Cultures of india and south asia anth 331 (crn 20368)

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Prof. Lamia Karim

Class T/TH 10-11:20 AM

101 Jaqua

Office Hours: Wed 2-4 PM

Condon 375; Ext. 6-5095

This course is designed as an introduction to the peoples and cultures of the countries that make up modern South Asia––Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan–-and the contemporary problems that mark South Asia in a global context. The purpose of this course is to dislocate/complicate essentialized representations of South Asia as a timeless “object” of study, and move toward a complex analysis of how South Asian cultures and identities are produced and shaped by the processes of colonialism, nationalism, capitalism, environmental change, wars, and globalization. The course focuses on a variety of topics that inform modern South Asia such as religion, caste, class, nationalism, ethnicity, family life, gender, sexuality, diaspora, and globalization.

Course Learning Outcomes:

The course is designed with the following learning outcomes. Students in this course will learn to critically analyze:

a) the complexity of human social organizations (state, family, religion, NGOs) from cross-cultural perspectives

b) the comparative dimensions of race, caste, and class in South Asia

c) global forms of capital—telemarketing, outsourcing, and the garment industry

d) social movements and popular resistance due to economic marginalization and environmental degradation

e) changing norms of gender and sexual identity.
Required Texts: All books and course pack are available at UO Duck Store.

1. Katherine Boo. 2012. Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, Random House.

2. Course Pack available at bookstore
Course Requirements and Policies

Please read the following carefully.

Attendance 10

Participation 10

Exam 1 20

Paper 30

Exam 2 (Take Home) 30

*There is no final exam in this class

Grades Rubrics

A=90%; B=80%; C=70%. +/- grades will be assigned. Below 70% is a Fail for this course. No D grades will be assigned. Please note that I do not assign A+ in a survey course.

The grading system used in this course is as follows:

A – Outstanding performance relative to that required to meet course requirements; demonstrates mastery of course content at the highest level.

B – Performance that is significantly above that required to meet course requirements; demonstrates mastery of course content at a high level.

C – Performance that meets the course requirements in every respect; demonstrates an adequate understanding of course content.

D – Performance that is at the minimal level necessary to pass the course but does not fully meet the course requirements; demonstrates a marginal understanding of course content.

F – Performance in the course is unacceptable and does not meet the course

Grade Policy

The Graduate Student Fellow (GTF) will grade all assignments. If you have questions regarding a grade you received, your first line of action is to meet with the GTF to discuss the matter. If you fail to come to a satisfactory resolution, please meet with me to resolve the issue.

Attendance (10 Points)

In order for the course to be successful, it is important that you do the readings and come prepared to participate in class discussions. It is also important that you show up for class on time. We will keep attendance both in lecture and in discussion classes. You are allowed two unexcused absences. If you show up late (more than ten minutes after class has begun), you will be considered “absent” for that day.

Participation Points (10 Points)

  1. All students must prepare a single-spaced one-page country report on any South Asian country (Afghanistan, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Nepal) that focuses on any of the following topics: economy, caste, class, gender (what is the role of women and sexual minorities), family life, status of religious minorities, insurgencies, social movements, media, environment, or on any topic that interests you.

  2. All students must report on a current event on any South Asian country. You will do online research to come up with a topic, and you will share your findings with the class in discussion sections. Your GTF will assist you in this process.

How to do the Readings

Read the materials prior to class. Below are the guidelines for reading the assigned texts.

1. What are the author’s main objectives?

2. What are the major findings of the article/book?

3. What is the context for the writing of this article/book? For example, try to understand how the article relates to topics such as ethnicity, sexuality, nationalism, and globalization.

4. Do you agree with the arguments? Why or why not?

Exams /Papers
Exam I is a combination of short essay, multiple choice, and true/false questions. Below are two examples of such questions.
a) In the essay, “High and Low Castes in Karani,” the author asserts that the different castes in the community live in a state of constant conflict.” Is this statement true or false?
b) Draw on two examples to show how food inhibitions and caste function in Karani. Why are dietary restrictions so important to caste identity?
Paper (30 Points)

You will write a paper on a topic to be handed out in class. The paper should be between 5-6 pages, written in academic prose with in-text citations. Papers must show an understanding of the arguments and concepts covered in the readings, and an ability to synthesize those arguments and observations into a compelling narrative.

Exam II (30 Points) is a Take-Home Exam that is due on the first Monday of Exams Week
Late Assignments

Assignments are due on dates assigned unless the instructor gives prior permission. Late assignments will be accepted only in the event of documented accidents, family emergencies, or illnesses. No make-up examinations will be given without proper documentation. Please see me if you are facing serious issues that intervene with your academic performance.

Class Rules

This class is a contract between the professor and the students. While I will do my best to provide you with the information you need to successfully complete this course, it is also your responsibility to stay on track with the readings and assignments. Classes will be conducted in the following format: lectures followed by discussion on the materials covered. Please do not interrupt the professor during lectures. You will have ample time at the end of the class for discussion as well as during discussion sections. Based on our class discussions and interest, I may add new reading materials.

Here are some dos and don’ts for this class:

Please read the assigned readings prior to class.

You are strongly encouraged to meet with me during my office hours.

You are allowed to bring beverages to class but no food is allowed. We have had problems with ant infestation in the past.

You are encouraged to bring to my attention news articles/books/videos you think may be of interest to the class.

Absolutely no CELL PHONE USE is allowed during class. Please turn off the ringer.

Please do not arrive late for class or leave early without prior notification. Such behavior is disrespectful to the professor and fellow students. If you have to leave early for some reason, please sit close to an exit and let the professor or GTF know.

Please do not text messages in class.

No laughing, giggling and passing notes in class. Please understand that such behavior is both disrespectful and disruptive. I will take off points for disruptive behavior during class. If you continue to disrupt the class, I may even ask you to leave.
E-mail Message Policy

In the course of a day, I receive many messages, and it is not possible for me to respond to all of your queries. Please rest assured that your questions and concerns are very important to me, and I will do my best to address them in a timely manner. I am available to discuss questions pertaining to class readings during my office hours and after class. During Monday thru Thursday, you will get a response from me within 24 hours. For messages sent to me on weekends, I may not be able to respond to your messages until Monday morning.

Please extend the same courtesy to the GTF, who is a graduate student and has schoolwork in addition to the duties of a teaching assistant.
Canvas will be used in this course. Please read Canvas regularly for class-related announcements. Changes to class scheduling, directed questions for reading, etc. will be posted on Canvas. For example, if I have to cancel class one day, I will post the message on Canvas.
Disabilities. Students with disabilities who are taking this course and need disability-related accommodations should inform the instructor immediately and file documentation with the Office of Disability Services (164 Oregon Hall) or visit their website:
Plagiarism or academic dishonesty is a very serious academic offence. Any student caught plagiarizing will automatically get a Fail grade for that assignment. A repeat offence will be reported to the Office of Academic Dishonesty. Plagiarism consists of inserting phrases, sentences, paragraphs or more from another source without proper attribution including quotation marks and a footnote indicating the source. It also includes using purchased papers or downloading material from any Internet source without explicit quotation.
Please review the University policy on Academic Dishonesty for details visit: It is your RESPONSIBILITY to make sure that you understand this policy, and that you follow university policy accordingly.

Sexual Harassment and Violence:

The UO is committed to providing an environment free of all forms of discrimination and sexual harassment, including sexual assault, domestic and dating violence, and gender or sex based bullying and stalking. If you (or someone you know) has experienced or experiences gender or sex-based violence (intimate partner violence, attempted or completed sexual assault, harassment, coercion, stalking, etc.), know that you are not alone. UO has staff members trained to support survivors in navigating campus life, accessing health and counseling services, providing academic and housing accommodations, helping with legal protective orders, and more.

Please be aware that all UO employees, other than designated confidential resources such as University Counseling and Testing Center counselors, are required to report credible evidence of discrimination prohibited by University policy. If you wish to speak to someone confidentially, you can call 541-346-SAFE, UO’s 24- hour hotline, to be

connected to a confidential counselor to discuss your options as confidential counselors are not deemed mandatory reporters. You can also visit the SAFE website at Additionally, there are local organizations, such Sexual Assault Support Services (; 541-343-7277) that you may contact.

Week One Introduction to Modern South Asia
1/5 A review of ancient India

1/7 British Colonialism/Modern States

Ludden, David. Chapter 4 “Making Modern Societies” in Course Pack

Ludden, David. Chapter 6 “Creating Nations” in Course Pack

Week Two The Rise of Hindu Nationalism
1/12 The Religions of India (TBA)
Tanika Sarker. “The woman as communal subject: Rashtrasevika Samity and Ramjanmabhoomi Movement”(Ram’s Birth-Place Movement)

Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 26, No. 35 (August 31, 1991), pp. 2057-2062

1/14 Film: The World Before Her

Week Three The Myth of the Holy Cow

1/19 “Introduction’ and ‘Resume: The Elusive ‘Holy’ Cow’ in the Myth of the Holy Cow, D.N. Jha in Course Pack

‘The Lynching of Muhammad Akhlaq and the Undoing of the India of India’
1/21 Ambedkar, B. R. “The Annihilation of Caste” in Course Pack

Film: Caste at Birth

Week Four Caste and Class


Kapoor, S.D. “B.R. Ambedkar, W.E.B. Dubois and the Process of Liberation,” Economic and Political Weekly, 38. 51-51 (2003): 5344- 5349 in Course Pack

What B.R. Ambedkar wrote to W.E.B. Dubois
1/28 ‘The Ethnicity of Caste,’ Deepa Reddy, Anthropological Quarterly, Vol 78(3) Summer 2005: 543-584 in Course Pack

Dickey, Sara. “Anjali’s Prospects” in Course Pack

Exam I in Discussion Class
Week Five Family Life

2/2 Wadley, Susan. 1994. “ One Straw from a Broom Cannot Sweep: The Ideology and Practice of the Joint Family System in Rural North India,” in Course Pack

Film: Dadi’s Family
2/4 Seymour, Susan. “Family and Gender Systems in Transition: A thirty- five-year Perspective” in Course Pack

Film: 1-800-India

Week Six Globalization and Poverty

2/9 Boo, Katherine Behind the Beautiful Forevers

2/11 Behind the Beautiful Forevers
Week Seven Microfinance and Women’s Empowerment

2/16 Yunus, Muhammad. “The Microcredit Revolution” in Course Pack

2/18 Karim, Lamia. “Demystifying Micro-Credit: The Grameen Bank, NGOs and Neoliberalism in Bangladesh” in Course Pack

Film: The Micro Debt

Week Eight Sexuality
2/23 Nanda, Serena. “Life of a Hijra” in Course Pack

Film: Project Bolo

2/25 Grewal, Inderpal. “Outsourcing Patriarchy,” International Feminist Journal of Politics, in Course Pack
Gill, Harjant. “How Milind Soman Made Me Gay: Exploring Issues of Belonging and Citizenship Among Gay South Asian Men in Diaspora.” In Anthropology Today, 87-96, 2010

How Milind Soman Made Me Gay
Film: Mardistan

Papers Due on Friday in Discussion Class

Week Nine Environment
3/1 Jalais, Annu. Forest of Tigers in Course Pack
3/3 Forest of Tigers in Course Pack

Watch at home BBC documentary on “Man Eating Tigers of the Sunderbans”

Week Ten The Global Garment Industry

3/8 Karim, Lamia. “Learning to Labor: Female Garment Labor in Bangladesh

and the Global Supply Chain”

Building Collapse in Bangladesh Leaves Scores Dead

3/10 Take-Home Exams Handed Out.

Exams due on Monday, March 14 by 4 PM in GTF’s mailbox.

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