Academic Programs

The Department of South Asian Studies builds upon more than a century of distinguished scholarship in the study of South Asia, most recently under the auspices of the Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies. On July 1, 2011, a broader Department of South Asian Studies was launched, drawing faculty from Sanskrit and Indian Studies as well as faculty from across the humanities and interpretive social sciences. The new department strengthens and broadens the intellectual profile of its predecessor, preserving its long-standing strengths while expanding its resources for the study and teaching of South Asia, broadly conceived.

For undergraduates - A concentration in South Asian Studies enables students to develop a critical understanding of the diverse cultures, histories, languages, and literatures of South Asia, which includes modern India, Pakistan, Tibet, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. South Asia is home to more than a billion people and some of the world’s most fascinating and important civilizations. Its influence has extended historically from Central, East, and Southeast Asia to Europe and North America, which today have vibrant South Asian diasporas.  The study of South Asia is an increasingly important area of academic inquiry, especially in recent decades, as the region emerges as a global cultural, economic, and political power.

For graduate students - The Department of South Asian Studies offers programs of study leading to the doctor of philosophy (PhD) degree. While graduate work is tailored to individual intellectual interests, it is our expectation that all doctoral students will ground their work in primary language materials and participate in broadly interdisciplinary studies of South Asian languages, histories, and cultures.

The department has historic and well-defined courses of graduate study in Sanskrit and Indian Studies and Tibetan and Himalayan Studies, and these courses of study will continue. It is our expectation that some candidates for doctoral study will propose other programs in South Asian Studies. These programs of study may have a regional emphasis, a disciplinary or multi-disciplinary emphasis, or an emphasis on a particular era of South Asian history, including modern South Asia. Some of the most exciting multi-disciplinary work in the global academy today has been pioneered by scholars of South Asian Studies, and it is our intention to provide a platform for such study here at Harvard. It is understood that doctoral students in South Asian Studies will work with members of the department who may make their primary home in Anthropology, History, History of Art and Architecture, Linguistics, Music, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, and the Study of Religion and, indeed, with faculty beyond the department.