South Asia Studies

Bharatnatyam, a classical Indian dance, is one of the most popular and widely performed dance styles, as seen here at a festival in Delhi.
"The Friendship of of the Tiger and the Boar," an acrylic on canvas painting by Gond tribal artist Jangarh Singh Shyam (1960-2001), c. 1989
"Bidis" (pronounced bee-dees), small hand-rolled cigarettes made of tobacco wrapped in tendu or temburni leaf, are popular in India, as seen here in production in Mysore.
Workers harvest silkworm cocoons in Bangalore to be sold at market.
Punjabi children pose for a Wellesley student's snapshot, offset by a mustard field in the background.
Buddhist prayer flags

South Asia Studies acquaints students with South Asian civilizations through an interdisciplinary study of the languages, literatures, histories, religions, arts, social and political institutions, and cultural patterns.

The Indus River Valley civilization (3300-1300 BCE), situated in what is now Pakistan, was one of the world's great ancient civilizations. Today known as South Asia, the Asian subcontinent stretches from east to west from Afghanistan and Pakistan through India to Bangladesh and on to Northeast India and from north to south from Nepal and Bhutan in the Himalayas to Sri Lanka and the Maldives in the Indian Ocean. Governments of these eight countries comprise the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation. South Asia Studies is the study of this region, its cultures, histories, languages, literature, politics, religions, societies, and people, including those living outside of the region.

One out of every four people on earth, one fourth of humanity, is South Asian. South Asia has contributed greatly to the arts, humanities, and social sciences of the world. The subcontinent has produced a large body of knowledge on artistic, linguistic, and literary practices; on varieties of colonialism and imperialism; on the political construction of national and religious identities; on the intersections of ethnicity, gender, and politics; and on violence and non-violence.

South Asia Studies is an ideal liberal arts concentration because the subjects of inquiry are complex and challenging and because the methods of inquiry are interdisciplinary. Students learn to think multi-contextually and at the intersection of disciplines. Students learn different ways of knowing. The South Asia Studies Program allows students to learn both European and South Asian epistemologies. At the same time, students are required to focus on a single method, such as literary analysis, or a single thematic focus, such as international development. Students learn intercultural skills, including how to communicate in South Asian languages.

With more than one dozen faculty with with research and teaching interests in South Asia, in nine departments and programs, we are able to ensure that each major and minor benefits from a unique, well-designed course of study. We expect each student to gain broad understanding of the cultures, histories, religions, societies, and politics of the region and to gain skills in the ability to speak and comprehend, and to write and read in Hindi and Urdu, two of South Asia's principal languages, or in another South Asian language. Majors and minors develop facility in aesthetic judgment; linguistic, historical, and literary interpretation; and behavior and social analysis. The Program works to develop in students the skills to become critical thinkers, cogent writers, and effective researchers on a range of vital questions. Students begin to acquire sentiments needed to interact authentically and competently with people in and from South Asia and to know how to be human in South Asian ways.