ASIA 152: Survey of South Asian Cultural History
This course offers a serendipitous journey through South Asian cultural history from approximately 1500 BCE to the present. In order to fruitfully engage with such a huge topic, we will focus on a handful of representative texts and major religious and social movements. The organization of the course is largely historical, but even so, the course will be more concerned with a history of peoples than of political regimes. Rather than concentrate on kings, wars, and dates, it will explore some of South Asia’s cultural pinnacles in literature, theater, film, music, art, and architecture. Keeping in mind that much of the cultural production of the pre-modern period was religious in nature, we will pay special attention to developments within Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and Sikhism—four major religious traditions in South Asia. Some of the themes under discussion in this course include salvation as understood in various religious traditions, the tension between renunciation and householding, the sublimation of the divine in romantic/religious literature, women and the domestic sphere, the nationalist movement, and post-independence culture and politics. Along the way, we will note sites of intercultural contact and synthesis, and chart the broad contours of Indian history, particularly from the sixteenth century onwards. LA, BN, WB.