popular models of successful aging, the medicalization of aging in the U.S., cultural perspectives on dementia, and the ways national aging policies and laws are profoundly influenced by particular cultural models. Usually offered every third year.
Ms. Lamb

ANTH 129b Global, Transnational, and Diasporic Communities
[ ss ]
Examines social and cultural dimensions of globalization from an anthropological perspective. Topics include the impact of global capitalism upon indigenous communities, global forms of popular culture and consumerism, transnational migration and diasporas, changing inequalities and gender systems, global sexual cultures, and the AIDS pandemic. Usually offered every second year.
Ms. Ferry or Ms. Lamb

ANTH 137b Gender and the Sacred in Asia
[ ss ]
Ritual, violence, gender, religion, and cultural creativity in Asia, especially East Asia and South Asia. Religious movements, sacrifice and patriliny, and the ritualization of state power through religious imagery and institutions. Roles of religious leaders and spiritual movements in conflict resolution and peacemaking. Usually offered every second year.
Ms. Schattschneider

COML 122b Writing Home and Abroad: Literature by Women of Color
[ hum nw ]
Examines literature (prose, poetry, and memoirs) written by women of color across a wide spectrum of geographical and cultural sites. Literature written within the confines of the "home country" in the vernacular, as well as in English in immigrant locales, is read. The intersections of race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, and class as contained by the larger institutions of government, religion, nationalism, and sectarian politics are examined. Usually offered every second year.
Ms. Singh

ECON 176a The Household, Health, and Hunger in Developing Countries
[ nw ss ]
Prerequisites: ECON 80a and 83a or permisson of the instructor. ECON 175a is recommended. Primarily recommended for juniors and seniors.
Examines aspects of poverty and nutrition that are confronted by households in low-income countries. Examines these issues primarily from a microeconomic perspective, although some macroeconomic angles are explored as well. Usually offered every year.
Ms. Menon

ENG 77b Literatures of Global English
[ hum nw ]
Survey of world Anglophone literatures, in translation, with attention to writers' literary responses to aspects of English as a global language with a colonial history. Focus on Indian subcontinent, Africa, the Caribbean, North America. Writers may include Rushdie, Devi, Coetzee, Kincaid, Atwood, Anzaldua. Usually offered every year.

FA 12a History of Asian Art
[ ca nw ]
A selective survey of the art of the three major Asian areas: India, China, and Japan. Usually offered every year.
Ms. Wong

FA 13b Buddhist Art
[ ca nw ]
The history of Buddhist art on the Silk Road. Usually offered every third year.
Ms. Wong

HS 236a International Health Systems
Studies how global movements in dealing with health have shaped health systems, the emerging challenges developing countries are facing, and how these might affect health systems. Students will study the link between health and development, how health systems are organized, how health care is financed, and the role of public and private sectors in providing health care, regulation, and consumer behavior. Usually offered every year.
Mr. Gaumer or Mr. Nandakumar

HSSP 102a Global Perspectives on Health
[ ss ]
A primer on major issues in health care in developing nations. Topics include the natural history of disease and levels of prevention; epidemiological transitions; health disparities; and determinants of health including culture, social context, and behavior. Also covers: infectious and chronic disease incidence and prevalence; the role of nutrition, education, reproductive trends, and poverty; demographic transition including aging and urbanization; the structure and financing of health systems; and the globalization of health. Usually offered every year.
Ms. Bhalotra

REL 151a The Buddha: His Life and Teachings
[ hum nw ]
Few human beings have had as much impact on the world as Siddhartha Gotama Shakyamuni, known to us as Buddha. This course explores his life and teachings as reflected in early Buddhist literature and Western scholarship. Usually offered every year.