Culture and social organization of peoples of Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. Theoretical issues in anthropological analysis of these societies discussed. Prerequisite: ANTH 021. Alternate years.
Dates: July 16 - August 10, 2018
South Asia, one of the world’s most populous and densely-populated regions, is home to almost 1.5 billion people. From the Indian Ocean in the south to the Himalayas in the north, from the deserts of Afghanistan in the west to the jungles of Assam in the east, its cultures display great diversity, and yet there remain elements of connection and continuity throughout the region. One of the goals of this course will be to examine what that continuity consists of, and to ask whether there is anything that unifies South Asia as a region. We will thus explore what South Asia really is—a geographic territory, a political area, a cultural zone, a historical entity, or something else altogether. South Asia is generally considered to consist of the states of Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and Bhutan. Why Tajikistan or Burma, for instance, are not part of the region is a question we will attempt to address. In general, this course is not a survey of the societies of South Asia. But it is a course which makes use of materials from South Asia as a lens for human life. We will explore what the lived experience of people in South Asia tells us about social conditions across the planet and culture in general.
My approach in this course, rather than to provide a comprehensive fact-based overview of as many peoples and places as possible, is to try to construct a mosaic-like image of life in South Asia through readings that deal with a variety of microcosmic spaces or carefully defined phenomena—an archive, a riot, a single village, etc. We will deal with one such “angle” per week, usually through one to three readings. I also wish to allow students in this course to be able to look at some sort of text—a photograph, say, or a quadrant on the map, or a novel—and to be able to analyze and explain what it is really about. For this reason, assignments will provide chance to do something like “original research” by trying to make sense from the ground up of life in South Asia, as if you were there. How would you make sense of a street, or someone’s household, if you found yourself transported halfway across the world to the Subcontinent. Contact with people in or from South Asia as part of papers is encouraged.
Your work will consist of: • Three reading quizzes covering 2-3 weeks each: 10% of your grade each quiz, 30% total • One late-semester midterm, multiple choice. 25% • Two 5-6 page papers, 20% each. • One of your papers requires you to pick one image from either The Sacred India Book or The Domestic India Book, and to use 4-5 external sources and 2-3 in-course sources to do an in-depth analysis of what is going on in the picture. The other requires you to do an in-depth analysis of a map quadrant from the U502 map series from the University of Texas Perry-Castañeda Map Library. • Papers must meet the source requirements. All sources must be cited in-text and in a bibliography according to an accepted source citation system. 5-6 pages means at least five full pages of text, excluding title, notes, and bibliography—not simply on to the fifth page, but to the bottom of the fifth page. Bibliography is extra. Title space used is extra. I will pay attention to writing quality and proofreading. • Attendance is worth 5% of your grade. Significant absences, however, threaten to lower your grade well over the 5% loss that a failing attendance score would constitute. A very low attendance score—i.e. missing lots of classes—can cause major grade drops or failure.
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