South Asia is generally believed to be the land of non-violence and spiritual values. Yet throughout its history, there have been many instances of violent acts of destruction committed within the confines of people’s everyday social space. This course explores dispersed forms of collective violence from ethnic to religious, since late British colonial rule. It focuses on the civilian “riots” that were “produced” in South Asia using selected case studies from Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and India. It looks at issues of representation: How was communal violence narrated and explained during colonial rule and was communal violence constructed for a particular reason? It also seeks for explanations: What sparked violence and why did it take the particular form it did ? The course examines the strategic actions and motivations of their principal agents, looks at crowd behaviour, grapples with issues of masculinity and gender, and sifts through memories of violence. Different approaches to the study of collective violence from Varshney’s focus on civil society to Brass’s concept of institutionalized riots systems are critically assessed.
This course aims at providing students with an understanding of the dynamics and repertoires of collective violence in South Asia through a study of important theoretical writings on violence as well as a critical reading of primary source documents such as reports, court proceedings and other accounts and testimonies.
Mode of instruction
Class participation 10 %
Assignment 40 %
Final exam 50 %
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