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Contemporary South Asia


Admission requirements

The following categories of students can register for this course:

  • Students enrolled for BA “Culturele antropologie en ontwikkelingssociologie” at Leiden University

  • Students enrolled for BA programmes of the Faculty of Humanities of Leiden University

  • Erasmus Exchange students and Study Abroad students

  • A la carte students

Please see the registration procedure below.


Modern South Asian societies are characterized as much by unity, as by hierarchy and difference. Home to a growing and increasingly wealthy urban middle class, South Asia still has some of the world’s most abject poverty. While influential movements demand equality and social justice perceptions of essential inequality between various groups of people, as well as between men and women remain pervasive. In South Asia, the markers of belonging vary from caste, class, religion, education, ethnicity to regionality and nationality. While presented as immutable, notions of belonging are deeply fashioned by political and social contexts. So, how have conceptualisations of and practices relating to caste changed in recent decades? What is the role of religion in people’s lives, and how is religion redefined in a context where modernity and secularism are played out? What is the importance of religion or ethnicity in people’s lives? And what does it mean to belong to one of the indigenous groups? Combining historical and anthropological perspectives, the course addresses various notions of belonging, and the significance that is attributed to these in present day South Asia.

Course objectives

This course familiarizes students with some of the most-important social theories regarding South Asia. These paradigms are treated in the literature that is read, and in the lectures. In addition, students acquire basic knowledge about modern South Asian history, and about the main issues at stake in the region.

Time table

Fridays 14-17 h, from February 4 to May 13 2011,
room 1A47 (only on March 4-room 1A27, on March 18-room 5A29), Pieter de la Court Building

Mode of instruction

Total 2×5 ECTS = 280 study hours (sbu)

  • lectures 12 × 3 hours (54 sbu)

  • literature: 1116 pages (186 sbu)

  • written assigments, 3000 words (40 sbu)

Assesment method

  • Written assignments and presentations in class (50% of the final grade).

  • Take home exam (50% of the final grade).

Written assignments have to be submitted in hard copy. Email submissions are only accepted in exceptional cases, if this has been previously agreed upon. Re-submissions should be submitted in the class following the one in which the particular assignment was returned to the student. No re-submissions after the final lecture.


Blackboard module will be active from the mid January and wil be used to make available the course programme and a list of additional literature.
Students who have been granted admission must register for this course on Blackboard.

Study material

  • “Everyday Life in South Asia” by Diane P. Mines, Sarah Lamb, Indiana University Press, 2010 (ISBN ISBN-10: 0253221943; ISBN-13: 978-0253221940)

  • Additional readings to be announced.


  • Bachelor students CA-OS and FGW:
    Inschrijving mogelijk via het secretariaat CA-OS, kamer 3A19, tel. 5273469, e-mail:, tussen 1 december 2010 en 20 januari 2011.

  • International exchange students:
    For application please follow regular procedure through International Office, or contact the departmental coordinator N. Osterhaus-Simic.

  • A la carte students need to register for this course both at the Institute of Cultural Anthropology and at the Faculty of Humanities. Students will be charged for 5 ECTS by both institutions. Deadline for “a la carte” registration is January 15, 2011.
    Please follow the procedures as described on the website of the Institute CA-OS and the Faculty of Humanities: A la carte onderwijs .

  • Dit college is niet beschikbaar voor Contractonderwijs.

Contact information

Prof. Dr. Nira Wickramasinghe: 071-5272982,
Dr. Erik de Maaker: 071-5276612,