South Asian Studies

Richard Delacy, Director of Undergraduate Studies

A concentration in South Asian Studies enables students to develop a critical understanding of the diverse cultures, histories, languages and literatures of South Asia, which includes Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Tibet. South Asia is home to more than a billion people and some of the world’s most fascinating and important civilizations. Its influence has extended historically from Central, East, and Southeast Asia to Europe and North America, which today have vibrant South Asian diasporas. The study of South Asia is an increasingly important area of academic inquiry, especially in recent decades as the region emerges as a global cultural, economic, and political power.

The concentration offers a range of possibilities for students interested in studying South Asia. Students interested in the arts and humanities may choose to study modern and/or pre-modern South Asia from the disciplinary perspectives of history, history of art, literature, music, philosophy, and/or religion. Students interested in the social sciences may create academic programs which combine the study of languages, literatures, and cultures with course work in anthropology, economics, government, public health, sociology, and/or urban planning.

In addition, joint concentrations with South Asian Studies and another department are possible with the approval of both departments. The department also offers a secondary field in South Asian Studies, as well as language citations in Hindi-Urdu, Sanskrit, Tamil, and Tibetan.

There are two concentration options.

Option A: South Asian Languages, Literatures, and Cultures 11 courses (44 credits), 13 courses for honors (52 credits) is for students who wish to focus intensively on learning a major South Asian language, its textual traditions, and broad socio-cultural contexts. The most common choices here are Hindi-Urdu, Sanskrit, Tamil, or Tibetan.

Students who choose Hindi-Urdu as their primary focus should take a full year of Hindi-Urdu 101 no later than their sophomore year. In subsequent years, they will continue their study of Hindi-Urdu and work out a program of study, with the Director of Undergraduate Studies or a designated adviser, which draws upon a range of courses in South Asian Studies and related fields.

Students who choose Sanskrit as their primary focus should take introductory Sanskrit (Sanskrit 101a and 101b) no later than their sophomore year. Beyond the study of Sanskrit, students will work out a program of study, with the Director of Undergraduate Studies or a designated adviser, which draws upon a range of courses in South Asian Studies and related fields.

Students who choose Tamil as their primary focus should take Tamil 101a and 101b no later than their sophomore year. In subsequent years, they will continue their study of Tamil and work out a program of study, with the Director of Undergraduate Studies or a designated adviser, which draws upon a range of courses in South Asian Studies and related fields.

Students who choose Tibetan as their primary focus should take Tibetan 101a and 101b no later than the sophomore year.  In subsequent years, they will continue their study of Tibetan and work out a program of study, with the Director of Undergraduate Studies or a designated adviser, which draws upon a range of courses in South Asian Studies and related fields.

Option B: South Asian Studies 11 courses (44 credits), 13 for honors (52 credits) is for students who wish to gain a broad understanding of South Asia. While students may develop a particular area of focus or expertise, the emphasis in this option is on wide-ranging and interdisciplinary studies that are essential to understanding this increasingly important part of our contemporary world.

In this option, language study in Hindi-Urdu, Sanskrit, Tamil, or Tibetan is required. In special cases, another language may be substituted if it is directly related to South Asian Studies and offered by an academic program approved by the department. In addition to the study of a South Asian language, students will work out a program of study, with the Director of Undergraduate Studies or a designated adviser, drawing upon courses in South Asian Studies offered by various departments within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. 

A Joint Concentration 9 courses (36 credits) allows students to combine training in South Asian languages and cultures with a particular discipline in another department. The program of study is jointly agreed upon by both departments.

The Secondary Field in South Asian Studies 5 courses (20 credits) is a more flexible way for students to study South Asia. It maintains the structure of the concentration, with an emphasis on South Asian Languages, Literatures, and Cultures or South Asian Studies, without the obligation of a joint thesis or culminating project.

Language Citations are awarded in Hindu-Urdu, Sanskrit, Tamil, and Tibetan, upon completion of four (16 credits) courses beyond the introductory year.

REQUIREMENTS

South Asian Languages, Literatures, and Cultures
Basic Requirements
11 courses (44 credits)

  1. Required courses:
    1. Six courses in Hindi-Urdu, Sanskrit, Tamil, or Tibetan, including at least two courses beyond the second year.
    2. Four additional courses in South Asian Studies, of which at least two must be 100-level non-language courses.  Courses for this requirement may include departmental offerings and courses with a South Asia emphasis offered in other departments or as General Education courses, with the approval of the Director of Undergraduate Studies.
  2. Tutorial: South Asian Studies 98r (Junior Tutorial, one term), individual or group tutorial. Letter-graded.
  3. Thesis: None.
  4. General Examination: None.
  5. Other information: One course taken Pass/Fail or SAT/UNS may be counted for concentration credit, with the approval of the Director of Undergraduate Studies

Requirements for Honors Eligibility
13 courses (52 credits)

  1. Required courses: Same as Basic Requirements, with the addition of a year-long senior tutorial (South Asian Studies 99) leading to a thesis.
  2. Thesis: Required of all senior honors candidates.
  3. General Examination: Honors candidates must take an oral examination based on the work in the concentration and on the thesis.
  4. Other information: Same as Basic Requirements.

South Asian Studies

Basic Requirements
11 courses (44 credits)

  1. Required courses:
    1. Four courses in Hindi-Urdu, Sanskrit, Tamil, or Tibetan.
    2. Six additional courses in South Asian Studies, of which least two must be 100-level non-language courses. Courses for this requirement may include departmental offerings and courses with a South Asia emphasis offered in other departments or as General Education courses, with the approval of the Director of Undergraduate Studies.
  2. Tutorial: South Asian Studies 98r (Junior Tutorial, one term), individual or group tutorial. Letter-graded.
  3. Thesis: None.
  4. General Examination: None.
  5. Other information: One course taken Pass/Fail or SAT/UNS may be counted for concentration credit with the approval of the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

Requirements for Honors Eligibility
13 courses (52 credits)

  1. Required courses: Same as Basic Requirements, with the addition of a year-long senior tutorial (South Asian Studies 99r) leading to a thesis.
  2. Thesis: Required of all senior honors candidates.
  3. General Examination: Honors candidates must take an oral examination based on the work in the concentration and on the thesis.
  4. Other information: Same as Basic Requirements.

Joint Concentration Requirements
9 courses (36 credits)

  1. Required courses:
    1. Four courses in Hindi-Urdu, Sanskrit, Tamil, or Tibetan.
    2. Two 100-level non-language courses in South Asian Studies. This requirement may be satisfied by departmental offerings and by courses with a South Asia emphasis offered in other departments, with the approval of the Director of Undergraduate Studies
  2. Tutorials:
    1. Junior year: South Asian Studies 98r (one term), or other tutorial as jointly arranged between the two departments.
    2. Senior year: South Asian Studies 99r (two terms) if South Asian Studies is the primary field, or two terms of tutorial in the other concentration if South Asian Studies is not the primary field.
  3. Thesis: Required.
  4. General Examination: Honors candidates must take an oral examination based on the work in the concentration and on the thesis.

ADVISING

Students are assigned a faculty adviser based on their area of study. Students continue with the same adviser throughout their three years, unless there is a reason for making a change. Students meet with their adviser at least twice a term and at other times as needed.

For up-to-date information on advising in South Asian Studies, please see the Advising Programs Office website.

RESOURCES

The University-wide South Asia Institute (SAI) facilitates scholarly exchanges among Harvard faculty and students, specialists in South Asian studies from the US and abroad, and visiting academics and prominent public figures from South Asia. Encouraging the work of Harvard faculty and students, the SAI also provides grants for language study and thesis research.

Harvard College Library contains one of the largest collections of Sanskrit manuscripts and printed texts in the West, and strong collections in Urdu and Sindhi literatures and South Asian studies in general. Together with the Harvard-Yenching Library its holdings of Buddhist texts are perhaps the finest in the world.

STUDY ABROAD

The department strongly encourages concentrators to spend either a summer or term in South Asia as part of their studies. For advice on study abroad programs eligible for concentration credit, please see the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

HOW TO FIND OUT MORE

Questions about the concentration should be discussed with the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Richard Delacy, rdelacy@fas.harvard.edu, (617) 496-4749.

ENROLLMENT STATISTICS
Number of Concentrators as of December

Concentrators 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
South Asian Studies* 2 1 1 5 5 5 4 4 2 2
South Asian Studies* + another field 1 1 0 1 2 2 1 0 2 1
Another field + South Asian Studies* 2 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0








* Prior to the 2011-12 academic year, this concentration was named Sanskrit and Indian Studies.