Not available in 2022/23
AN467      Half Unit
The Anthropology of South Asia

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Rebecca Bowers


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. 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 MT.

This course will have a series of optional online film screenings. The course has a reading week in Week 6 of the MT.

Formative coursework

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

Indicative reading

Please read at least TWO of the following background readings 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; Corbridge, S. and Harris, J., Reinventing India: Liberalization, Hindu Politics and Popular Democracy; Rana Dasgupta, Capital: The Eruption of Delhi; Ammara Maqsood, The New Pakistani Middle class; Delwar Hussain, Boundaries Undermined: The ruins of progress on Bangladesh-India Border

Fiction: Vikram Seth, A Suitable Boy; Rohington Mistry, A Fine Balance; Bapsi Sidhwa, Ice Candy Man; Neel Mukherjee, The Lives of Others; Daniyal Mueenuddin, In Other Rooms, Other Wonders; Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things; Saadat Hasan Manto, Toba Tek Singh: Stories


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

Key facts

Department: Anthropology

Total students 2021/22: 12

Average class size 2021/22: 12

Controlled access 2021/22: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.