Anthropology

Understanding Contemporary India

Module code: L6057
Level 6
30 credits in spring teaching
Teaching method: Seminar
Assessment modes: Dissertation

This module introduces you to some key contemporary debates in the study of South Asian societies, with a focus on India.

Starting with an interrogation of anthropological representations of South Asia, the module will explore debates about caste and hierarchy, leading to a discussion of everyday experiences of caste and its changing meaning and importance in contemporary India. It will question why bonded labour, patronage, inequality and poverty are so persistent in one of the world’s fastest growing regions. It will explore how neoliberal policies and ideologies are reshaping South Asian subjectivity and society.

The module will then turn to the politics of identity as shaped by class, caste and religious affiliations. It will explore the rise of the middle classes and its links with consumption, urban restructuring and the new enterprise culture, as well as its implications for growing inequalities of class and wealth. It will look into religious and communal identity formation and conflict, and will explore the nature of popular religion in South Asia. Finally, the module will look at the role of the state and politics in the making of contemporary South Asia. The state will be considered as a key actor in the shaping of neoliberal policies and ideologies, as a terrain of patronage and politics, and as the deliverer of new social welfare policies.

This module will be assessed by a 7,000-word dissertation.

Module learning outcomes

  • Demonstrate an awareness of key themes/debates in the anthropology of South Asia
  • Demonstrate an ability to locate key themes/debates in broader anthropological theory
  • Demonstrate an awareness of the contributions that anthropology has made to the understanding of social, economic and political relations in South Asia
  • Demonstrate an ability to critically read and assess accounts of society, economy and power in South Asian society
  • Express adequate understanding of the above through written means, using theoretical and empirical data