The Anthropology of South Asia

Convenor: Professor David Gellner and Professor Nayanika Mathur

There is enormous cultural diversity within South Asia, even within a single region of one country, let alone in the entire subcontinent. There is also a rich, voluminous, and important anthropological and ethnographic literature on the area. This course seeks to provide an orientation and an introduction to the social anthropological themes of caste, kinship, religion, personhood, ethnicity, and political and social change in the South Asian context, including an appreciation of their contemporary relevance. The course will cover classical treatments of the problem (e.g.—on caste—Dumont, Hocart, Ambedkar), critiques (e.g. Appadurai, Berreman, Quigley, Dirks), and contemporary applications (e.g. Mines, Parry, Jodhka, Gupta).

The course includes engagement with ethnographic particulars, through close readings of monographs, and with specific sites (primarily in India, Pakistan, and Nepal).

Take a look at…

C.J. Fuller.  2004, 2nd ed. The Camphor Flame: Popular Society and Hinduism in India.  Princeton: Princeton University Press.

K. Boo. 2012.  Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Slum.  New York: Random House.

M.N. Srinivas.  1976. The Remembered Village.  Oxford: Oxford University Press.

S. Jodhka.  2012. Caste.  New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

S. Lamb and D. Mines.  2012, 2nd ed.  Everyday Life in South Asia.  Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.


The image above shows a reception room in the headman's house in the village of 'Rampur', near Mysore, Karnataka, made famous by M.N. Srinivas's book, The Remembered Village.