Not available in 2020/21
AN467      Half Unit
The Anthropology of South Asia

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Mukulika Banerjee OLD 5.09


This course is available on the MSc in Anthropology and Development, MSc in Anthropology and Development Management, MSc in Social Anthropology and MSc in Social Anthropology (Religion in the Contemporary World). This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.


You need to be enrolled in a degree that requires analytical and qualitative research skills. You may be asked to submit written work to determine your ability for this course.

Course content

This course will aim to address issues of citizenship, inequality and social justice, religious faith and practices, migration and labour and consumption patterns in rural and urban South Asia. The course will cover both classic and current literature and weekly sessions will be organised thematically. We will start by looking at the history of South Asia's democracies and consider the challenges posed to them. South Asia is an ideal setting to examine many paradoxes that exist elsewhere - alongside some of the highest rates of economic growth there is growing inequality, there is a growing middle class but high rates of precarious poverty,  the countries remain largely rural yet they will hold the largest urban population in the world in less than ten years and so on. In order to understand these paradoxes, it is essential that issues of macro economic policy, social inequality, infrastructural development, political mobilisation and popular culture,  mobilisation along religious lines in each country and the rise of the 'threatened majorities' that behave like minority populations - be examined in greater detail.  Using a rich body of anthropological research on South Asia, this course will examine several of these issues and more in this course. The literature on India is the largest available but every attempt will be made to cover the anthropological literature on Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh alongside.


All these issues and more will be addressed in this course through the rich corpus of anthropological literature on the subject alongside examples from India’s vibrant media and popular culture.


10 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the LT.

Attendance at film screenings are essential for this course. Sessions will be scheduled at the start of term for a weekday evening (3 hours). The course has a reading week in Week 6 of the LT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay in the LT.

Indicative reading

Please do at least TWO of the following background reading before the start of the course and certainly by the end of the second week of the course.


Sunil Khilnani The Idea of India

Ramachandra Guha India After Gandhi

 Sen The Argumentative Indian

Corbridge, S. and Harris, J. 2000, Reinventing India: Liberalization, Hindu Politics and Popular Democracy. London: Polity Press

Rana Dasgupta Capital



Vikram Seth A Suitable Boy

Rohington Mistry A Fine Balance


Take-home assessment (100%) in the LT.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Anthropology

Total students 2019/20: Unavailable

Average class size 2019/20: Unavailable

Controlled access 2019/20: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information