Courses in South Asian Studies, 2019-20

FRSEMR 37Y, Muslim Voices in Contemporary World Literatures
Instructor: Ali Asani; T, 6:00-8:45 (Fall)
What do Muslims think of acts of terrorism committed in the name of Islam, the mixing of religion with politics, the rights of women, the ``West''? This seminar investigates the viewpoints of prominent Muslim writers on these and other ``hot button'' issues as reflected in novels, short stories and poetry from different parts of the world. Explores a range of issues facing Muslim communities in various parts of the world by examining the impact of colonialism, nationalism, globalization and politicization of Islam on the search for a modern Islamic identity. Readings of Muslim authors from the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, Europe and America.


GENED 1036, Global Feminisms *

Instructor: Durba Mitra; M/W, 10:30-11:45 (Fall)
Feminism shapes the world we live in today. Debates about women's and sexual rights define almost every public debate today -- from sexual harassment, to electoral politics, to development, public health, and human rights. But when, and where, did ideas of women's equal rights and liberation emerge? This course digs into the deep history of feminism from a global perspective. It traces the intimate relationship between feminism, colonialism, and racism in case studies from America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, from the eighteenth century until today. We will immerse ourselves in rare materials on transnational and global feminism in the Schlesinger Library here at Harvard. Over the course of the semester, you will build a toolkit of critical thinking and writing skills by engaging diverse primary sources, including political writings of women of color and colonized women, short stories, posters, movies, and human rights reports. You will come away from the course having a deeper understanding of ideas of equality and justice that define politics today. Readings will highlight marginalized authors, women writers, especially women of color authors, from previously enslaved women in the US South to indigenous people to colonized women in India and Africa. Reading assignments will focus on primary historical sources and encompass diverse genres, from political thought and speeches to fantasy fiction to posters. Students will build critical skills through assignments that build source analysis skills over the course of the semester, including an annotation of visual materials (a poster or cartoon), short primary source analysis papers using materials from Schlesinger Library, and a final film analysis paper.


GENED 1083, Permanent Impermanence: Why Buddhists Build Monuments

Instructors: Jinah Kim and Yukio Lippit; M/W, 12:00-1:15 (Fall)
Everything changes. This is, in its simplest and most fundamental formulation, one of the essential teachings of Buddhism. Buddhist communities throughout history have preached, practiced, and written about the ephemerality and illusoriness of our everyday lives and experiences. Ironically, however, many of these same communities have attempted to express these teachings in the form of monumental structures meant to stand the test of time. Some of the world’s greatest cultural heritage sites are a legacy of this seeming contradiction between the impermanence that is a central presupposition of Buddhist thought and the permanence to which these same monuments seem to aspire. If the world is characterized by emptiness and the Self is illusory, how does one account for the prodigious volume of art and architecture created by Buddhists throughout history? This Gen Ed course takes a multicultural and reflective engagement with the challenges presented by this conundrum through a study of Buddhist sites scattered throughout time and space. Pertinent topics such as cosmology, pilgrimage, materiality, relics, meditation, and world-making will be explored. Through these Buddhist monuments in South and Southeast Asia, the Himalayas, Central Asia, China, Korea, and Japan, students will learn about the rich, diverse world of Buddhist practice and experience.


GENED 1087, Multisensory Religion: Rethinking Islam Through the Arts *

Instructor: Ali Asani; T/Th, 12:00-1:15 (Fall)
One need only walk into a church, a mosque, a temple, a synagogue or any place of worship to experience the complexity, beauty and aesthetic power of religion through the senses. For millions of believers the world over, their experience of religion is not only—or even primarily—dictated by ideological teachings; it is forged through personal and private experiences, very often sensory in nature and embedded in the arts broadly defined. These “silent” forms of religion—silent because we generally do not hear about them in the media or in political and social spaces—are centered on the individual believers’ faith and relationship to the divine or the transcendent. The arts are key to understanding religion as a multisensory experience rather than just an ideology of identity and to asking questions like: What does it mean to call some art “religious”? Who decides what counts? On what basis? How can interpreting an individual believer’s engagement with the arts as an exercise of religious authority help us see “religion” in a new light? This course focuses on Islam as a case study through which we can explore the complex and multifaceted relationship between religion and the arts. We will learn to listen, see, and experience those “silent” forms of Islam by studying Muslims’ engagement with the literary arts (scriptures, panegyrics, love lyrics, epic romances, folk songs, and folk tales), as well as sound and visual arts (Quran and poetic recitations, music, dance, drama, architecture, calligraphy, and miniature painting). In the process, we will create a nuanced picture of the rich and multicolored tapestry of the ways in which the arts create religious tradition and innovation, weaving the voices of poets, novelists, short-story writers, folk musicians, and rock stars with those of clerics, theologians, mystics, scholars, and politicians. Given the cultural diversity of Muslim societies, the course draws on material from regions beyond the Middle East, particularly sub-Saharan Africa and South and Southeast Asia. This course assumes no prior knowledge of Islam.


GOV 94CT, The Governance and International Politics of World Regions *

Instructor: Timothy Colton; W, 9:00-11:45 (Spring)
This class investigates patterns of interaction, integration, and identity construction in contemporary world regions; political, economic, and cultural explanations for why outcomes vary across regions; and regions as competitive arenas and proving grounds for established and rising powers. In addition to general and theoretical questions, the course will consider the experience of specific regions, including Europe, Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, South America, the Caribbean, and post-Soviet Eurasia.


GOV 94MCC, Peace-Building: Approaches to Reducing Ethnoreligious Conflict *

Instructor: Melani Cammett; W, 9:00-11:45 (Fall)
Since the end of the Cold War, identity-based conflict has been on the rise. Many countries in Africa, South and Southeast Asia, the Middle East and the Former Soviet Union have witnessed wars and conflict and riots that are ostensibly waged for ethnic or religious reasons. Even if they are not the root cause of these conflicts, such identities often become politically salient as a result of political violence targeting ethnic or religious “others” and, once activated, exhibit remarkable stickiness in social and political life. When intergroup tensions have ratcheted up, is it possible to reduce their importance? Can a shared civic identity be constructed in the wake of violence waged in the name of ethnicity or religion? This course aims to explore these questions through an exploration of relevant social science literature and in-depth analyses of case studies of conflict and conflict resolution.


GOV 94OF, Law and Politics in Multicultural Democracies *

Instructor: Ofrit Liviatan; M, 3:00-5:45 (Fall)
Examines the role of law in the governance of cultural diversity drawing on examples from the USA, Western Europe, India and Israel. Central themes at the intersection of law and politics will be explored, including: the impact of courts on rights protections, law's function as a venue of conflict resolution, and courts' relationship with other political institutions. Specific attention will be given to contemporary controversies such as Islamic veiling, abortion and same sex marriage.


HAA 11, Landmarks of World Architecture *
Instructors: Lisa Haber-Thomson and David Roxburgh; T/Th, 12:00-1:15 (Spring)
Examines major works of world architecture and the unique aesthetic, cultural, and historical issues that frame them. Faculty members will each lecture on an outstanding example in their area of expertise, drawing from various periods and such diverse cultures as modern and contemporary Europe and America, early modern Japan, Mughal India, Renaissance and medieval Europe, and ancient Rome. Sections will develop thematically and focus on significant issues in the analysis and interpretation of architecture.


HAA 124E, Architectural Icons and Landscapes of Early Modern Islamic Empires: Between Transregional & Local *
Instructor: Gulru Necipoglu-Kafadar; Th, 12:00-2:45 (Fall)
Between the 16th and 18th centuries, three empires - the Mediterranean-based Ottomans, Safavids in Iran, and Mughals in the Indian subcontinent - developed interconnected yet distinctive architectural, material and visual cultures with individualized ornamental idioms by fusing their common transregional Timurid heritage with local traditions. The course explores connections between empire building, iconic monuments, and garden landscapes with respect to design, materiality, aesthetics, religion, imperial identity, and theories of dynastic legitimacy. Interactions with neighboring regions will be considered (Europe, Uzbek Central Asia, the Deccan and Gujarat Sultanates).


HAA 184X, Painting of India
Instructor: Jinah Kim; Day and Time TBD (Spring)
The course explores the history of Indian painting based on the collections of 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.


HIND-URD 107, Readings in Urdu Discursive Prose
Instructor: Hajnalka Kovacs; M, 3:00-5:45 (Spring)
The course focuses on the writings of prominent 19th-20th century scholars, such as Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan (1817–1898), Muhammad Husain Azad (1830–1910), Altaf Husain Hali (1834–1917), Nazir Ahmad (1831–1912), and Shibli Nu`mani (1857–1914), among others.


HIND-URD 123, Bollywood and Beyond: Commercial Cinema, Language and Culture in South Asia
Instructor: Richard Delacy; W, 12:00-2:45 (Fall)
This course examines concepts of personhood, community and culture in South Asia as expressed in contemporary film and literature. Works in Hindi-Urdu and in translation will be examined with emphasis on language as an index of cultural difference and of broad social shifts, notably the transformation of audiences from citizens to culture-consumers. Knowledge of Hindi-Urdu is not required. However, there will be a section for students with intermediate proficiency utilizing language materials.


HIST 97D, "What is Environmental History?" *
Instructor: Sunil Amrith; T, 12:00-2:45 (Spring)
This section gives new History concentrators an introduction to environmental history. Most historians leave the natural world out of the story, but environmental historians regard nature as the inescapable context for human history, including the human impact on nature. We will explore how the histories of the environment and of humans can (and perhaps should) be written together. Is there a "natural archive" which historians can consult in parallel with conventional libraries and archives? Do places have "biographies," just as people do? Can natural entities (mountains, dogs, rivers, microbes, climate) have "agency" in the same way human actors can?


HIST 1036, Modern India and South Asia
Instructor: Sugata Bose; M/W, 1:30-2:45 (Fall)
This course provides the historical depth and the comparative context in which to understand modern and contemporary South Asia. It explores the history, culture, and political economy of the subcontinent which provides a fascinating laboratory to study such themes as colonialism, nationalism, partition, the modern state, democracy development, religious identities, and relations between Asia and the West. Significant use of primary written sources (in English) and multi-media presentations.


HIST 2692, Colonial and Post-Colonial Histories of South Asia: Seminar
Instructor: Sugata Bose; T, 9:45-11:45 (Fall)
Analyzes trends and debates in historical research and writing on colonial and post-colonial South Asia.


ISLAMCIV 241R, Approaches to Studying Indo-Muslim Culture and South Asian Islam
Instructor: Ali Asani; Day and Time TBD (Spring)
A seminar for graduate students focusing on current scholarship on Islamic civilization in South Asia.


LING 220AR, Advanced Indo-European *
Instructor: Jay Jasanoff; Th, 3:00-5:00 (Spring)
The course this term will be an introduction to Tocharian, with grammar and reading of selected texts. Permission of the instructor required.


MCB 64, Cell Biology in the World *
Instructor: Robert Lue; M/W, 3:00-4:15 (Spring)
This course teaches fundamental concepts in cell biology in the context of individual life histories drawn from different parts of the world. Each life case focuses on key aspects of human development, growth, aging and disease while providing a nuanced view of the interplay between the life sciences, geography and culture. For example, a comparative discussion of aging in the United States and Japan is used to explore diet, cellular metabolism and its relationship to protein damage and turnover, while the Human Immunodeficiency Virus and AIDS in South Asia is used to explore mucosal immunity and the basis for estimating relative infection risk. Each case delves into the cell biology of major biological events across the life history of the human.


MUSIC 157RW, South Indian Music Theory & Practice
Instructor: Richard Wolf; T, 12:45-2:45 (Fall)
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.


MUSIC 194RX, Special Topics: Proseminar - Music, Mobility and Religious Experience in Central Asia *
Instructor: Richard Wolf; F, 12:45-2:45 (Spring)
In this course we ask how music in Central Asia shapes and is shaped by the movement of people, objects and ideas across political, geographic and cultural boundaries. Populations in Central Asia have been variously described as nomadic or sedentary and their religion, art, and lifeways explained in terms of these categories. How are the the definitions of nomadism and sedentarism reinforced or challenged by the musical traditions that have emerged in the region? What is the status of musical experience in relation to (“nomadic”) shamanism and (“sedentary”) Islam given that experiences of music are often cast in religious or spiritual terms? Geographically the course will focus on parts of what was the Soviet Union (Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan), bordering parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as Xinjiang, China. This year course will feature an international range of visiting scholars from Central Asia and Europe, representing the fields of music, anthropology and international relations. A seminar in format, the course will involve reading, listening to recordings, writing, and active discussion. Ability to read music is helpful but not required. Undergraduates and graduate students from all fields are welcome.


PHIL 192, Buddhist Philosophy: Proseminar
Instructor: Parimal Patil; W, 3:00-5:45 (Fall)
In this course, we will discuss topics in Indian Buddhist epistemology,  ethics, metaphysics, philosophy of action, and philosophy of mind. We will pay particular attention to the arguments that Buddhist philosophers used to defend their views and respond to their critics. In addition to understanding these arguments in their historical contexts, we will ask what we can learn from then today and, when relevant, assess how they are being used in contemporary philosophy.


RELIGION 1061, Introduction to the Upanisads
Instructor: Francis Clooney; T, 3:00-6:00 (Fall)
This seminar introduces the ancient Indian Upanisads, some of the oldest and most famous primary texts of Vedic and Hindu India, ranging from before 700 BCE to 200 BCE and later. Select later Upanisads too will be considered, and the reception of the Upanisads in the Advaita Vedanta tradition. Topics include: the nature of self and of absolute reality; knowledge as transformative; the limits of language; the role of God in a nondualist worldview; meditation practice; death and rebirth; knowledge and ethics. Texts will be read in translation. No language or course prerequisites, but students will be encouraged to make use of any such expertise.

SANSKRIT 214, Ritual Sutras
Instructor: Michael Witzel; Day and Time TBD (Spring)
Reading and discussion of Sanskrit and Newari texts on the Vedic, medieval Hindu and Tantric forms of the Agnihotra, as well as of various other Hindu and Buddhist Homa rituals and their impact on Tibet, China, Japan and Bali.


SAS 122, Indian Fire Rituals
Instructor: Michael Witzel; Day and Time TBD (Spring)
Origins, development and present form of an ancient Indian fire ritual (agnihotra), with special attention to the medieval developments in the Kathmandu Valley (with films, 1975-2019 CE).

SAS 126, Medieval and Modern History of Kashmir
Instructor: Michael Witzel; Th, 9:45-11:45 (Fall)
This course presents a survey of the medieval history of Kashmir, beginning with archaeological data and the first available written sources in Indian, Greek and Chinese texts; as well as with the subsequent sources in Sanskrit and Persian. This is followed by an overview of early premodern and recent sources, up to the loss of independence in 1947 and the recent strife in the Kashmir Valley.


SAS 183, The Vernacular in South Asia
Instructor: Sravanthi Kollu; T/Th, 9:00-10:15 (Fall)
This course will examine how vernacular languages have been understood within South Asian Studies and the significance of these languages for the South Asian region. We will explore multiple facets of the vernacular - its political and cultural relevance, the vernacular as a literary and aesthetic concept and the historical emergence of modern South Asian vernaculars - as an introduction to the discipline and to comparative literary and historical studies. Prior knowledge of South Asian languages is not required. All course readings will be in English or made available in English translation.

SOCIOL 1139, Religion, Politics, and Society *
Instructor: Shai Dromi; T/Th, 3:00-4:15 (Spring)
While many countries profess a separation between state and religion, faith and religiosity remain central to political life, both in the United States and in the global scene. In recent years more than ever, religious figures have been deeply involved in electoral processes, in welfare and charity, in social justice movements, in war-making, and in peace-building. Given the changing dynamics between faith and politics, it is doubly important for us to understand the multiple ways religion and politics interact. This course will examine the intersections between religion and politics by exploring questions like why do some religious groups engage in political activism, while others shy away from it? Why do some countries try to regulate religious expression in their public spaces, when others celebrate it? Why do certain religious groups resort to violence to achieve their aims, and how do some religious groups strive for social justice and peace? The course will begin with a broad overview of the sociology of religion by linking classic sociologists like W. E. Du Bois, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber to contemporary issues of faith and politics. It will continue by examining key meeting sites between politics and religion, such as social movements, welfare systems, terrorist organizations, and peacemaking initiatives. Case studies will include the French headscarf controversy, the U.S. Evangelical involvement in the 2016 elections, the Muslim Brotherhood welfare system in Egypt, and the religious-nationalist Hindutva movement in India. As a final project, students will write a term paper on a study case of their choice.


SOCIOL 2219, Transnational Historical Sociology: Antisemitism and Imperialism *
Instructor: Yael Berda; M, 12:00-2:45 (Fall)
Sociologists have analyzed empires through the entire history of the discipline. Using imperial frameworks as a unit of analysis was fruitful for learning about state formation and consolidation of power, the innovation of governance methods in multicultural settings, migration and political membership and the relationship between state violence, law, economic extraction, and the growing repertoire of toolkits of government. Hannah Arendt's thesis linking the rise of totalitarianism to imperial practices of government and exploitation, and the use of anti-Semitism to consolidate nationalism is a useful point of departure for investigation of contemporary impact of historical regimes. This course incorporates primary historical, administrative and legal sources from the Roman, Mongolian, Mughal, Ottoman and British Empires, with scholarship of historians, sociologists and economists to providing a broad introduction to transnational historical research.  Coupling theoretical readings with hands-on methodological training, Students will practice searching archive materials (at Widener library) and will visit the Geographic Information Systems Center at Harvard for a look at possibilities for using spatial and temporal data for transnational historical research with a focus on Imperialism and Anti-Semitism.

SOC-STD 98SC, Caste, Race, and Democracy
Instructor: Hari Ramesh; W, 12:45-2:45 (Spring)
Drawing on the resources of social and intellectual history, political theory, and social science, this tutorial will explore the intimacies and differences between two forms of social differentiation: caste in India and race in the United States. We will focus, in particular, on the relationships between caste, race, and imperial power; the diagnoses of and forms of democratic resistance to caste and race subjugation that were articulated in the 19th and 20th centuries; and the place of contemporary social science in documenting both the persistence of oppression along caste and racial lines and the success of efforts to combat such oppression. This is a junior tutorial.


TIBET 209, Issues with Śāntideva's Bodhicaryāvatāra and its Indian and Tibetan Commentaries
Instructor: Leonard van der Kuijp; T, 12:00-2:45 (Fall)
This course examines some of the controversies surrounding the Bodhicaryāvatāra's philosophical positions as identified in the Tibetan commentarial literature from the twelfth to the fifteenth century, and the Indian commentaries as found in the Tibetan canon. Special consideration will be given to the works of Slob dpon Bsod nams rtse mo, Rgyal tshab Dar ma rin chen, and Gser mdog Paṇ chen Shākya mchog ldan.


TIBET 210, Readings in the Tibetan Literature on the Date of the Historical Buddha
Instructor: Leonard van der Kuijp; Th, 12:00-2:45 (Fall)
This course examines various specimen of the so-called Bstan rtsis, Buddhist Chronology, literature, with a special emphasis on the different chronologies Tibetan writers proposed for the Buddha's life.


TIBET 211, Readings in the Collected Works of Dar ma rgyal mtshan (1227-1305), alias or Bcom ldan rig[s] ral
Instructor: Leonard van der Kuijp; T, 12:00-2:45 (Spring)
This course seeks to introduce an important thirteenth century intellectual by examining the corpus of Dar ma rgyal mtshan's oeuvre that has recently become available. We will try to bring these into some chronological order and read various segments from a select number of his writings.


TIBET 212, Readings in Gser mdog Pa chen Shākya mchog ldan's (1428-1507) Tshad ma rigs gter gyi dgongs rgyan
Instructor: Leonard van der Kuijp; Th, 12:00-2:45 (Spring)
Gser mdog Pan chen's work on logic and epistemology (tshad ma) was path breaking. We will be reading passages from his Dgongs rgyan and contextualize his arguments against the background of the history of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist epistemology and logic.


WOMGEN 1214, Solidarity: Transnational Women's Rights from Suffrage to NGOs *
Instructor: Durba Mitra; T, 12:45-2:45 (Spring)
“Solidarity” takes an intersectional approach to the study of women’s and sexual rights in transnational perspective from the late nineteenth century until today. In this course, we will explore how American feminism, particularly through the fight for women’s suffrage, set the agenda for issues of equality and sexual rights around the world, often in complex and contradictory ways. Through a semester-long engagement with Schlesinger Library collections on transnational feminist and women of color feminisms, we will investigate feminist links to and critiques of the imperial project – from anti-trafficking campaigns in colonial and postcolonial India, to transnational feminist labor movements in the Philippines and Bangladesh, to the wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Together, we will think about the complex relationship of feminism and war, the place of feminist thought in debates about incarceration and immigration, and the contradictory role of feminism in global movements for rights.

WOMGEN 1426, The Sexual Life of Colonialism *
Instructor: Durba Mitra; M, 3:00-5:00 (Spring)
Sexuality has long shaped racial and civilizational assessments of what it means to be modern. In this course, we will investigate the role of colonialism in racial imaginations of gender and sexuality and how these histories shape contemporary understandings of LGBTQ politics, reproductive and sexual rights, and anti-colonial resistance around the world. We will explore histories of sexual control, colonial and racial difference, and marginalized and queer sexualities in colonial and postcolonial spaces, including parts of West Asia, South Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa. The course will cover many forms of sexuality, including interracial relationships between colonizer and colonized peoples, questions of sexual violence, queer and same-sex desires, sexual outcasts like “prostitutes” and transgender peoples, and the politics of gender difference and LGBTQ rights in the postcolonial world.


* ”  this course may be counted for concentration or secondary field credit after consultation with the Director of Undergraduate Studies