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Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Ethnography of a Selected Region - South Asia

Course Code:
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 2 or Year 3
Taught in:
Full Year
The course deals with the societies existing in one of a number of broad geographical-cultural regions (those at present on offer during 2007-8 being China, Japan, South Asia, South East Asia, Near & Middle East, West Africa, and East Africa). Each course varies in detail according to the characteristics of the region and focuses on major social and cultural aspects.

In this context, students learn about the institutions and social groupings to be found in the political, religious, domestic and economic spheres of life, as well as the values of the people and the theories which observers have put forward in analysing and explaining these societies.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

The purpose of the course is to build on the first year courses, with more detailed and deeper knowledge of a single body of ethnographic material.

For single-subject students whose interests lie within a region, the course provides a focused introduction to the study of that region, which can be continued in the final year through writing a 5,000 word advanced ethnography dissertation.

For two-subject students, a major purpose of the regional ethnography is to provide a further dimension to their study of the language, history, etc of the region.

Scope and syllabus

Attention is paid to all five countries of the sub-continent, and its major religious traditions, though most readings focus on Hindu India.

South Asia:

  • Caste and tribe, 
  • kinship, 
  • life-cycle rites, 
  • asceticism, 
  • calendrical systems, 
  • status of women, 
  • urbanisation, 
  • village economy; 
  • popular visual representations e.g. art and films.

Method of assessment

The written exam will count for 60%. 2 pieces of coursework will count for 40% (20% each) towards the final mark.

Suggested reading

Sample Readings:
  • L Caplan Class and culture in urban India: fundamentalism in a Christian community (Clarendon Press, 1987).
  • V Das Critical events: an anthropological perspective on contemporary India (OUP, Delhi, 1995).
  • L Dumont Homo hierarchicus (2nd ed, Chicago University Press, 1980).
  • M Holmstrom Industry and inequality: the social anthropology of Indian labour (CUP, 1984).
  • C Osella Social mobility in Kerala : modernity and identity in conflict (Pluto Press, 2000).
  • G Raheja The poison in the gift: ritual, presentation, and the dominant caste in a north Indian village (Chicago University Press, 1988).