Class Information:
MW 10:35-11:50 and M 12-1
415 Schapiro
Instructor: Rashmi Sadana
Office Hours: Tuesday 4-5 or by appt.
959 Schermerhorn Ext., Tel: 212-854-4752

Useful links:
Columbia Library Homepage
Columbia Homepage

This course is designed to introduce students to seminal writings in the emergence of modernity on the Indian subcontinent. It is, first, a survey of major figures who grappled with and helped shape social and political struggles during the British colonial period. Central to these struggles were debates about religious reform, the role of women, nation formation, and caste stratification. In order to understand the complexity of the social and political discourse of the period (roughly 1818-1947), we will read primary texts, including autobiographies, speeches, dialogues, treatises, ethnography, and literary fiction. We will analyze, among other things, what was at stake in formulations of 'tradition' and 'modernity.' Our second aim will be to examine how these formulations relate to contemporary issues and everyday life in South Asia, and to ask how concepts such as gender, caste, religion, and nation change over time. Using film and digital resources, we will draw on representations of South Asian culture and history to complement our analyses throughout the semester.


We will be reading the entirety of the following texts, which may be purchased at Labyrinth Books (536 West 112th St., between Broadway and Amsterdam, tel. 212-865-1588):

We will be reading large sections of the following books, which may be purchased at Labyrinth, found at on-line bookstores, or consulted on reserve in Butler Library:

The remaining readings are in the course pack (available at Copy Experts, 2440 Broadway at 90th Street), while some of the required readings and numerous related resources may be viewed and downloaded from the hyperlinks in this digital version of the syllabus.


Each week you will be asked to post (by Wednesdays at 10 a.m.) a short response to the readings or course-related digital resources. These weekly postings will give you the opportunity to record your initial impressions about primary source material that may be unfamiliar to you in terms of the historical period, style, cultural context, etc. The aim is for you to begin questioning and understanding an author and his or her world. Postings will occasionally be focused on the progress of your essays, in terms of choosing sources and narrowing topics. You will be asked to write two essays: the first, a 5-6 page essay on an historical theme, and the second, an 8-10 page essay on an anthropological question. The grade break-down will be as follows: Class Participation (10%), Weekly Postings (25%), First Essay (25%), Second (Final Exam) Essay (40%).

Library Resources

As you decide on and narrow your topic for your final essay, you may want to consult some of the resources below. You are also encouraged to make an appointment with one of the South Asia librarians in Lehman Library for research advice specific to your topic.

South Asia Librarians at Columbia:

Online Resources:

Part One: Modernity and Religious Reform

We will begin by asking why religious reform becomes a central focus for modernizing Indians in the colonial period.

Part Two: Nationalism and the Partition of 1947

In Part Two, we will analyze diverse strands of anti-colonial and nationalist discourse from the rise of Gandhi to Independence and the Partition of the Indian Subcontinent in August 1947.

Part Three: Gender, Law, and the Women's Question

In Part Three, we will turn our attention to the emergence of women's voices in the nineteenth century and to the relationship between gender and nationalism.

Part Four: Caste and Modernity

In this final part of the course, we will focus on the question of caste as a political identity and consider how ethnographers have conducted field research on caste identities.