Politics of Culture in Contemporary South Asia - B

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Term 2
Module code
FHEQ Level
South Asia Section

Module overview

This is a module on culture in contemporary South Asia that highlights 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 situations. Taught in Term 2, it will normally be taken as a continuation of the module 'Politics of Culture in Contemporary South Asia - A' but students who have not taken the Term 1 course may be admitted at the convenor's discretion.

The first half of the module will explore either media production or activism, the choice of topics depending upon which of these was not covered in 'Politics of Culture in Contemporary South Asia - A'
The second half of the module will be given over to case studies of vigorous forms of activism which produce counter-cultural forms that often re-use and re-interpret older traditions. These will be introduced and analysed in terms of the translation and over-writing of older forms and traditions, ranging from religious texts to heritage site to yogic practices, to serve more contemporary cultural and political ends.

This module can be taken as an open option


This module would normally be taken as a continuation of 'Politics of Culture in Contemporary South Asia - A - 15PSAH034' but students who have not taken the term 1 module may be admitted at the Convenor's discretion.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of the module a student should be able to;

  • Understand the ways in which public culture impacts political decision making
  • Understand issues related to knowledge production and manipulation.
  • Be familiar with key texts and debates within South Asian cultural studies
  • Develop research, verbal and written expression as part of transferable skills across academic disciplines


The module is taught over 10 weeks, 2 hours per week consisting of one lecture and one seminar

Scope and syllabus

Unit A: four or five of the following topics, avoiding repetition of topics already covered in 'Politics of Culture in Contemporary South Asia -A':

  • Street theatre and political theatre
  • Activism and solidarity on the university campus
  • Political and cultural impacts of disasters in South Asia
  • Ideologies and insurgencies
  • The contemporary mediascape in India
  • Mass media and decentralized circulation in Pakistan
  • Themes in contemporary Indian cinema
  • Radio waves
  • Documentary films: from state to self-produced

Unit B

  • Culture as translation: the many Ramayanas paradigm
  • Modern yoga
  • Heritage reconstruction and conservation in Nepal
  • Religious palimpsests
  • Essay workshop

Method of assessment

  • 3 x Reaction papers (1000 words each) to be submitted in term 2 (50%)
  • 1 x Essay (2500) to be submitted term 3 (50%)
  • The exact assessment deadline dates are published on the relevant module Moodle/BLE page

Suggested reading

All readings for this module are uploaded on Moodle.

  • Jeffrey, Robin 2000. India's Newspaper Revolution (Selections). London: Hurst.
  • Bhaskar, Ira and Richard Allen. 2009. Islamicate Cultures of Bombay Cinema. New Delhi.
  • Dwyer, Rachel. 2006. Filming the Gods: Religion and Indian Cinema. London, New York and Delhi.
  • Kunreuther. Laura 2014. Chapter 3 ‘Making Waves: The Social and Political Context of FM Radio’, pp. 124-160 , of Voicing Subjects: Public Intimacy and Mediation in Kathmandu University of California Press.
  • Deprez, Camille, (2013) “The Films Division of India, 1948–1964: The Early Days and the Influence of the British Documentary Film Tradition”, Film History: An International Journal, 1 July 2013, Vol. 25(3), pp.149-173.
  • Bakke, Marit International Involvement in the Preservation of Cultural Heritage in Nepal. Studies in Nepali History and Society 15.1 (2010). 111-37
  • Francesca Orsini, 2017. 'Na Hindu Na Turk: Shared Languages, Accents, and Located Meanings', in A Multilingual Nation, ed. Rita Kothari. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 50-68

Additional Reading

All readings for this module are uploaded on Moodle. What follows is a sampling of the 'further readings'.

  • Ninan, Sevanti 2007. Headlines from the Heartland: reinventing the Hindi public sphere. Sage Publications, 2007.
  • 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.
  • Naqvi, Tahir. 2010. "Private Satellite Media and the Geo-Politics of Moderation in Pakistan.” In South Asian Media Cultures: Audiences, Representations, Contexts, edited by Shakuntala Banaji, 109-122. New York: Anthem Press.
  • Cheema, Omar. 2014. "Inside the Deadly War against Pakistan's Media" Special Report, Dart Center, Columbia Univ. School of Journalism. (Link here)
  • Talib, Saman. 2010. "Pakistani Students' Uses of New Media to Construct a Narrative of Dissent.” In South Asian Media Cultures: 221-233.
  • 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.
  • Kunreuther. Laura 2010 Transparent Media: Radio, Voice, and Ideologies of Directness in Postdemocratic Nepal
  • Onta, Pratyoush 2009. 'Independent radio and public engagement in Nepal 1997-2007.' Studies in Nepali History and Society 14(2): 335-66.
  • Battaglia, Giulia, (2014) “The Video Turn: Documentary Film Practices in 1980s India”. Visual Anthropology, Vol. 27 (1-2), p.72-90.
  • Singh, Bhrigupati and Bhargava, Ashok (2002) “Documentaries and Change: Review of and Commentary on Three of Anand Patwardhan's Films”, Critical Asian Studies, 2002, Vol.34 (4), p.623-636.
  • Kishore, Sweta, (2015) “On Whose Behalf? Ethics in Indian Social Documentary Film and Practice” in Senses of Cinema, issue 76, September.
  • Khan, Dominique-Sila. 2004. '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. (link here)
  • Yoginder Sikand, 'The Sai Baba of Shirdi', Sacred Spaces: Exploring Traditions of Shared Faith in India, New Delhi: Penguin, 2003, 116-133


Dr Anandi Rao


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules