Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Center for Contemporary South Asia

For Students

South Asian Studies is an interdisciplinary concentration in which students work across the humanities and social sciences, geographical locations, and time periods.  The concentration emphasizes both the diversity of South Asia as a region, as well as the long-term historical connections among people and places in Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.  The concentration takes a comparative approach, bringing attention to history, politics, and culture within the region, as well as in the equally vital global South Asian diaspora. 

Director of Undergraduate Studies

Sarah Besky, Assistant Professor of Anthropology & International and Public Affairs
Office Hours: By appointment. Email: sarah_besky@brown.edu                

Concentration Requirements

Course requirements: 10 Courses or 12 for honors

Introduction to Modern South Asia (offered annually)

2 courses with a majority focus in South Asia in the Humanities, such as:

                  CLAS1140: Classical Philosophy of India (Fall 2017)
                  COST0030: Sound, Song, and Salvation in South Asia (Fall 2017)
                  CLAS0995: India’s Classical Performing Arts (Spring 2018)
                  RELS 1510: Islam in South Asia (Spring 2018)              

2 courses with a majority focus on South Asia in the Social Sciences, such as:           
                  POLS1280: Politics, Economy, and Society in India (Spring 2018)
                  ANTH1345: Anthropology of the Himalayas (Spring 2018)
                  HIST1979D: Ruined History: Visual and Material Culture in South Asia (Spring 2018)
                  ANTH0100: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology (Spring 2018) OR
                  ANTH110: Anthropology and Global Social Problems (Fall 2017)

At least 5 additional elective courses. Students can take additional courses in the humanities or social sciences with a focus on South Asia (see CCSA course listings). 

  • At least 3 of the 5 electives must be drawn from the CCSA pre-approved course listings (or be approved by the DUS/Concentration Advisor).  The courses on this pre-approved list have significant (at least 25%) South Asia content. 
  • No more than 2 of the remaining 5 electives can be courses with less empirical South Asia content, but these courses must have theoretical relevance to the study of South Asia. 

The objective for allowing students to take these courses is to encourage students to develop a self-designed focus within South Asian Studies. The student must make a coherent and rigorous argument (to be approved by the DUS/Concentration Advisor) as to how they will bring the material from these elective courses to bear on the study of South Asia.  A student interested in state-society relations in South Asian Studies, for example, may draw from Political Science, Sociology, and Public Policy, or other departments, to develop their thinking on these issues.  A student interested in South Asian antiquity may draw from Philosophy, Comparative Literature, Africana Studies, Theatre Arts and Performance Studies, or other relevant departments as well. We encourage students to cultivate their elective trajectories in imaginative, inter-disciplinary ways, in consultation with relevant faculty. 

10 Courses total.  For honors, students must take 12 courses total (see below)

For double concentrators, a maximum of two classes can count towards both concentrations. 

Language requirement:
Proficiency in a South Asian language is required for the concentration. Demonstrating proficiency can entail passing a written and oral examination, 4 semesters of formal language study at Brown or another institution, a high school transcript indicating that the language of instruction for all courses was a South Asian language.  Native Hindi/Urdu speakers are encouraged to fulfill the language requirement by taking another South Asian language for four semesters, such as Sanskrit at Brown or a relevant language at another institution. Up to two language courses can count towards fulfilling the student’s elective requirements. 

Senior-Year Project:

 Students must complete either a senior capstone project OR an honors thesis. 

 Capstone projects or honors theses are opportunities for students to creatively synthesize the thinking on South Asia that they have developed during the concentration. The project should exhibit an empirically and theoretically driven research question or argument about some aspect of South Asian Studies. The senior-year project should involve some research in at least one South Asian language.  All students are encouraged to start thinking about their capstone in their junior year. 

Capstones can take two primary forms:

  1. A research paper of approximately 30 pages on a topic related to South Asia for an existing concentration-eligible course, undertaken with the permission of the instructor.
  2. An independent study-based project.  The product and/or process that constitutes this can be artistic, primary or secondary research-based, internship-related, or something else.  The project must be supervised by at least one CCSA faculty member* for at least one semester under SAST 1970.  This course can count towards the 5 elective requirements.  

At the end of their junior year, each student should meet with the DUS to review their plan for completing their capstone.  If pursuing a capstone project, students will be required to submit, by the end of the shopping period of the fall of their senior year, a short proposal (300 words) that describes how they are going to complete this requirement. 

An Honors Thesis is a two-semester independent study supervised by a thesis advisor [SAST 1970].  These two courses constitute the additional courses needed for honors in the concentration.

An honors thesis can be textual, or it can take other forms (multi-media, visual, artistic, or musical, for example).  The form and substance of a non-textual honors thesis must conform to the rigorous regulations set out by the relevant department(s) and the Dean of the College.  

Additional Honors Requirements
To be eligible for Honors, students will have earned an “A” in the majority of courses for the concentration.

Students may graduate with Honors in South Asian Studies by completing an undergraduate Honors thesis under the supervision of at least one reader drawn from the CCSA faculty* and one additional reader from the Brown (or RISD, in the case of Brown-RISD students) faculty community.

In order to pursue Honors, students must submit the following materials to the CCSA Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) by April 25:

  1. A prospectus (3-5 pages, describing the major research questions and methods to be used, complete with bibliography) that has been read and vetted by the student’s intended primary reader.  
  2. An email from the faculty member who will serve as primary reader to the CCSA DUS noting their willingness to advise the thesis.

In addition, students must:

  1. Enroll in a two-semester sequence of independent study [SAST 1970 or under a relevant departmental course code].
  2. Designate a second reader by September 30 of the senior year.  Second readers should also confirm their willingness to serve as a reader by sending an email to the CCSA DUS.
  3. Be in regular contact with thesis advisor about the progress of the project. 
  4. Present their research to the CCSA community during their final semester. 

For mid-year graduating students, the topic and primary reader must be identified and confirmed by mid-November of the junior year, and a second reader must be arranged and confirmed by January 30 of the senior year.

A complete penultimate draft of the thesis is due to both readers on April 1.  A final draft that incorporates readers’ comments is due back to the readers on April 15 of the student’s senior year. 

 * This includes all people listed under the Faculty, Postdoctoral Associate, and Visiting Scholars (limited to those in residence at Brown) tabs on the CCSA website