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South Asian Diasporas


Please note that this class will start on September 14 (and not September 7)

Admission requirements



This course focuses on transnational South Asians and Tibetans. Large numbers of people of South Asian and Tibetan descent left their homes to settle in different parts of the world since the early nineteenth century. In many ways migrants are at the heart of modern South Asian and Tibetan history. This course looks at the long history of labour migration to Africa, Southeast Asia and the Caribbean as well as more contemporary movements to the Middle-East, Europe and the Americas through the trope of diaspora. Diaspora originally meant the dispersion of Jews living amongst Gentiles. More recently the term has come to mean a dispersion of originally similar peoples. A diaspora exists when those people living far from home forge some sort of community with each other, and maintain a relationship (real or otherwise) with their community. But this definition is far from adequate and throughout the course we will examine multiple and often contested understandings of what exactly a ‘diaspora is’ or the necessity of such as term.
In twelve lectures we will explore how states attempted to control migrations and how individuals and communities resisted it. We will analyze the impact of South Asian and Tibetan immigration on cultures of receiving communities. We will explore how South Asians and Tibetans abroad negotiate new forms of identity and national citizenship while continuing to cultivate real and imagined social, political and economic ties to Tibet and countries in South Asia. This course aims at breaking the binaries of home and abroad through a historical and anthropological reading of the global map of South Asia.

The course will make use of literary, historical, ethnographic and cinematic texts.

Course objectives

Read and engage with some of the most current scholarship on diasporas in general and the South Asian diasporas more specifically.
Acquire skills to produce a research paper.



Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Attendance and participation are obligatory. Classes missed for a good reason (to the discretion of the conveners and to be discussed BEFORE the class takes place) will have to be made up with an extra assignment. Being absent without notification can result in a lower grade or exclusion from the term end exams and a failing grade for the course.

Course Load

  • Lectures: 28 hours

  • Studying literature: 60 hours (2 hours per week)

  • Preparing for the presentation: 8 hours

  • Writing paper: 24 hours

  • Writing book review: 20 hours
    Total study load: 140 hours

Assessment method

The course is assessed in three ways

  • (1) A book review (20% of the overall mark)

  • (2) A class presentation on a text in the required reading list (20 % of the overall mark).

  • (3) A written assessment consisting of an essay type question that requires reading outside the required reading list (60 % of the overall mark)

In order to pass the course, students must have contributed actively to at least 75% of class meetings, handed in the book review and done their class presentation, and receive an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher.

Students who fail the course (get a total mark of “5.49” or lower) can submit an new written assignment (3) only. If students take this option, they must choose an alternative topic. They will not be permitted to resubmit the same written assessment. The deadline for this version will be determined in consultation.

The course is an integrated whole. All categories must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.



Reading list

To be announced through Blackboard.


Students are requested to register through uSis. To avoid mistakes and problems, students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetable in the column under the heading “Act.nbr.”.

Not being registered, means no permission to attend this course. See also the ‘Registration procedures for classes and examinations’ for registration deadlines and more information on how to register.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs



Dr. Berthe Jansen


Students with disabilities

The university is committed to supporting and accommodating students with disabilities as stated in the university protocol (especially pages 3-5). Students should contact Fenestra Disability Centre at least four weeks before the start of their courses to ensure that all necessary academic accommodations can be made in time conform the abovementioned protocol.

Academic Integrity

Students are expected to be familiar with Leiden University policies on plagiarism and academic integrity. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. If you submit any work with your name affixed to it, it is assumed to be your own work with all sources used properly indicated and documented in the text (with quotations and/or citations).