School navigation

Overseas and Off-Campus Programs

India Regional Area Study

Semester: Fall
Date: Late August to early December
Offered: Every other academic year, odd years
Program Focus: Country Study
Prerequisites: Overall GPA of at least 2.75 and good academic standing                                              
Fall 2017
Program Leader:

J.M. Fritzman
Associate Professor of Philosophy

ext. 7477

Fall 2015
Program Leader:

Bruce Podobnik
Associate Professor of Sociology
ext. 7664

Program design:
India’s 5000-year history and current importance in the international socio/political scene provides an environment that is rich for intellectual inquiry.  Program sites are in the north and south of India with extended stays in New Delhi, Chennai, and Varanasi. The program starts in New Delhi under the direction of Dr. Sunil Kumar,  Professor of History at Delhi University. The program begins with a comprehensive three-week introduction to India and an academic focus on medieval history. This focus is complemented with field trips within New Delhi and trips to Tughluqabad, the Taj Mahal, and Fatehpur Sikri.

From Delhi the academic program moves to Chennai in southeast India where Dr. A.R. Venkatachalapathy will lead the exploration of the history, urban geography and cultures of Tamil Nadu.

From Chennai the last site of study is Varanasi, one of the holiest cities of India. Dr. Nita Kumar, Director of The Centre for Postcolonial Education at Southpoint School, supervises ethnographic research projects, leads explorations of the arts including Hindustani music, and guides investigations of religions of India including Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam.

Integrated into all phases of the program are issues related to women, the environment, economics, politics, history, arts and human geography. Within the program are two, week long, independent travel opportunities designed to allow students to explore areas of India not included in the formal itinerary and to assume responsibility for moving about and exploring India on their own in small groups. Students will be expected to contribute to the learning of the group by sharing their observations and analysis of issues discussed within journals and written papers throughout the program.

4 courses per semester/16 credits


IS 243: The Present in Delhi’s Past:

This short course has several intersecting agendas. It starts off with the simple intention of introducing all of you to the history of Delhi. Towards that end, the course will take you through much of medieval and modern Delhi, its major monumental sites, old and new neighborhoods, and touch upon historical change that the city has witnessed over the last millennium. In other words, the easy part of the course is the one that ‘investigates’ the debris of the past. But it is also useful to discuss the practice of the historian through the experience of Delhi because this is not just any other city. From the beginning of the thirteenth century, Delhi was the capital of a succession of states that controlled most of north India and, occasionally, the entire subcontinent. Historical narratives of the city are often closely interwoven with the state until little survives from the past but accounts of the power and cultural background of its rulers. Historians often link the histories of these past regimes into the seamless past of the modern nation, as do policy planners today when they sometimes theorize for the rest of the country while they are safely and comfortably ensconced in Delhi.

Excursions include: Humayun’s Tomb and the shrine of Nizam al-Din, Qutb and Bakhtiyar Kaki’s Shrine, a pre and post-colonial New Delhi neighbourhood – Saket, Agra – Sikandra, Red Fort, Itmatudaulah and The Taj, Fatehpur Sikri, Firuz Shah Kotla and the jinns, Old Delhi.

IS 241: Contemporary Studies: India

The Chennai module follows the Delhi module. Students would have already realized that India is not a monolithic country with a homogeneous culture. India is probably more culturally complex than, say, Europe. The idea is to make this clear in somewhat stark terms by counter-posing the experience – both lived and academic – of North India with that of South India. This is a heuristic device to introduce the complexity of India. However it needs to be underlined that Tamilnadu itself is not homogeneous ­– not to add that it does not stand in for the whole of South India. South India has other linguistic regions with equally rich and complex cultures. Students are required to be alert to the contrasts, and the theme of the final written paper will center on this. The Chennai module is packed with lectures, dancing lessons, independent field-trips and two guided trips.

IS 240: Area Culture Studies: India

The aim of this segment of the program is very specific: to educate students in Indian culture, by which is meant the family, education, socialization, gender, religions, work and leisure, environmental values, and the arts. They will look at these dimensions of India as processes that have been dynamic in the past and are marked today by modernization and globalization. The techniques they will learn are ethnography, ie., fieldwork, and interpretation through four main perspectives: cultural Marxism, developmental/modernization theory, cultural studies/deconstruction, and feminism. They will have a combination of lectures, discussions, reading, interactive visits, and guided projects in each topic, which are all connected together in a web that becomes clear over the days of study.

IS 242: Development/Environment: India

This course uniquely covers the entire semester and draws freely on subjects taught, discussed, independently investigated and researched. The course serves as a bridge that reflects on this mix of spaces and intellectual stimulation that the each program location offers. The course will culminate in a holistic student project. Students will think of a topic related to India that is meaningful to them through field research and exploration in Delhi, Chennai and Varanasi. The topic should not be geographically-specific, but should instead be about a phenomenon that is relevant in many locations throughout India. 

Suggested Readings:

R.K. Narayan, The Ramayana

Diana Eck, Darsan:  Seeing the Divine Image in India

Bernard Cohn, India:  The Anthropology of a Civilization

Roy C. Craven, A Concise History of Indian Art

William Dalrymple, City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi

Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Children

Program Design



Blog Feed: India

  • April 13, 2017 at 2:45pm
  • January 6, 2016 at 11:39am
  • December 12, 2015 at 12:08pm
    All is fair in love and war. But in India that expression should also include an extra clause: All is fair in love and war and driving. Seriously though, it is unbelievable how drivers maneuver through traffic here. It would appear that the one rule of driving is that there are no rules. In fact, […]
  • December 8, 2015 at 1:36pm
    During my time in Banaras I was inspired poetically more than any other city in the program and I’d like to share a few poems that encapsulate my sentiments in the holy city.  ____________________________ To live in and die by the mother Ganga. We occupy a city of mosquitoes. Your blood is my blood. Sweet […]
  • December 8, 2015 at 1:34pm
    Before I begin let me give a little caveat emptor: This Post Involves Some Violent Content, Viewer’s Discretion Advised.   India has been incredible, but there is too much to talk about. Here’s a story:   So I was on a weeklong stint of independent travel with Lauren during late October. Catching a sleeper train […]
  • December 8, 2015 at 1:16pm
             I often think back to our last day in Delhi, walking through Chandni Chauk, slowly making our way through the crowded bazaars. We were on our way to Jama Masjid, one of the largest mosques in India. The small alleyways and streets of the old city were flooded with goats, decorated […]
  • December 8, 2015 at 1:14pm
    In India, especially in Hinduism, feet are viewed very auspiciously. Feet are seen as a dirty and humbling appendage, and therefore,greeting people at their feet is a way of showing respect. It is my understanding that in yoga karmic energy flows from your head and releases through your feet. I must have terrible karma because […]
  • December 8, 2015 at 1:13pm
    As we prepare to go our separate ways here within the next week, many of us are growing painfully nostalgic and reflecting on the adventures that we’ve shared. I, for one, have done more personal reflection than anything else. It seems that my peers on this journey have fostered some very beautiful, deep, long lasting […]
  • December 8, 2015 at 1:11pm
    In Banaras, different neighborhoods of the city encompass different kinds of trades, businesses, and art forms. Since my arrival in Banaras, I was told that the musician’s quarters were in a neighborhood called Kabir Chaura, in the north of the city. Since I am a musician and am studying Hindustani gharana sitar, I was more […]
  • December 8, 2015 at 1:00pm
    Coming up with only one moment, feeling or experience to write about for the Varanasi portion of the program has been a really challenging task. This has easily been my favorite stop that the program itself has made. Despite the warnings that we received about how dirty, busy, crazy Varanasi, (Banaras as we learned to […]


27.175015; 78.042155