SOAS University of London

Department of Politics and International Studies

Government And Politics Of Modern South Asia

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This module provides an overview of major themes and issues in the analysis of contemporary South Asian politics. The course takes a comparative historical-sociological approach, beginning with a close treatment of state structures and questions of political order, economic development, and gender, as well as the politics of regional, linguistic, ethnic, religious, and sectarian difference. The relationship between South Asia and China is also considered. Within South Asia, the courses examines the politics of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Afghanistan, as well as Bhutan and the Maldives if time allows.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

By the end of the course, students should be able to demonstrate that they can:

  • Examine and assess  the politics and government of key countries in South Asia;  
  • Compare and contrast postcolonial trajectories and the evolution of political institutions, systems of governance, and contours of political development and decay, as well as the relationship between political and economic trends;
  • Critically evaluate and compare the linkage between politics, on the one hand, and social and cultural transformations, on the other, within key countries;
  • Understand and explain regional engagements with concepts like democracy, legitimacy, authoritarianism, and political development;
  • Develop skills related to the production of well-structured and well-argued papers drawing on current academic work related to the politics of South Asia.


  • 1-hour lecture and 1-hour seminar each week.

Method of assessment

  • Assessment is 100% coursework: two 1,000 essays worth 15% each and two 3,000 word essays worth 35% each.

Suggested reading

  • Ayesha Jalal, Democracy and Authoritarianism in South Asia: A Comparative and Historical Perspective.
  • Sunil Khilnani, The Idea of India.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules