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South Asian Studies

Photo of fishermen in Bangladesh

The minor in South Asian studies focuses on the interdisciplinary study of South Asia and its diaspora. It brings together the perspectives of various disciplines, from art history to philosophy, from economics to religion, to create a sustained curricular focus on South Asian life and culture.

South Asia comprises India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka, and reaches out to Afghanistan, Burma and Tibet. It is home to the world’s highest mountains and to enormous ecological diversity. It is also home to more than one-fifth of the world's population and hundreds of languages. South Asia is the birthplace of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism, and more than one-third of the world’s Muslim population resides there. It has rich traditions of art, music and dance, and is renowned for its fiction and film. As a major contributor to global culture and economics, South Asia occupies an important position for understanding colonialism, postcolonialism and geopolitics.


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Requirements & Courses

6 courses (a minimum of 24 credits) are needed to satisfy the requirements of a minor in South Asian studies, and meet the following distribution requirements:  

  1. An introductory course with a focus on South Asia. 
  2. Three courses, distributed over a) the visual, literary or performing arts; b) history, philosophy or religions; c) the social sciences.
  3. One advanced seminar in any discipline that addresses South Asia.
  4. An elective, which could be an additional course or a special studies in any of the above mentioned areas.

Spring 2022

REL 171 Introduction to Contemporary Hinduism
This course is an introduction to the ideas and practices of contemporary Hinduism in India and the diaspora, with an emphasis on how Hindu identities are constructed and contested, and the roles they play in culture and politics. Materials to be considered include philosophical writings, ritual texts, devotional poetry and images, religious comic books, legal treatises, personal memoirs, as well as ethnographic and popular films. {H} {L} 4 Credits
Andy Rotman

SOC 237 Gender and Globalization
This course engages with the various dimensions of globalization through the lens of gender, race and class relations. We study how gender and race intersect in global manufacturing and supply chains as well as in the transnational politics of representation and access in global media, culture, consumption, fashion, food, water, war and dissenting voices. Prerequisite: SOC 101. Enrollment limited to 25. {S} 4 credits
Payal Banerjee

ENG 241 The Empire Writes Back: Postcolonial Literature
Introduction to Anglophone fiction, poetry, drama and memoir from Africa, the Caribbean and South Asia in the aftermath of the British empire. Concerns include the cultural and political work of literature in response to histories of colonial and racial dominance; writers' ambivalence towards English linguistic, literary and cultural legacies; ways literature can (re)construct national identities and histories, and address dominant notions of race, class, gender, and sexuality; women writers' distinctivenesss and modes of contesting patriarchal and colonial ideologies; global diasporas, migration, globalization and U.S. imperialism. Readings include Achebe, Adichie, Aidoo, Dangarembga, Walcott, Cliff, Rushdie, Ghosh, Lahiri, Hamid, among others. {L} 4 Credits
Ambreen Hai

MUS/REL 249 Popular Music of the Islamic World
Music is a complex issue in many Islamic societies. There are tensions between those who believe that music has no place in Islam and try to prohibit it, those for whom it is a central component of mystical devotion, and those who tolerate it, albeit within well-defined parameters. The debate intensifies in the case of popular music, a core part of the self-identification of young people everywhere. Despite this, there is an amazing variety of vibrant popular music throughout the Islamic world. This course explores the religious debates over music and the rich musical tradition (including religious music) in Islam. {A} {H} 4 Credits
Suleiman Mourad, Margaret Sarkissian

PHI 330sc Topics in the History of Philosophy: Schopenhauer and Indian Philosophy
Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) was the first important European philosopher to take Indian philosophy seriously. He follows Kant’s transcendental idealism but places Kantian philosophy in dialogue with the Vedānta and Buddhist philosophy filtering into Europe as German and British orientalism began to flourish, synthesizing Kantian and Indian idealism. We will explore the Indian roots of Schopenhauer’s thought, the 19th century transmission of Indian ideas to Europe in which he participates, and the ways he uses Indian philosophy to advance a post-Kantian philosophical program. Prerequisite: a course in early modern European philosophy or a course in the history of Indian philosophy. Juniors and Seniors only. Enrollment limited to 16. {H} {S} 4 Credits
Jay Garfield

Study Abroad & Language Programs

Studying abroad in South Asia or studying a South Asian language are not required for the minor, but they are a great way to enrich your knowledge of the region. There are a number of study abroad programs available, as well as South Asian language courses taught at the Five Colleges.




South Asian Studies
Wright Hall
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063
Phone: 413-585-3662
Administrative Assistant:
Phoebe McKinnell