SOAS University of London

South Asia Section, School of Languages, Cultures & Linguistics

Cultural Studies of South Asia

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 2, Year 3 or Year 4
Taught in:
Term 1

Culture in South Asia is a deeply contested terrain. Motifs and vocabularies continue to be mixed and remixed and speak to new audiences despite attempts to purify or delimit national cultures.  

This module provides an in-depth understanding of the multiple forms, languages, and avenues of cultural production; the relationship between local, national, and transnational/global domains; and the remix and reuse of older repertoires and forms in contemporary contexts. The module unpacks the notion of national culture while noting the ways in which nation-states in South Asia broadcast particular cultural models.

It explores cultural forms that lay bare key critical debates, as well as activist cultures that produce counter-cultural forms. While considering English to be a South Asian language, the module also draws attention to the richness and salience of vernacular expressive codes. Throughout, the topics will be investigated through the lens of primary cultural sources such as literary texts, films and state propaganda, etc.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

  • Demonstrate in-depth understanding of topics covered in the module
  • Deploy relevant key theoretical approaches to these topics
  • Show enhanced writing skills and analytic insight
  • Show greater confidence and ability in oral expression and class participation
  • Have developed analytical tools to approach a wide variety of texts and contexts from South Asia


Total of 10 weeks teaching with 2 hours classroom contact per week

Scope and syllabus

  • Keywords and history of Cultural Studies
  • The national state-cultures in India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Nepal
  • Languages questions and debates
  • The use and re-use of tradition
  • Feminist issues and debates
  • Mediascapes in South Asia
  • Media and religion
  • Music and theatre activism
  • Borders and migration

Method of assessment

  • One essay (1500 words) to be submitted on day 5, week 5, term 1 (45%)
  • One essay (1500 words) to be submitted on day 5 week 1, term 2 (45%)
  • One (10 minute) poster presentation in week 1 (10%)

Suggested reading

  • Breckenridge, Carol (ed.). 1995. Consuming Modernity: Public Culture in a South Asian World, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995.
  • Hall, Stuart. 1980. “Cultural Studies: Two Paradigms.” Media, Culture & Society 2 (1): 57–72.
  • Roy, Srirupa. 2002. “Moving Pictures: The Postcolonial State and Visual Representations of India.” Contributions to Indian Sociology 36: 233.
  • Dharmadasa, K.N.O. 1992. Language, Religion, and Ethnic Assertiveness: The Growth of Sinhalese Nationalism in Sri Lanka. University of Michigan Press.
  • Ahmed, A.F. Salahuddin and Bazlul Mobin Chowdhury (eds.) 2004. Bangladesh, national culture, and heritage: an introductory reader. Dhaka : Independent University.
  • Ninan, Sevanti. 2007. Headlines from the Heartland: reinventing the Hindi public sphere. Sage Publications.
  • Dwyer, Rachel. 2006. Filming the Gods: Religion and Indian Cinema. London, New York and Delhi.
  • Dwyer, Rachel. 2006. ‘The Saffron Screen?: Hindi Movies and Hindu Nationalism’, 422-60 in Religion, Media and the Public Sphere, ed. Birgit Meyer and Annalies Moors. Bloomington, 2006. See also introduction in book which is in the Ebrary
  • Manuel, Peter. 1993. Cassette Culture: Popular Music and Technology in North India. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Radha Kumar. 1993. A History of Doing, Delhi: Kali for Women.
  • Richman, Paula (ed.). 1991. Many Rāmāyanas : the diversity of a narrative tradition in South Asia, Berkeley, CA ; Oxford : University of California, 1991 

Additional Reading 

  • Dalmia, V. and R. Sadana (eds). 2012. The Cambridge Companion to Modern Indian Culture, Cambridge University Press.
  • Mukhopadhyay, Bhaskar. 2006. ‘Cultural Studies and Politics in India Today’, Theory, Culture and Society Annual Review (Sage), Vol. 23, No. 7-8, p-275-288.
  • Hutt, Michael. 2012. ‘Singing the new Nepal’. Nations and Nationalism 18.2: 306-25.
  • Onta, Pratyoush 1996. ‘Ambivalence Denied: The Making of Rashtriya Itihas in Panchayat Era Textbooks.’ Contributions to Nepalese Studies 23(1).
  • Ayres, Alyssa. 2009. Speaking Like a State: Language and Nationalism in Pakistan. Cambridge, UK ; New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Page, D. and W. Crawley (eds.) 2001. Satellites over South Asia: broadcasting, culture, and the public interest. New Delhi and Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
  • Rajagopal, Arvind 2001. Politics after Television: religious nationalism and the reshaping of the Indian public. Cambridge University Press.
  • Dwyer, Rachel. 2006. Filming the Gods: Religion and Indian Cinema. London, New York and Delhi.
  • Chatterjee, Roma. 2011. “Performative Genres as Boundary Markers: Folklore and the Creation of Purulia as a Border Zone.” In The Politics of Belonging in India: Becoming Adivasi, edited by Daniel J. Rycroft and Sangeeta Dasgupta. Taylor & Francis.
  • Ali, Nosheen. 2012. “Poetry, Power, Protest: Rethinking Muslim Nationhood in Northern Pakistan” in Comparative Studies of South Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.
  • Toor, Saadia. 2011. Chapters 4 and 5 in The State of Islam: Culture And Cold War Politics In Pakistan. London; New York: Pluto Press.
  • Khan, Dominique-Sila, 'There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim: standing on the threshold', ch. 2 of Crossing the threshold : understanding religious identities in South Asia. London: I.B. Tauris, 2004. 


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules