Caste, Kin & Everyday Politics – Themes in the Anthropology of South Asia. Ethnographic Reading Course
Instructor: Dr. Markus Schleiter
This course focuses on a close reading of ethnographic writing on South Asia. As such we will explore classic key themes of South Asian Anthropology such as caste, village, patronage, and forms of kin-address. Further, more recent ethnographic writing on topics as the everyday state, middle-class distinctions, Bollywood, masculinities, populisms etc. will be considered. Aim of the course is to derive an understanding of South Asian everyday culture(s) from ethnographic writings. Is this even possible? How can we understand everyday culture? How can we not be deceived by Othering and colonial rhetoric in anthropological writing?
To figure this out, we will look into cultural theories of South Asian Anthropology, which explore social structures from the perspective of the everyday and performativity. Questions which will be discussed are: How is a belonging to the middle-class meaningful in South Asia? How does South Asia’s youth negotiate cinematic and traditional concepts of love and marriage? What are perceptions of an ideal leader in the subcontinent? Which cultural ideas frame the use and value of gold and money? How is the outlook of corruption in an Indian office? Is this connected to concepts of statehood in India?
The course aims to train students to read and evaluate ethnographic writing by the exemplary focus on South Asia as well as to understand the major theories of South Asian anthropology. Furthermore, students are introduced in South Asian everyday culture and its diverse outlooks. The seminar is a reading course, and each weekly session will involve discussions and group work by focusing on key ethnographic and theoretical texts. We will watch diverse films from ethnographic documentaries, news clips to Bollywood movies to enhance the students’ understanding of the subcontinent.
Please sign up for this course by 8th April via Learnweb-course. Send an email to: email@example.com to receive the necessary password. Regular video sessions of this course will start from Thursday 15th April 2020, 14:00 ct.
- Close reading of the weekly key text.
- Three comparative essays on the readings (2 pages); to be submitted before the respective session.
- Submission of a summary of one of the seminar sessions.
- Weekly e-learning assignments.
- Individually or in small teams: presentation of a subtopic (15-20 min), such as introduction to a theoretical approach or an analysis of an ethnographic case study or of an audio-visual media content. Alternatively, students may present an own empirical training study on the theme of South Asia. Presentations can also be based upon students’ own visual productions combined with reflections.
Burghart  1996. Ethnographers and their Local Counterparts in India. In Burghart, Richard (ed.), The Conditions of Listening. Essays on Religion, History and Politics in South Asia. Delhi: Oxford University Press, pp 88-112.
Corbridge, Stuart, John Harris and Craig Jeffrey 2013. India Today. Economy, Politics and Society. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Dumont, Louis  1980. Homo Hierarchicus: The Caste System and Its Implications. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Fuller, Christopher John 2004. The Camphor Flame: Popular Hinduism and Society in India. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Gandhi, Ajay 2013. How Gold Mediates Personhood and Property in Mumbai. Ethnofoor 25 (1): 91-110
Mody, Perveez 2008. The Intimate State: Love-Marriage and the Law in Delhi. London: Routledge
Osella, Caroline and Fillipo Osella 2006. Men and Masculinities in South India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Udupa, Sahana 2017. Gaali Cultures: The Politics of Abusive Exchange on Social Media. New Media & Society 20 (4): 1506-1522.
Vitebsky, Pierre  2018. Living without the Dead: Loss and Redemption in a Jungle Cosmos. Noida: Harper Collins Publisher India.