SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Culture and Society of South Asia

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2022/2023
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 1 or Year 2
Taught in:
Term 2

South Asia is the region which includes Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, India and Sri Lanka. Because of the availability of academic literature, the course does tend to have a stronger focus on Indian ethnographies, but the other regions are represented.

The course introduces students to some core topics in the anthropology of South Asia, such as the study of caste and issues of agrarian relations, kinship, South Asian religion (Hinduism, Islam and Christianity); it gives students a chance to explore both classic and contemporary ethnographies; it offers opportunities for deeper study of particularly salient issues as they appear in South Asian ethnography (such as gender or modernity); and it introduces students to recent debates and scholarship on 'breaking issues' of research, (e.g. environment, consumption).

This module is one of several regional ethnography modules offered by the Department of Anthropology (currently Culture and Society of: China, Japan, South Asia, South East Asia, Near & Middle East, West Africa, and East Africa). Each of these focuses on major cultural and social aspects, but varies in detail according to the characteristics of and scholarship on the region. Masters students in the Department of Anthropology are encouraged to study more than one regional ethnography module (albeit not normally two modules taught in the same term), to explore synergies across regions and gain a broader comparative understanding of the discipline.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

By the end of the course, students will:

  • be able to critically evaluate a range of theories and ethnographic source material relating to South Asian society;
  • be able to locate and use secondary sources relevant to selected topics;
  • have a grasp of the key debates in the anthropology of South Asia.

This will form a base which will enable MA Anthropology students to write their dissertations (10,000 words) on a topic relating to South Asia should they so wish. Skills in reading and contextualizing works on South Asia are readily transferable to other regional studies.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules