South Asian
Languages and Civilizations

Departmental Adviser: Steven Collins, F 210, 702-9131,
Departmental Secretary: Linda S. Burns, F 212, 702-8373,
World Wide Web:

Program of Study

The Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations offers a Bachelor of Arts concentration for students whose primary interests lie in language and literature. Students whose interest in South Asia is more general should consult the concentration listing under South Asian Studies.

Program Requirements

Prior to starting the concentration program, students must take two courses from South Asian Civilization 20100-20200-20300 and demonstrate competence in a South Asian Language equivalent to one year of study. The South Asian Civilization sequence will satisfy the civilization studies requirement in general education. The concentration program consists of at least three courses in a South Asian language at or above the intermediate level and six additional courses on South Asia. Students currently may concentrate in Bangla (Bengali), Hindi, Sanskrit, Tamil, and Urdu. Any courses offered in the department may be used to fulfill the requirement of six additional courses on South Asia, although only three of the six may be language courses; courses offered in other departments may also be used in this respect, upon prior approval of the departmental adviser.

Summary of Requirements

College demonstrated competence in

Language a South Asian language

Requirement equivalent to one year of study

General 2 courses from SALC 20100 to 20300


Concentration 3 courses in a second-year (or higher)

South Asian language*

6 courses on South Asia


* Credit may not be granted by examination.
Courses must be taken at the University of Chicago.

Honors. The decision of the award of honors is not made on the basis of any formal program. Students who wish to be considered for honors should consult the departmental adviser at the beginning of their fourth year. Students who graduate with honors must write a B.A. paper of the highest quality.

Grading. Students concentrating in South Asian Languages and Civilizations must take a letter grade in all courses used to fulfill concentration requirements. A letter grade must be taken in all language courses.


Muzaffar ALAM, Professor, Department of South Asian Languages & Civilizations

Arjun Appadurai, Samuel N. Harper Professor, Departments of South Asian Languages & Civilizations and Anthropology

ELENA BASHIR, Lecturer, Department of South Asian Languages & Civilizations

Carol Breckenridge, Senior Lecturer, Division of the Humanities

Dipesh Chakrabarty, Professor, Department of South Asian Languages & Civilizations and the College

Steven Collins, Professor, Department of South Asian Languages & Civilizations and the College; Chairman, Department of South Asian Languages & Civilizations

Norman J. Cutler, Associate Professor, Department of South Asian Languages & Civilizations

Wendy Doniger, Mircea Eliade Professor, the Divinity School, Department of South Asian Languages & Civilizations, Committee on Social Thought, and the College

Ronald B. Inden, Professor, Departments of History and South Asian Languages & Civilizations, and the College

NGAWANG JORDEN, Lecturer, Department of South Asian Languages & Civilizations

Matthew Kapstein, Associate Professor, Department of South Asian Languages & Civilizations

mithilesh mishra, Lecturer, Department of South Asian Languages & Civilizations

Sheldon Pollock, George V. Bobrinskoy Professor, Department of South Asian Languages & Civilizations and the College.

Clinton Booth Seely, Associate Professor, Department of South Asian Languages & Civilizations.


Courses numbered 10000-19900 are introductory courses. Courses numbered 20000-29900 are intermediate, advanced, or upper-level courses and are intended for undergraduates. College students are encouraged to register for courses numbered 30000 and above, which are graduate courses. Undergraduates registered for 30000-level courses will be held to the graduate-level requirements. To register for courses that are cross listed as both undergraduate and graduate (20000/30000), undergraduates must use the undergraduate number (20000).

Consult the quarterly Time Schedules for additional course listings.

South Asian Languages and Civilizations

20100-20200. Introduction to the Civilization of South Asia I, II (=ANTH 24101-24102, HIST 10800-10900, SALC 20100-20200, SASC 20000-20100, SOSC 23000-23100). PQ: Must be taken in sequence. This course fulfills the general education requirement in civilization studies. Using a variety of disciplinary approaches, this sequence seeks to familiarize students with some of the important texual, institutional, and historical ideas and experiences that have constituted "civilization" in South Asia. Topics in the autumn quarter include European and American representations of South Asia, its place in world history as a "Third World" or "underdeveloped" country; Gandhi and Nehru's visions of modernity; India's recent repositioning in the global economy as a consumer society; and its popular movements (i.e., women's, rural, tribal, urban slum, and Dalit). Topics in the winter quarter include urban and rural ways of life and the place of film and television in cultural life. R. Inden, Staff. Autumn, Winter.

20400/48200. The Mahabharata in English Translation (=FNDL 24400, HREL 35000, RLST 26800, SALC 20400). A reading of the Mahabharata in English translation (van Buitenen, Narasimhan, P. C. Roy, and Doniger [ms]), pays special attention to issues of mythology, feminism, and theodicy. W. Doniger. Autumn.

20500/30500. Films in India (=ANTH 20600/31100, CMST 24100, HIST 26700/36700, SALC 20500/30500). This course considers film-related activities from just before Independence (1947) down to the present. Emphasis is placed on the reconstruction of film-related activities that can be taken as life practices from the standpoint of "elites" and "masses," "middle classes," men and women, people in cities and villages, governmental institutions, businesses, and the "nation." The course relies on people's notions of the everyday, festive days, paradise, arcadia, and utopia to pose questions about how people try to realize their wishes and themselves through film. How film practices articulated with colonialism, nationalism, "socialist development," and, now, "free markets" is a major concern. R. Inden. Winter.

20700. Critics of Colonialism: Gandhi and Fanon (=HIST 26600, SALC 20700). This course discusses texts by Gandhi and Fanon and critical and historical commentaries on them. D. Chakrabarty. Winter.

22600/32600. Literature of Bengal: English Originally versus in Translation. We read several of the most prominent Bengali authors writing in English today (e.g., Sunetra Gupta, Amit Chaudhuri, Amitav Ghosh, Raj Kamal Jha, and Jhumpa Lahiri) and several Bengali authors whose prose fiction is known to English readers only through translation (e.g., Rabindranath Tagore, Bibhutibushan Bandyopadhyay, Shaokat Osman, Manik Bandyopadhyay, and Mahasweta Devi). Questions of authorial perspective, constructions of the self, and imagined audience are asked of the texts. C. Seely. Autumn.

25600. The Kamasutra and The Laws of Manu: Sex and Religion in Ancient India (=FNDL 23600, GNDR 25800, HREL 32100, RLST 26900, SALC 25600). We discuss religion, sex, and politics in ancient India based on readings in The Kamasutra and The Laws of Manu. Texts in English. W. Doniger. Winter.

26700/36700. Approaches to Modern South Asian History (=HIST 26900/36900, SALC 26700/36700). This course concentrates on historiographical debates in modern South Asian history: Cambridge school, nationalist history, feminist history, history of sexuality, Subaltern studies, and other approaches. D. Chakrabarty. Spring.

26800-26900. History of South Asia Seminar I, II (=HIST 82400, SALC 36800-36900). This two-quarter, advanced seminar discusses students' research in the context of recent publications in South Asian history. R. Inden, Autumn; D. Chakrabarty, Winter.

27600. India under the Mughals, 1526-1740. M. Alam. Spring.

28300/49300. Diasporas: Asian Migration in the Modern World I (=ANTH 22801/33200, SALC 28300/49300). The United States is known as the land of immigrants. Yet, immigration policy today is a controversial issue as established immigrant groups seek to limit who is entitled to citizenship and who is entitled to work. This lecture/discussion course explores the thorny problems of migration, citizenship, and multiculturalism through the lens of Asians in the new face of America. C. Breckenridge. Not offered 2001-02; will be offered 2002-03.

29600. Asceticism and Civilization: Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism (=RLST 27000, SALC 29600). This course begins by looking at the concept of "civilization" and its uses. It then considers asceticism in the light of civilizational theory, taking as its focus the traditions of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism in South and Southeast Asia. They are studied by means of texts and documentary films. The course ends by asking how we might view asceticism as a phenomenon of civilization from a general historical and analytical perspective. S. Collins. Winter.

29900. Informal Course. Students are required to submit the College Reading and Research Course Form. This individual reading course with faculty may be used for topics not requiring use of a South Asian language, for independent study, and by nonconcentrators wishing to explore a South Asian topic. Staff. Autumn, Winter, Spring.

35900. Mythologies of Transvestism and Transsexuality (=HREL 40800, SALC 35900). PQ: Consent of instructor. Studies in selected Greek and Hindu myths, Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and As You Like It, Virginia Woolf's Orlando, David Henry Hwang's M. Butterfly, Roland Barthes's S/Z, Marjorie Garber's Vested Interests and Vice Versa, Wendy Doniger's Splitting the Difference, and selected operas (Marriage of Figaro, Rosenkavalier, and Arabella) and films (Dead Again, Queen Christina, Some Like It Hot, I Was a Male War Bride, Tootsie, Mrs. Doubtfire, All of Me, and The Crying Game). W. Doniger. Autumn.

Bangla (Bengali)

10100-10200-10300. First-Year Bangla (Bengali) I, II, III. The basic grammar of Bangla is presented; students are expected to be able to read simple graded texts and to speak at the "low intermediate" level by the end of the spring quarter. C. Seely. Autumn, Winter, Spring.

20100-20200-20300. Second-Year Bangla (Bengali) I, II, III. PQ: BANG 10300 or equivalent. Selected texts from modern Bangla prose and poetry are read in class. Students are expected to be able to read, with the aid of a dictionary, modern Bengali literature and to speak at "high-intermediate" level by the end of the spring quarter. C. Seely. Autumn, Winter, Spring.


10100-10200-10300. First-Year Hindi I, II, III. This course presents basic grammar of Hindi, the Nagari writing system, conversation practice, oral drill, written exercises, lab work, and simple reading. The Urdu writing system is introduced in the spring quarter. M. Mishra. Autumn, Winter, Spring.

20100-20200-20300. Second-Year Hindi I, II, III. PQ: HIND 10300 or equivalent. The intermediate Hindi course presupposes a knowledge of the basic grammar of Hindi and requires a fair amount of reading and translating Hindi prose, along with discussion of advanced topics in Hindi grammar. Regular attention is given to conversation and composition. Texts in Hindi. The class meets for three hours a week. M. Mishra. Autumn, Winter, Spring.


10100-10200-10300. First-Year Pali I, II, III. This course is an introduction to the language of the Theravada Buddhist tradition. Essentials of grammar are emphasized, with readings in simpler texts by the end of the first quarter. S. Collins. Autumn, Winter, Spring.

20100-20200-20300. Second-Year Pali I, II, III. PQ: PALI 10300 or consent of instructor. Students in this intermediate Pali course read Pali texts that are chosen in accordance with their interests. The texts read in the introductory course are usually taken from a single, early stratum of Pali literature. The intermediate course takes examples of Pali from different periods and in different styles. Texts in Pali. S. Collins. Autumn, Winter, Spring.


10100-10200-10300. First-Year Sanskrit I, II, III. The first half (about fifteen weeks) of the sequence is spent mastering the reading and writing of the Devanagari script and studying the grammar of the classical Sanskrit language. The remainder of the sequence is devoted to close analytical reading of simple Sanskrit texts, which are used to reinforce the grammatical study done in the first half of the course. The aim is to bring students to the point where they are comfortably able, with the help of a dictionary, to read simple, narrative Sanskrit. Texts in Sanskrit. Staff. Autumn, Winter, Spring.

20100-20200-20300. Second-Year Sanskrit I, II, III. PQ: SANS 10300 or equivalent. The course begins with a rapid review and consolidation of grammar learned in the introductory course. Reading selections introduce major Sanskrit genres, including verse and prose narrative, lyric poetry, drama, and the intellectual discourse of religion, philosophy, and the sciences. Analysis of the language and style employed in commentatorial texts and practice in reading such texts is also emphasized. S. Collins, Autumn; Staff, Winter, Spring.


10100-10200-10300. First-Year Tamil I, II, III. The grammar of modern Tamil and a large amount of basic vocabulary are acquired through emphasis on both the reading and aural comprehension of graded texts (largely tales, myths, and fictional and historical anecdotes) that provide constant contextual reinforcement of the major aspects of grammar and vocabulary. Written, oral, and language lab exercises focus on ensuring accurate conceptual understanding and efficient functional control of these basics. The course also emphasizes development of basic conversational skills. N. Cutler, Staff. Autumn, Winter, Spring.

20100-20200-20300. Second-Year Tamil I, II, III. PQ: TAML 10300 or equivalent. Students engage in the following activities that collectively are designed to promote development of reading, writing, listening, and speaking proficiency: (1) use texts such as folk tales, religious narratives, short stories, and newspaper articles to develop efficient reading comprehension and to learn about conceptual areas of cultural importance; (2) work with audio tapes, films, and free conversation to develop listening and conversational skills; and (3) complete composition assignments. N. Cutler, Staff. Autumn, Winter, Spring.


10100-10200-10300. First-Year Tibetan I, II, III. The Tibetan language, with a history going back more than a thousand years, is one of Asia's major literary languages. At the present time, it is the first language of close to seven million people in the Tibetan regions of China, and in India, Nepal, and Bhutan. This introductory course covers the script and pronunciation, the grammar of the modern Lhasa dialect, and basic reading and speaking skills. N. Jorden. Autumn, Winter, Spring.

20100-20200-20300. Second-Year Tibetan I, II, III. PQ: TBTN 10300 or equivalent, or consent of instructor. This intermediate course covers second-level pronunciation and grammar of the modern Lhasa dialect, and intermediate-level reading and speaking skills. N. Jorden. Autumn, Winter, Spring.

38000-38100-38200. Readings in Classical Tibetan I, II, III. Staff. Autumn, Winter, Spring.


10100-10200-10300. First-Year Urdu I, II, III. This three-quarter sequence presents the basic grammar and vocabulary of Urdu, a language spoken by thirty-five million people in South Asia and one of the official languages of Pakistan. The text used is C. M. Naim's Introductory Urdu and the emphasis is on the written language. E. Bashir. Autumn, Winter, Spring.

20100-20200-20300. Second-Year Urdu I, II, III. PQ: URDU 10300 or equivalent. This is a continuation of URDU 10100-10200-10300. E. Bashir. Autumn, Winter, Spring.