Contemporary South Asia: Reason and Religion

Course content

This course introduces students to recent anthropological debates about contemporary identity politics that define the study of society, religion and politics in modern South Asia (India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives). It begins with an investigation into what constitutes anthropological knowledge and ethnographic fieldwork in representing cultural realities in the region. The course will then critically explore traditional caste depictions and discriminations through the lens of changing social hierarchies in South Asia. It will move on to consider various manifestations of identity politics in the region, including gender and kinship, queer sexualities and homosociality, colonial and post-colonial masculinities, minority religious identities, love, kinship, marriage and childhoods, and show how they are shaped by current nationalist movements, communal violence, migration, globalisation, tourism and ‘westoxification’, visual cultures of commercial cinema, material consumption and religious traditions. The course unit will finally highlight the power negotiations, problems and possibilities of aging in the context of modernity in South Asia. The module will also consider how ethnographic representations of social transformations will equip students to review assumptions about hierarchy, cohesion and oppression in non-western societies. Course materials will include documentaries, ‘Bollywood’ films, web-based resources, literature, and newspaper articles in addition to scholarly books and research-based articles.


The teaching in spring 2021 will be online until the 1. of April due to the Covid19 situation.

As soon as it is permitted and justifiable, it is up to the individual lecturer whether to transition to a blended format or wish to continue with full online teaching for the rest of the semester.

The individual lecturer will inform you of the above choice in the Absalon room for each course.

Courses with oral exams will be held online if the relevant restrictions have not been lifted at least four weeks before the individual exam. This will be notified in Absalon.

Courses with written exams will not experience any changes in relation to the normal exam form.

Learning outcome

By the end of the course, a student should be able to:


  • Demonstrate a critical awareness of key themes/debates on social, economic and political relations in post-colonial South Asia.
  • Display deeper understanding of society and politics in South Asia through the use of both theoretical and empirical models.
  • Locate the key areas where anthropological research can contribute towards quelling myths and assumptions about South Asian societies.


  • Communicate anthropological knowledge through critical reading, writing and oral presentations.

  • Learn research methods used by anthropologists in studying communities in a specific region, examine ethnographic cases of social life in different geographic locations, and learn about the changing constructions of religion and rationality in South Asia.

  • Foster societal knowledge and responsibility by understanding the problems related to social hierarchies, political violence and economic inequalities in the region.


  • Recognize how local socio-religious practices are created and impacted by globalization and global politics.

  • Understand the effects of class, gender, nationalisms and power differentials in community development.

  • Develop a commitment towards different understandings of social and economic justice.



The teaching is on campus during autumn semester 2020. However, due to the covid19 situation all classes are available online too for students who are not able to attend classes on campus because of their covid-19 risk.

Always remember to check Absalon for the latest updates.

BSc students and MSc students: 500 pages obligatory literature.

The teacher will publish 200-300 pages of supplementary literature.

Course literature will be available through Absalon.

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Portfolio exam:
Length: The portfolio exam can be taken individually or in groups of maximum four students. The portfolio exam consists of 2-7 submissions. The number of submissions is set by the lecturer. The total length of all of the submissions must not exceed 30,000 keystrokes for a single student. For groups of two students the maximum is 40,000 keystrokes. For groups of three students the maximum is 45,000 keystrokes and for groups of four students the maximum is 50,000 keystrokes.
For groups writing together it must be clearly indicated which parts of the assignment each of the students has written.

The assignments are evaluated together with a total grade.
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assessment

See description of learning outcome. Formalities for Written Works must be fulfilled, read more: MSc Students/ BA students (in Danish)/ exchange and credit students

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 42
  • Preparation
  • 89
  • Exam Preparation
  • 79
  • English
  • 210