Welcome to the Department of South Asian Studies!

Gateway Courses in South Asian Studies, Spring 2015

Spring 2015

SAS 127, Editing Indian Texts
First Meeting, Th, Jan. 29th, 10:00am, Room 318, 1 Bow St. - Michael Witzel
This course aims at describing the methods and tools employed when critically editing Indian (mainly Sanskrit) texts, especially the use of stemma and modern computer-based editing and stemmatic programs, largely borrowed from biology.

SAS 188, South Asian Political Ecology
W, 3-5:00pm, Room 330, 1 Bow St. - Anand Vaidya and Ajantha Subramanian
Despite great efforts, scientists and activists have found themselves unable to bring about political changes that might reverse environmental degradation. This degradation has been caused by humans, but humans have not able to stop the processes behind it. South Asia is exceptionally vulnerable to the effects of environmental degradation and critical to any global solutions to it. This seminar examines case studies of environmental politics in South Asia to explore fundamental questions about human agency and historical change, to understand how the environment is understood, why efforts to prevent its degradation have failed, and to explore interventions that might succeed.

SAS 189, History of Buddhism in South Asia
M, 2-4:00pm, Room 317, 1 Bow St. - Shenghai Li
The growth of diverse Buddhist traditions of Asia and elsewhere rests on the historical foundation of the evolution of Buddhism in South Asia. This course will examine different forms of historical representation found in both contemporary academic scholarship and pre-modern historical traditions. As a group we will collectively engage with the critical issues and major developments in the study of Buddhism on the South Asian subcontinent.

SAS 193, Class and the City in Indian Cinema
M, 1-3:00pm, Room 330, 1 Bow St. - Shankar Ramaswami
This course will examine imaginaries and understandings of class and cities in Indian cinema. How are struggles for earnings and mobility in the city - of migrants, workers, and middle classes - represented in Indian cinema? In what ways is the city viewed as a space of ethical deviations and compromises? How does class shape experiences of friendship, family, and erotic love? What visions of politics, justice, and hope arise in Indian cinema? The course will explore these questions in commercial, art, and documentary films (in Bengali, Hindi, and Marathi, with English subtitles), along with readings in history, anthropology, and cinema studies. Screenings will include films by Satyajit Ray, Guru Dutt, Raj Kapoor, Yash Chopra, Muzaffar Ali, and Anand Patwardhan.

SAS 196, Capitalism and Cosmology in Modern India
W, 1-3:00pm, Room 330, 1 Bow St. - Shankar Ramaswami
This course will explore the lives, politics, and cosmologies of working-class persons in modern India. The course will examine contemporary debates on globalization, development, and ecology; workers’ experiences of factory work, informality, and agitations; and workers’ religious practices, theologies, and cosmological visions. Core concerns of the course will include inquiries into the appropriate categories for understanding workers’ lives and visions, and the possibilities for autonomous, nonviolent politics among working people in India. The course will draw upon a range of sources, including anthropology, history, religious studies, epics, and Hindi cinema.

Tibetan 190, Understanding Histories of Tibet
Tu, Th, 11:30-1pm, Room 317, 1 Bow St. - Xin Wen and Leonard W. J. van der Kuijp
This course introduces two histories of Tibet. The first history begins from the remote past, covering the evolution of political, religious and ideological institutions on the Tibetan plateau from the 7th century until the present. The second history is that of the more recent past, when the first history was used, misused or abused in the scholarly domain and beyond. The close intermingling of these two histories - and the frequent pretense of one as the other - makes “Tibet” uniquely useful in our understanding the very nature of the humanistic inquiry that we call history. Instead of looking at the Tibetan plateau as a self-sufficient unit of historical analysis, this course situates the Tibetan plateau between China, India, Central Asia, Western Asia and the “West.” Specifically, students will be introduced to themes such as: the changing domains of the Tibetan cultural areas; Buddhism’s historical and historiographical conquests of Tibet; the usefulness of the vocabulary “Golden” as well as “Dark” ages in linear historical narratives; the process of consecration of historical persons such as Songtsen Gampo and the Dalai Lamas; the subjugation of and resistence to Tibet as a part of “Chinese” history; the highly contextual representations of Tibet and Tibetan history. No prior knowledge is required.

CB 19, Understanding Islam and Contemporary Muslim Societies
Tu, 7:40-9:40pm - Ali Asani
The course is an introduction to the fundamental concepts of Islam and the role that religious ideas and institutions play in Muslim communities around the world. Its main concern is to develop an understanding of the manner in which diverse notions of religious and political authority have influenced Muslim societies politically, socially and culturally. Through specific case studies of countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, the course considers the role played by ideologies such as jihad, colonialism, nationalism, secularism, and globalization in shaping the ways in which Muslims interpret and practice their faith today. The course briefly considers the contemporary situation of Muslim minorities in Europe and the United States. The course, through on-campus and on-line options, allows those enrolled to engage with students from all over the world.
Note: This course fulfills the requirement that one of the eight General Education courses also engage substantially with Study of the Past.

HAA 184x, Painting of India
Tu, 1-3:00pm - Jinah Kim
The course explores the history of Indian painting based on the collections of the Harvard Art Museums and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. We will investigate the theory of pictorial form in India and its relationship to the society at large against the historical currents by probing the development and changes in artistic styles and material culture of painting production. We will pay particular attention to the role of media, such as palm-leaf, birch bark, paper, and pigments, along with consideration of changing symbolic and material meanings of color. Regular visits (sections) to the museums and conservations labs to examine the paintings in person are to be scheduled throughout the semester.

LING 107, Introduction to Indo-European
M, W, 11-12:00pm - Jay Jasanoff
An introduction to the historical study of the Indo-European languages, using the comparative method to arrive at a picture of the parent language of the family, Proto-Indo-European.

MUSIC 157gew, South Indian Music Theory and Practice
M, W, F, 9-10:00am - Richard Wolf
Analysis of contemporary south Indian classical composition and improvisational forms. Students will learn to sing or play an instrument and may participate in a concert at the end of the semester.

USW 32, World's Religions in Multicultural America
Tu, Th, 10-11:30am - Diana Eck
An exploration of the dynamic religious landscape of the US with special focus on Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and Sikh traditions in the most recent period of post-1965 immigration. How are faith and freedom negotiated in a more complex society? In what contexts do minority religious communities encounter long-dominant Christian and Jewish communities? How is America changing as religious communities struggle with civic, constitutional, ethical, and theological issues, especially in the post-9/11 period? Readings, films, discussion, and class projects will focus on particular cases and controversies.
Note: This course, when taken for a letter grade, meets the General Education requirement for United States in the World or Culture and Belief, but not both.

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