South Asia Studies

Academic Program Introduction

Our program focuses on the histories, cultures, and people of South Asia and its diaspora. Students explore both European and South Asian theories of knowledge. Majors concentrate on a single method, such as literary analysis, or a single theme, such as international development, and become proficient in a South Asian language such as Hindi or Urdu.

Learning goals

  • Think in a multicontextual way and at the intersection of disciplines.
  • Engage in rigorous encounters with a crucial but underrepresented area of the world.

  • Gain broad understanding of the cultures, histories, religions, societies, politics, and people of the region and in the diaspora.

  • Learn to speak and comprehend, and to write and read, in Hindi or in Urdu, or in another South Asian language.

Programs of Study

South Asia studies major and minor

Students acquire skills and sentiments needed to understand South Asian arts, cultures, histories, politics, and religions.

Course Highlights

  • If any mention of South Asian culture conjures for you Bollywood films, Bharatanatyam dancers, and Google engineers, then this course will prompt you to reconsider. Adopting a sociological perspective that examines culture from the specific context of migration, we will study the histories of Punjabi-Mexican families in California, Gujarati motel owners across the United States, South African Indians at the end of apartheid, and Bangladeshi garment workers in London’s East End, among others. Through our study, we develop a nuanced understanding of race, culture, migration, and upward mobility in the United States and beyond, while also considering the power of mobile South Asian cultures, including movies, music, dance, and religion. (SAS 232 and SOC 232 are cross-listed courses.)
  • This course examines the history of interaction of Africans, Arabs, Persians, and South Asians in the coastal regions of East Africa, the Arabian/Persian Gulf, and India, which together enclose the western Indian Ocean. In the period under study (1500 to the present), European imperial expansion and a globalizing economy played an increasingly transformative role. We will read about the port cities connecting these shores; the movements and networks of people; the objects and patterns of trade; the intensifying slave trade; shared environmental and health hazards, and the exchange of legal and commercial practices, and religious and political ideas. (HIST 367 and SAS 367 are cross-listed courses.)

Research highlights

  • Professor Neelima Shukla-Bhatt’s book Hinduism: The Basics (Routledge, 2023) digs into the variety of philosophical schools, priestly rituals, and popular practices common in the Hindu faith, looking in particular at the diversity of Hinduism’s traditions and how they function in everyday life.

  • The Islamic Welfare State: Muslim Charity, Human Security, and Government Legitimacy in Pakistan (Cambridge University Press, 2023), by Professor Christopher Candland, explores the relationship between government legitimacy, everyday security, and lived Islam in Pakistan, a Muslim-majority country.


  • Student organizations

    Students run three organizations centered on South Asian communities: Al-Muslimat, Wellesley’s Muslim Student Association; Darshana, for Wellesley’s Hindu community; and the Wellesley Association for South Asian Cultures, which hosts a cultural show, Shruti Laya, each fall.

Beyond Wellesley

Beyond Wellesley

Our graduates pursue a wide range of careers in health care, consulting, government, and advocacy. Recent employers include ATASK (Asian Task Force Against Domestic Violence), Druk Holding and Investments, the National Institutes of Health, Publicis Sapient, the National Cancer Institute, Singapore’s Ministry of National Development, and the World Bank.

Recent Employers

NIH logo
Publicis Sapient logo
Singapore’s Ministry of National Development logo

South Asia Studies Program

Founders Hall
106 Central Street
Wellesley, MA 02481
Nikhil Rao
Program Director
Margaret Kennedy
Academic Administrator