Area concentrations_South/Southeast Asia Studies
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South and Southeast Asia Concentration

The combined regions of South and Southeast Asia encompass major sociocultural, religious, geographic, and ecological diversity. These regions are also epicenters of major historical, political, and economic movements. The region stretches from the Himalaya and Tibetan Plateau to the Indonesian archipelago, and beyond. Its religious traditions include Buddhism and Islam, Hinduism and Christianity as well as a host of more localized animistic and shamanistic traditions. The regions have sparked massive, global political change, from the anti-colonial independence movements led by Mahatma Gandhi to the longue duree of the Vietnam War. While countries such as Singapore, Thailand, and India represent cores areas of global capitalism, the region is also known for its creative alternatives to conventional models of economic development, when one considers the micro-credit movements emanating from Bangladesh's Gramin Bank or Bhutan's proposition of Gross National Happiness. South Asia encompasses the countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, while Southeast Asia includes Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, and East Timor. At Dartmouth, core faculty in South and Southeast Asia work on a wide range of interdisciplinary issues, from the intersection of military intervention and development aid in Afghanistan to the medical traditions of Tibet, Nepal, and India. For an AMES major or minor, the region offers many opportunities for concentrations, independent faculty-mentored research and study abroad, including through the joint AMES / WGST Foreign Study Program in Hyderabad. Students are able to work closely with an advisor in their area of interest. While Dartmouth does not currently offer any major South or Southeast Asian language program, we can help guide students interested in such study toward possible opportunities in the region or through affiliated institutions.


  • 1. Students concentrating on the Middle East must meet the general requirements of the AMES major: ten courses with one meeting AMES' Interregional Requirement and one being a Culminating Experience. For details see: AMES major requirements. Research undertaken for the Culminating Experience should conform with the student's area concentration.
  • 2. Students should identify a faculty advisor as soon as possible and should remain in close contact with that advisor through their Dartmouth career. Students should work closely with their faculty advisors to ensure that their major is intellectually coherent and not a random selection of courses. Use the SSEA area-concentration worksheet to plan your major.
  • 3. Depending on their interests, students might choose to gear their major toward South Asia, toward Southeast Asia, or toward a combination of the two. Again, this should be determined in close cooperation with the faculty adviser.
  • 4. At least one course must come from the list of "Core Courses" for this concentration. The remaining courses needed to complete the concentration may be freely chosen from among the lists of "Core Courses," "Approved Courses," or (with the approval of the AMES Steering Committee) "Petitionable Courses" for this concentration.
  • 5. Students may include up to two AMES 85 Independent Research courses provided they are supervised by an AMES affiliated faculty member with expertise in SSEA. Students wishing to pursue advanced research should consider AMES 86 Advanced Independent Research.



CORE COURSES: Courses that are substantially devoted to South/Southeast Asia and that approach South/Southeast Asia in a broad and general manner, such that several of these courses together may be considered a comprehensive introduction to the area as a whole.

AMES 1 Hindi-Urdu as a Cultural System
Hindi is written in the script used for Sanskrit, the classical language of Hinduism, which provides its more elevated vocabulary. Urdu draws its script, as well as its fancier registers, from Persian and Arabic. But in grammar the two languages are virtually the same. Is Hindi for Hindus, and Urdu for Muslims? What does it mean for language to be divided along lines of religion? This course's language training component will introduce Devanagari script, some grammar and basic conversation through a cultural exploration of literary genres and other forms of expression, including modern Hindi-Urdu culture's most popular vehicle: Bollywood cinema. Dist: SOC; WCult: CI (Faculty)

AMES 9/REL 9 Hinduism
An introductory survey of the Hindu religious tradition of South Asia from 1500 B.C.E. down to the present day. Emphasis will be given to the historical development of elite, Sanskritic Hinduism and its constant interaction with popular and local traditions. Dist: TMV; WCult: NW (Ohnuma)

AMES 18 History and Culture of Indonesia
The history and contemporary issues of the island nation of Indonesia-home to the world's fourth largest population-will be examined in religion, politics, literature and language, with particular attention to the independence movement and the development of a national identity. Course resources will include readings in fiction and non-fiction, work-shops in performing arts, guest instructors, and multi-media materials both by and about Indonesians. WCult: NW (Diamond)

AMES 26/ANTH 32 Anthropology of Tibet and the Himalayas
This course introduces students to the peoples and cultures of Tibet and the greater Himalayan region (Nepal, northern India, Bhutan). We examine the cultural, ecological, political, religious, and economic interfaces that define life on the northern and southern slopes of Earth's greatest mountain range. In addition to learning about Himalayan and Tibetan lifeways, we will also learn about how these mountainous parts of Asia have figured into occidental imaginings, from the earliest adventurers to contemporary travelers. Dist: SOC; WCult: NW (Craig)

GEOG 44/Environmental Studies 44: Environment and Politics in Southeast Asia (Sneddon or Fox)

HIST 5.4: Modern Southeast Asia (Haynes)

HIST 76: History of Modern South Asia (Haynes)

REL 18: Indian Buddhism (Ohnuma)

APPROVED COURSES: Courses that are substantially devoted to South/Southeast Asia (at least 50% of content) and that count toward the major automatically, but that are not broad and general enough to be considered "core courses."

AMES 19 Introduction to South Asia
The history and contemporary issues of the island nation of Indonesia--home to the world's fourth largest population--will be examined in religion, politics, literature and language, with particular attention to the independence movement and the development of a national identity. Course resources will include readings in fiction and non-fiction, work-shops in performing arts, guest instructors, and multi-media materials both by and about Indonesians. WCult: NW (Faculty)

AMES 24/THEA 24 Asian Performance Traditions
This course studies the performance traditions of Asia, focusing on China, Japan, Indonesia and India. Classical forms studied include Noh, Bunraku, Beijing opera, Sanskrit drama, Balinese dance and Javanese puppet theater. Attention is paid to social, religious and aesthetic influences on these traditions, theories on which they are based, the history behind the theatrical practices, and training and dramatic techniques. Students gain an appreciation of the rich variety and scope of theatrical conventions of Asia. Dist: ART; WCult: NW (Chin)

AMES 27/WGST 91 Gender and Modern Media in India
Credit for this course is given to students who successfully complete this course at the University of Hyderabad while on the AMES/WGST FSP. WCult: NW (Ohnuma)

AMES 28/WGST 92 Contemporary Social Movements in India
Credit for this course is given to students who successfully complete this course at the University of Hyderabad while on the AMES/WGST FSP. WCult: NW (Ohnuma)

AMES 29/WGST 90 Foreign Study in India
Credit for this course, taught by the FSP director, is given to students who successfully complete this course at the University of Hyderabad while on the AMES/WGST FSP. Topics vary from year to year. Dist: SOC; WCult: NW (Ohnuma)

AMES 30/MUS 4 Global Sounds
A survey of music and music-making whose origins are in the non-European world. Examples include Indian raga, Middle Eastern maqam, West African drumming, Javanese gamelan, and Tuvan throat-singing. Course work will include listening, reading and critical writing assignments. Where possible, visiting musicians will be invited to demonstrate and discuss the music under consideration. Dist: ART; WCult: NW (Levin)

AMES 36/REL 40 Topics in the Religions of India
This course will focus in some depth on a particular aspect of religion in India-for example, a particular religion, sect, time period, body of literature, type of religion, or religious movement. The topic will change with each offering, and students may take the course more than once. Sample topics include: "Gods, Demons, and Monkeys: The Ramayana Epic of India," "Women In Indian Religions," and "Modern Hinduism." Dist: TMV; WCult: NW (Faculty)

AMES 42.03/GEOG 42 Environment, Development, and Inequality in South Asia
Is South Asia a paradox? Emerging as new global center of gravity of economic activity and geopolitical power, South Asia is experiencing massive economic growth in the recent years. This growth, however, is deeply uneven, marked by the sharply rising inequality, political unrest, increased environmental degradation and its own early forms of imperialism. Drawing insights from the regional political economy and ecology literature, this course builds critical understandings on the connections, contradictions and consequences of particular processes of development and environmental changes in South Asia. Dist: SOC; WCult: NW

AMES 42.06/REL 19.06 Modern Hinduism This course presents diverse texts and media from the British colonial period to the present in a patchwork history of Hindu nationalism, or Hindutva, and rival voices. Alongside primary texts representing historical thinkers prominent in the formulation of a modern Hinduism-Vivekananda and Gandhi, among others-we will engage the arguments of contemporary theorists of culture, media, and modernity in India, as well as four popular films. Dist: TMV (Elison)

AMES 42.08/REL19.13/COLT55.01 Divine Love: Desire, Sex, And Romance In Traditions Of India "You've got the money, but we've got the love." Indians comparing their country with this one often make judgments in these terms. But isn't love a human universal? In this course we will examine how religious texts have helped construct Indian attitudes towards desire, sex, and romance. We will tour various historical genres: erotic how-to, epic, mystical poetry, drama. The ideal bond in many of these texts unites a human subject with a divine lover. Dist: TMV, WCult: NW (Elison)

AMES 42.10/ARTH 17.3 Arts of South Asia This course is an introduction to the arts of South Asia from the Taj Mahal to Gandhi's spinning wheel. From the thirteenth century, and the advent of Islam in India, through the Mughal dynasty and British colonial rule to Independence in 1947, we will examine courtly art and architecture alongside popular arts and material culture. No background in Asian or South Asian art is necessary. Dist: Art; WCult: NW (Shaffer)

AMES 42.11/REL 40.06: Food and Religion in South Asia: The Raw, the Cooked, and the Leftovers Food-what people consume, share, offer their gods, and cast off-commands intense attention in South Asian religions. It's one way Hindus define themselves in relation to others (including other Hindus). It's coded with values like purity and pollution, subtlety and grossness. And it embodies histories, not only of migration, trade, and colonialism but also of ethicized actions-karmas. In India, "you are what you eat" has been a truism for thousands of years. Dist: TMV, WCult: NW (Elison)

AMES 45 Topics in World Music: The Music of Central Asia
The course will focus on music in Central Eurasia-the core region of the historical Silk Road-and on musical connections between Central Asia and regions to which it has been historically linked by trade and cultural exchange. Course work includes reading and critical writing as well as listening and viewing assignments. No prerequisite. Dist: ART; WCult: NW (Levin)

ANTH 45: Asian Medical Systems (Craig)

COCO 6: Hindu Epics in Text and Performance (Ohnuma)

ENGL 58: Introduction to Postcolonial Literature

ENGL 59: Critical Issues in Postcolonial Studies

GEOG 49/WGST 41.2: Gender and Geopolitics of South Asia

GOVT 40: Politics of India (Chauchard)

HIST 26: The Vietnam War (Miller)

LING 11: Language in South and Southeast Asia (Peterson)

MUS 50, Section 4: Indonesian Gamelan (Diamond) (every term; three terms of participation in this performance lab are required to earn one credit)

REL 40: Topics in the Religions of India (Ohnuma) (This course changes in content with each offering, but is always an approved course for the major; a student may count different offerings of this course as different courses.)

REL 41: Readings in Buddhist Literature (with South/Southeast Asia topic) (Ohnuma)

REL 42/WGST 43.4: Goddesses of India (Ohnuma)

PETITIONABLE COURSES: Courses with some South/Southeast Asian content (less than 50%) that will count toward the major only if the student petitions the AMES Steering Committee and receives approval. In general, most of these courses involve a substantial writing project (or a series of smaller writing projects), and permission to use these courses toward the major will be given only if the student focuses these projects on South/Southeast Asian topics. The student should work with the professor to come up with a plan that will make the course eligible for the major.

ANTH 17: The Anthropology of Health and Illness (Craig)

ARTH 66: The Camera in Nineteenth-Century Asia (Hockley)

GEOG 17: Geopolitics and Third World Development (Sneddon)

GEOG 26: Women, Gender, and Development

GEOG 41/WGST 37.2: Gender, Space, and Islam

GOVT 20: Development in the Emerging Economies (Vandewalle)

GOVT 25: Problems of Political Development: India, South Africa, and China (Sa'adah)

Government 81.03: Economic Growth and Reform in the Emerging Economies (Vandewalle) (This is a senior seminar that would be suitable as a culminating experience for SSEA Majors, if approved by the AMES Chair.) HIST 75: Colonialism, Development, and the Environment in Asia and Africa (Haynes)

HIST 96: Colonialism and Culture in Asia and Africa (Haynes) (This is a senior seminar that would be suitable as a culminating experience for SSEA Majors, if approved by the AMES Chair.)

LING 35: Field Methods (Peterson or Stanford)(This course should be petitioned, but one can expect it to be approved as long as the specific language focused upon is a South/Southeast Asian language [which is generally the case]; if the language focused upon is not a South/Southeast Asian language, the course will not be approved. Prerequisites include Linguistics 1 and an upper-level Linguistics course.)

Administrator, Ann Fenton
Last Modified September 14, 2015