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South Asia


Time : Mondays, 18:30 - 21:00
Place : AGSIRD classroom
Professor : Dr.T.Wignesan
email : Wignesh@aol.com

Area Course: South Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives)

Course Description

Lectures will be geared to introducing both the uninitiated and/or the already partially-tutored to an overall historico-cultural, socio-economic and political background of the region (cf. "syllabus" further down). In addition, the first 81 pages of the prescribed text: Norton's India and South Asia, [kindly look further down for details of prescribed texts], together with 33 relevant articles of a reflective nature included in the book, supplemented by more detailed first-hand observations by V.S. Naipaul in India: A Million Mutinies Now should provide a firm foundation for the research-minded student.

Though not to be construed as required reading for the course, Freedom at Midnight by Collins & Lapierre, a detailed account of the end of the British Raj and the initial tentative steps towards attaining self-governance and nationhood in the sub-continent will stand every student in good stead in her/his attempts to evaluate the evolution of events in the region during the past half a century or so.

The last comprehensive session on "Literature and the Arts" however will be tackled in piecemeal fashion right from the start. Opportunities for listening to recordings of North and South Indian classical music will be offered at every session, especially during the break. Likewise excerpts from documentaries will be shown at appropriate moments during deliberations on particular topics. Readings from indigenous writers's relevant literary texts to illustrate appropriate phases in the regions' history will accompany corresponding lectures and discussions.

The idea is to get one's ear as close as possible "to the ground" in order thereby to experience the feel of things from the point of view of the Other.

The two hours and a half at our disposal will commence with a formal lecture (or, alternatively, through explications) lasting about an hour and a quarter, based on topics as specified along the lines in the syllabus for each session, followed - after the fifteen-minute break - by "presentations of topics" and discussions. Every student will be assigned a topic of presentation, and the oral presentations (chosen from the topics under " Topic Guide to Articles ", pp. 84-85 in India and South Asia [Ph.D. candidates must produce a research paper as well] should normally be got going by the fourth session.

Prescribed texts

  • James H.K.Norton. India and South Asia. 6th edn. N.Y. : McGraw-Hill/Dushkin, 2003, x-214p.
  • V.S.Naipaul. India: A Million Mutinies Now. London: Minerva, 1992, 521p.

Recommended reading:

  • Larry Collins & Dominique Lapierre. Freedom at Midnight. London: Panther Books, 1985, 596p.

    N.B. India : A Million Mutinies Now and Freedom at Midnight are out-of-print. The following titles - as prescribed texts - shall replace them:
    • V.S.Naipaul. India: A Wounded Civilization. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books, 1979, 175p.
    • Mulk Raj Anand. Preface by E.M.Forster. Untouchable. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books, (latest edition).

Course Requirements

  • Class participation: 25%
  • Oral presentation and discussion of topic-paper: 25%
  • Final Examination: 50%


[Note: The South Asia region having enjoyed a common historical and cultural past cannot, however, in the study of its component parts be treated in isolation without the necessary crisscrossing of politically-ordained contemporary national or provincial borders; the development of the following course as such has to be gauged in the light of this observation, and the syllabus in each session should not be construed as forming a self-contained program of study by itself.
Whenever possible the course will be supplemented by "readings" from the original texts, together with audio-video illustrations of relevant material.

Session 1: General Introduction

Geographical location and physical relief of the region.
Nations, states, provinces, and other political demarcations.
Population figures and densities. Ethnic composition.
Federal-Union territories, capitals, cities, ports.
Principal languages: official and commercial.
Climate: monsoons and periodic natural disasters.
The importance of maritime space in the area's development.
South Asia as a counter-balance to its northern neighbours.
India's mediator and/or hegemonic role in the region.
Treaties: SAARC, the Baghdad Pact, etc.
Brief survey of the region's heritage.

Session 2: Contemporary History

The Independence Movement: the Congress Party and the
Muslim League: Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru,
Mohammad Ali Jinnah.
Ahimsa and Satyagraha. Passive Resistance.
The princely states (the Maharajahs).
The Second World War: Independence from colonial rule,
Partition and its consequences. Sri Lanka granted independence.
The birth of Bangladesh. General survey up to the present.

Session 3: Religions of the Sub-Continent

The fundamentals of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism,
Zoroastrianism and Islam.
The caste system and the rise of the new middle class.
The Dalits, and the Dravida Munnetra Kalagham in Tamil Nadu.
Ethnicity and communalism.
Religion as an/the essential motivating force in politics.

Sessions 4 -7 : Constitutions, Governments, and Political Parties

Essentials of the Constitutions of India, West & East Pakistan,
Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives.
The Unitary State vs Federalism, and Central Government Control.
Emergency powers and the role of the Governor in the provinces.
Major political parties. Citizenship status: women and the harijans.
A brief historical record of internal strife: Indira Gandhi's
"Emergency" rule in India; and the military coup d'état(s) in
Pakistan, etc.
India & Pakistan in World Affairs (relations with major powers).

Sessions 8 - 10 : Intra-National and International Conflicts

The Indo-Pakistan Wars.
Civil War between East & West Pakistan and its consequences;
The dispute over Jammu-Kashmir.
Secessions : Nagaland, Assam; Sikh separatism: Khalistan;
Nepal and the Marxist guerrilla.
The Naxalite movement. Shiv Sena.
Hindu-Muslim riots and the ruling BJP in Gujerat.
The Ayodhya temple-mosque conundrum.
Civil war in Sri Lanka: the Tamil Eelam peace negotiations.

Sessions 11-13: Economic Development of the Region since Independence

The Five-Year Plans, Foreign Aid and Investment.
GNP and per capita income, balance of payments, trade, foreign
reserves. Annual growth rates.
Agriculture, Irrigation, Fishing, Mining, Heavy industries, Village
handicrafts, Shipping, Pharmaceuticals, the Motor car and scooter
manufacturing industry, Rice production, Animal husbandry,
Computer & Nuclear technology (Tata Research Institute, Poona,
Hyderabad & Bangalore). Consumer products. Tourism.
The import-export record. Urbanisation in the wake of
Westernisation. Review of region's development vis-à-vis

Session 14 : Introduction to Literature and the Arts (Music, Architecture,
Painting, Sculpture, Dance, Cinema).

Rabindranath Tagore, V.S.Naipaul, Zulfikar Ghose, Salman Rushdie,
Raja Rao, Michael Ondaatje, Arundhati Roy, Taslima Nasreen, etc.
(playwright, poets and novelists);
Ravi Shankar (sitar), the Khan family & Ghosh (tabla), Bismillah
Khan (shenai), Karaikudi family (veena), Sundaresan (mrtankam);
Ramachandra Shastry (flute/pullaangkulal), etc.
Bharatha Natyam, Kathak, Kathakali, and Manipuri (dance);
Hindu temple architecture; Mughal art: mausoleums (Taj Mahal);
Western influence on cinema, fashion, & urban middle-class life.
Spiritual influence of the region in the West: Buddhism, Yoga.

Session 15: Final Examination

List of Reference Works

Mulk Raj Anand. Preface by E.M.Forster. Afterword and Notes by B.Damodar Rao. Untouchable. Mysore: Geetha Book House, 1993, 158p.

Basham, A.L. The Wonder that was India. A survey of the history and culture of the Indian sub-continent before the coming of the Muslims. London: Fontana-Collins, 1967, xix-572p.

Collins, Larry and Dominique Lapierre. Freedom at Midnight. London: Panther Books, 1982, 596p. [See pp. 565 to 575 for a useful list of books on the region.]

Coomaraswamy, Ananda K. History of Indian and Indonesian Art. N.Y.: Dover Publications, 1965 (Reprint of 1927 edn.), 295p. with plates & maps.

Chopra, J.K. Bangladesh as a New Nation. Jaipur: Sublime, 2000, 252p.

Daniélou, Alain. La musique de l'Inde du Nord. 2nd edn. Paris : Editions Buchet-Chastel, 1985.

_____________. The Ragas of Northern Indian Music. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1980.

Derrett, J. Duncan M. Religion, Law and the State in India. London: Faber & Faber, 1968, 615p.

Dharwadker, Vinay and A.K.Ramanujan. Ed. The Oxford Anthology of Modern Indian Poetry. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1994, xx-265p.

Frédéric, Louis. Dictionnaire de la Civilisation Indienne. Paris: Editions Robert Laffont, 1987, XIV-1276p. [See pp.1195 to 1229 for detailed bibliographical references to the region.]

Gandhi, M.K. Autobiography or the Story of my Experiments with Truth. London: Penguin Books, 1982, 454p.

Ghose, Zulfikar. The Contradictions. London: MacMillan, 1966, 189p. [See also his The Loss of India (poems); and Confessions of a Native Alien (autobiography)]

Hewitt, Vernon Marston. The International Politics of South Asia. Manchester & N.Y.: Manchester University Press, 1992, xii-243p.

Iqbal, Muhammad. Javid-Nama. Transl. from the Persian with Introduction and Notes by A.J.Arberry. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1966, 151p.

Jayal, Niraja Gopal. Ed. Democracy in India. Delhi & Oxford: OUP, 2001, 571p.

Kahin, George McTurnan. Ed. Major Governments of Asia. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1958, xii-607p. [See pp. 241 to 464 for India and Pakistan, includes suggested reading lists on the countries.]

Naipaul, V.S. Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey. [Cf. Part II: "Pakistan, The Salt Hills of a Dream", pp. 81-209]. London: Andre Deutsch, 1981, 399p.
__________. India: A Wounded Civilization. London: Penguin Books, 1977, 175p.
__________. India: A Million Mutinies. Now. London: Minerva, 1991, 521p.
__________. A House for Mr.Biswas. London: Fontana Books, 1963, 512p.

Nanda, B.R. Mahatma Gandhi: A Biography. Delhi: Oxford University Press (Oxford India Paperbacks), 1989 (Abridged edn.), 272p.

Nehru, Jawaharlal. India's Freedom. London: Unwin Books, 1962, 95p.

Ondaatje, Michael. The Cinnamon Peeler: Selected Poems. N.Y.: Vintage, 1997.
(See also his The English Patient. N.Y.: Knopf, 1992.)

Pesch, Ludwig. The Illustrated Companion to South Indian Classical Music. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1999, xvii-376p.

Radhakrishnan, S. Religion and Society. London: George Allen & Unwin, Ltd., 1956, 248p.

Rice, David Talbot. Islamic Art. London: Thames & Hudson, 1975, 288p.

Robinson, Francis (Ed.) The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of India, Pakistan,
Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives
. CUP: 1988.

Rushdie, Salman. Midnight's Children. London-N.Y.: Vintage, 1995, 463p.

Spear, Percival. A History of India. Vol. Two. London: Penguin Books, 1978 (with revisions), 298p.

Tagore, Rabindranath. Collected Poems and Plays of Rabindranath Tagore. London: MacMillan, 1961, 578p.

Talbot, Ian. India and Pakistan. N.Y.: OUP, 2000, xxi-320p.

Tambiah, Stanley J. Sri Lanka: Ethnic Fratricide and the Dismantling of Democracy. London: I.B.Tauris, 1986, xi-198p.

Wallbank, T.Walter. A Short History of India and Pakistan. [An abridged version of India in the New Era completely revised and up-to-date]. New York: Mentor Books, 1958, 320p.

Wilson, A. Jeyaratnam. Politics in Sri Lanka, 1947-1979. London & Basingstoke: The MacMillan Press, 1979, xxx-320p.


The Journal of Asian Studies. Pub. by The Association for Asian Studies, U.S.A.

The Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London).

South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies. Pub. by Monash University.

Asian Affairs. Pub. by The Royal Society for Asian Affairs, U.K.

The Journal of the Institute of Asian Studies. Pub. by the Institute of Asian Studies, Chennai, India.

Contemporary South Asia (Ford Foundation & Universities of Bradford and Manchester), Carfax Publishing, U.K.


There is a French library in the vicinity of the school that might prove well worth the while checking.

  • Bibliothèque du Centre d'études de l'Inde et de l'Asie du Sud: CEIAS,
    (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales & Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique : EHESS-CNRS )

Maison de l'Asie, 22, rue de Président Wilson, 75116 Paris.
The library stocks 28,000 books and 400 journals focussed on the region.
It's open from 9 to 18 hours, Monday to Friday.
Tel. n°: 01 53 70 18 20

  • Bibliothèque de l'Ecole française d'Extrême Orient (address, same as above).


Back to AGSIRD Class Schedule - Fall 2003

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