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South Asian Studies

South Asian Studies is an interdisciplinary concentration in which students work across the humanities and social sciences, geographical locations, and time periods.  The concentration emphasizes both the diversity of South Asia as a region, as well as the long-term historical connections among people and places in Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.  The concentration takes a comparative approach, bringing attention to history, politics, and culture within the region, as well as in the equally vital global South Asian diaspora.

Course Requirements

All South Asian Studies concentrators must take and pass 10 courses as approved by their concentration advisor.  Students who wish to earn honors must take 12 courses total (see Senior-Year Project below).

SAST 0700Introduction to Modern South Asia1
or HIST 1620 Resisting Empire: Gandhi and the Making of Modern South Asia
Two courses in the Humanities with a majority focus in South Asia, such as: 2
India’s Classical Performing Arts
Classical Philosophy of India
Sound, Song and Salvation in South Asia
Dharma: A History of Classical Indian Civilization
Saints and Mystics of India
Love and War in India
Sensing the Sacred: Sensory Culture in South Asian Religions
Food, Religion and Politics in South Asia
Karma, Rebirth and Liberation: Life and Death in South Asian Religions
The History and Practice of Yoga in India and Beyond
This Whole World is OM: Mantras in Indian Religions
Introduction to Indian Art
South Asian Art and Architecture
Innovations in Indian Literature
The Imaginary Lives of Muslims
Islam in South Asia
Love and War in India
Sensing the Sacred: Sensory Culture in South Asian Religions
This Whole World is OM: Mantras in Indian Religions
Two courses in the Social Sciences with a majority focus on South Asia, such as:2
Ruined History: Visual and Material Culture in South Asia
Politics, Economy and Society in India
Politics of Economic Development in Asia
Ethnic Conflict
Politics in India
Understanding the Indian Economy
Political Ecology in South Asia
This Whole World is OM: Mantras in Indian Religions
The History and Practice of Yoga in India and Beyond
Food, Religion and Politics in South Asia
Sensing the Sacred: Sensory Culture in South Asian Religions
Dharma: A History of Classical Indian Civilization
At least five additional elective courses. Students can take additional courses in the humanities or social sciences with a focus on South Asia, such as:5
At least three of the five electives must be drawn from the department pre-approved course listings (or be approved by the DUS/Concentration advisor). The courses on this pre-approved list have significant (at least 25%) South Asia content.
No more than two of the remaining electives can be courses with less empirical South Asia content, but these courses must have theoretical relevance to the study of South Asia (with the approval from the DUS).
Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
Anthropology and Development: Critical Ethnographic Perspectives
Music and Meditation
Introduction to Contemplative Studies
Development and the International Economy
Health, Hunger and the Household in Developing Countries
Economic Development I
Architecture of the House Through Space and Time
Refugees: A Twentieth-Century History
The Ottomans: Faith, Law, Empire
Beginning Hindi or Urdu
Intermediate Hindi-Urdu
Advanced Hindi-Urdu
Does Utopia Still Exist? Media, politics and the hope of something else
Introduction to Comparative Politics
Ethnic Politics and Conflict
Buddhist Thought, Practice, and Society
Independent Study
Elementary Sanskrit II
Classical Sanskrit Story Literature
The Bhāgavata Purāṇa: Text and Reception
Vedic Sanskrit
Total Credits10

Language Requirements

Proficiency in a South Asian language is required for the concentration. Demonstrating proficiency can entail passing a written and oral examination, 4 semesters of formal language study at Brown or another institution, or a high school transcript indicating that the language of instruction for all courses was a South Asian language. Native Hindi/Urdu speakers are encouraged to fulfill the language requirement by taking another South Asian language for four semester, such as Sanskrit at Brown or a relevant language at another institution. Up to two language courses can count toward fulfilling the student's elective requirements.  

Senior-Year Project

Students must complete either a senior capstone project OR an honors thesis.

Capstone projects or honors theses are opportunities for students to creatively synthesize the thinking on South Asia that they have developed during the concentration.  The project should exhibit an empirically and theoretically driven research question or argument about some aspect of South Asian Studies.  the senior-year project should involve some research in at least one South Asian language.

All students are encouraged to start thinking about their capstones in their junior year. 

Capstones can take two primary forms:

  1. A research paper of approximately 30 pages on a topic related to South Asia for an existing concentration-eligible course, undertaken with the permission of the instructor. 
  2. An independent study-based project.  the produce and/or process that constitutes this can be artistic, primary or secondary research-based, internship-related, or something else.  the project must be supervised by at least one South Asian Studies faculty member* for at least one semester under SAST 1970.  This course can count towards the five elective requirement. 

At the end of the junior year, each student should meet with the Director of Undergraduate Study (DUS) to review their plan for completing their capstone.  If pursuing a capstone project, students will be required to submit, by the end of the shopping period of the fall of their senior year,  a short proposal (300 words) that describes how they are going to complete this requirement. 

An Honors Thesis is a two-semester independent study supervised by a thesis advisor (SAST 1970).  These two courses constitute the additional courses needed for honors in the concentration. 

An honors thesis can be textual, or it can take other forms (multi-media, visual, artistic, or musical, for example).  The form and substance of a non-textual honors thesis must conform to the rigorous regulations set out by the relevant department(s) and the Dean of the College. 

Additional Honors Requirements

To be eligible for Honors, students will have earned an “A” in the majority of graded courses for the concentration.

Students may graduate with Honors in South Asian Studies by completing an undergraduate Honors thesis under the supervision of at least one reader drawn from the South Asian Studies faculty* and one additional reader from the Brown (or RISD, in the case of Brown-RISD students) faculty community.

In order to pursue Honors, students must submit the following materials to the South Asian studies Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) by the end of their 6th semester:

  1. A prospectus (3-5 pages, describing the major research questions and methods to be used, complete with bibliography) that has been read and vetted by the student’s intended primary reader.  
  2. An email from the faculty member who will serve as primary reader to the South Asian Studies DUS noting their willingness to advise the thesis.

In addition, students must:

  1. Enroll in a two-semester sequence of independent study [SAST 1970 or under a relevant departmental course code].
  2. Designate a second reader by the end of the first month of their 7th semester.  Second readers should also confirm their willingness to serve as a reader by sending an email to the South Asian Studies DUS.
  3. Be in regular contact with thesis advisor about the progress of the project. 
  4. Present their research to the Saxena Center community during their final semester. 

For mid-year graduating students, the topic and primary reader must be identified and confirmed by mid-November of the junior year, and a second reader must be arranged and confirmed by January 30 of the senior year.

 * This includes all people listed under the Faculty, Postdoctoral Associate, and Visiting Scholars (limited to those in residence at Brown) tabs on the Saxena Center website