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Anthropology and Sociology of 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.


South Asia includes India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maledives. These countries share a common cultural realm and a common history, which goes back far beyond the erstwhile British colonial state. South Asia is a region of sharp contrasts, in which tradition and modernity combine. 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 continues to harbour 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 markers of belonging are many. These vary from caste, class, religion, education and ethnicity to regionality and nationality. While in the public debate often presented as immutable, notions of belonging have always been, and continue to be, deeply fashioned by political and social contexts. So, how does the amazing cultural diversity of South Asia sustain and renew itself, as traditions gain new significances? How are conceptualisations of and practices relating to caste changing in recent decades? In what ways is class gaining new relevances, and how does that transform the kind of relationships that tie people to one another? What are new importances attributed to indigeneity? How is religion redefined in contexts where modernity and secularism are gaining ground? Combining an anthropological and a sociological perspective, this course analyses the changing meanings of distinct notions of belonging in modern South Asia.

Course objectives

This course provides an introduction to current perspectives from anthropology and sociology on South Asia. These perspectives are analysed with reference to particular cases that are discussed in the literature that is read, and in the lectures.

Time table

Fridays 14-17 h, from 17 February to 25 May 2012
Location: room 5A29 (all meetings except 25 May) and 1A11 (only 25 May), Pieter de la Court Building
No lecture on 6 April 6, and 4 and 18 May.

Mode of instruction

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

lectures and discussions: 12 × 3 hours (54 sbu)
literature: 1116 pages (186 sbu)
written assignments, 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

  • Kamala Visweswaran (2011), Perspectives on Modern South Asia: A Reader in Culture, History, and Representation.

  • Alpa Shah (2010), In the Shadow of the State: Indigenous Politics, Environmentalism and Insurgency in Jharkhand, India
    Durham: Duke University Press

Both books are available through Studystore at the Breestraat in Leiden as well as through Itiwana .


  • Bachelor students CA-OS and FGW: inschrijving via Usis

  • 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, 2012.
    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,