Politics of South Asia: Beyond India

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Term 2
Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of Politics and International Studies

Module overview

This course is designed to provide students with a broad introduction to the conceptual, historical, and sociological factors that contribute to politics in South Asia 'beyond India'. Emphasising comparison, the course focuses on Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan, as well as (time permitting) Bhutan and the Maldives.  Where appropriate, India is also included.

The course introduces students to recent theoretical work in the field of South Asian studies. Throughout, emphasis is placed on analyses of political processes (state formation/consolidation, urban/rural economic development, the politics of gender/religious/sectarian/ethnic/regional difference, insurgency and counterinsurgency, authoritarian/democratic politics, regional ties to India and China) rather than a description of events. At the end of the course, students should have a good understanding of academic work on politics in South Asia and an ability to write well-structured and well-researched papers on selected subjects in the field.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

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

  • Acquire knowledge of South Asian politics 'beyond India' – historical trajectories and major themes as well as similarities and differences across countries.
  • Critically engage with the scholarly approaches relevant to an understanding of South Asian politics 'beyond India' as well as important debates in the theoretical and historical literature.
  • Construct arguments that demonstrate knowledge of specific cases as well as general theories, combining empirical detail with theoretical analysis.


2 hours seminar per week

Method of assessment

Assessment is 100% coursework (one 2500 word essay and one 1000 word essay).

Suggested reading

  • Partha Chatterjee, The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories (Princeton, 1993), 3-13.
  • Emajuddin Ahmed, ‘The Military and Democracy in Bangladesh’ in The Military and Democracy in Asia and the Pacific, R.J. May and Viberto Selochan, eds. (London: Hurst, 1998), 101-18
  • Holly Sims, Political Regimes, Public Policy, and Economic Development: Agricultural Performance and Rural Change in Two Punjabs (London: Sage, 1988), 13-34, 181-9.
  • Atul Kohli, The State and Poverty in India: The Politics of Reform (Cambridge, 1987), 1-5, 8-14, 48-50, 223-231.
  • Akbar S. Ahmed, ‘Hazarawal:  Formation and Structure of District Ethnicity’ in Pakistan: The Social Sciences’ Perspective, A. Ahmed, ed. (Oxford, 1990) 28-46.
  • Elora Shahabuddin, ‘‘Beware the Bed of Fire’:  Gender, Democracy, and the Jamaat-e-Islami in Bangladesh,’ Journal of Women’s History, 10(4), (1999), 148-71.
  • Seira Tamang, ‘The Politics of Conflict and Difference or the Difference of Conflict in Politics: The Women’s Movement in Nepal’, Feminist Review 92 (2009), 61-80.
  • Mohammad Qasim Zaman, ‘Sectarianism in Pakistan: The Radicalisation of Shia and Sunni Identities,’
  • Modern Asian Studies 32(3), (1998), 689-716.
  • S.J. Tambiah, Buddhism Betrayed? Religion, Politics, and Violence in Sri Lanka (Chicago, 1992), ix-4, 15-58, 95-101, 102-128.
  • Yunus Samad, ‘Understanding the Insurgency in Balochistan,’ Commonwealth and Comparative Politics 52(2), (2014), 293-320.
  • Karl W. Eikenberry, ‘The Limits of Counterinsurgency Doctrine in Afghanistan’, Foreign Affairs 92:5 (2013).
  • Xiao'ou Zhu, ‘Demystifying the Role of Chinese Commercial Actors in Shaping China’s Foreign Assistance: The Case of Post-war Sri Lanka,’ Stability: International Journal of Security and Development 4(1), (2015), 1-18.
  • David Scott, ‘Community, Number, and the Ethos of Democracy’ in Refashioning Futures: Criticism after Postcoloniality (Princeton, 1999), 158-89.
  • Katharine Adeney, ‘A Move to Majoritarian Nationalism? Challenges of Representation in South Asia’, Representation 51 (2015), 1-15.
  • Ayesha Jalal, Democracy and Authoritarianism in S. Asia, (Cambridge 1995), 29-38.
  • S.D. Muni, ‘Bhutan’s Deferential Democracy,’ Journal of Democracy 25(2), (2014),158-163.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules