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History and Heritage in South Asia


Admission requirements

No previous knowledge of South Asian history is required.


The past of modern South Asia is conventionally taught through the tropes of colonialism, nationalism and modernity: even in renderings that problematize and critique these notions, they remain as reference points. This course offers different vantage points, focusing on the way states, peoples, and communities in South Asia have made claims for sovereignty and rights based on particular readings and remembrance of their past.

How did South Asian states and peoples navigate between these two discourses of history and heritage that share emancipatory as well as controlling features, often confront each other yet nurture one another? The conventional reading of history and heritage as enlisted by states to consolidate national agendas through institutions such as the museum and practices such as archeology needs to be problematized. Heritage has indeed been a contested arena in practice when for instance movements of Assamese, Kashmiri, or Tamils have challenged the state’s power to monopolize the production of knowledge and police space.

Taking examples from the colonial period as well as independent India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka this course will examine in 12 lectures the following broad themes: State and Capital: what is modern and when is modern? Dams and development; Citizenship and legitimacy; Postmodern nostalgia for the local; Struggles over heritage: claims of minorities and marginalized groups; Colonial, national and alternative public spheres: the popular in South Asia.

Course objectives

This course aims to give students an in-depth understanding of critical events in modern South Asian history through a foray into historical debates around these issues.

Participants in the course will acquire the following:

  • An understanding of the historical continuities and breaks between colonial and postcolonial periods.

  • An understanding of the diversity of South Asia as a region through exercises in comparative analysis.

  • Improved research skills, presentation skills, composition skills and the ability to critically evaluate readings.



Mode of instruction

The course combines lectures, discussions of readings (primary and secondary source material) and visual material.

Assessment method

  • Students doing the 5 EC version will need to do the book review (20% of the final grade), and two class presentations (80% of the final grade).

  • Students doing the 10 EC version will need to do the book review (20%), one class presentation (20%) and a 3000 word essay (60%).



Reading list

No single textbook: literature will be specified at a later stage.

Students can familiarize themselves with the area by reading
Ayesha Jalal, Sugata Bose, Modern South Asia. History, Culture, Political Economy, Routledge 2004.


Registration via uSis is obligatory.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte
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Contact: Prof. Dr. N.K. Wickramasinghe