India Regional Area Study

Program Snapshot
Semester: Fall
Offered: Odd years - Fall 2021, Fall 2023
Estimated Dates: Late August to early December
Program Focus: Regional Area Study
Prerequisites: Overall GPA of at least 2.75 and good academic standing. Students must satisfy the Words and Numbers CORE requirement before participating in an overseas program.
Housing:  Varies throughout the program
Fall 2021 Program Leader: Kaley Mason
Assistant Professor of Music, 503-768-7417

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. Integrated into all phases of the program are issues related to women, the environment, economics, politics, history, arts and human geography. Students are 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.

Itinerary Overview: 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. 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.

About the Program Leader: Kaley Mason’s research examines the interplay of creative choices and material constraints in contemporary musical experience. Although his primary area of specialization is South Asia, his work is broadly concerned with how music serves as a vehicle for cultural dignity, and how performers in turn shape movements for social change. This is the focus of his first book, The Labor of Music: South Indian Performers and Cultural Mobility (forthcoming with Oxford). His second India-centered project tracks the relationship between art and activism in song, from the music of political theater and revolutionary film, to emergent genres like alternative rock. He also has a secondary interest in Francophone popular music, specifically the heterogeneous origins of the chanson française and the influence of singer-songwriters in debates over national belonging and intercultural empathy in France and Québec. Having taught previously at the University of Chicago, his recent courses include music of South Asia, chanson française, ethnographic methods, and gastromusicology.


Requirements Fulfilled: IS 230, IS 231, and IS 232 fulfill the 8-credit International Studies general education requirement. This program fulfills the overseas study requirement for the Asian Studies major.

Credits: 16 credits (4 courses)


IS 232: The Present in Delhi’s Past (4 credits)

This short course has several intersecting agendas. It starts off with the simple intention of introducing 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.

Dr. Sunil Kumar has served as the academic director of the India program since the early nineties. Dr. Kumar works with students throughout the program, but most closely during first segment of the program. Dr. Kumar challenges students to investigate the interplay of the historical narrative of Delhi and the modern nation of India. He also teaches and is head of the Department of History at Delhi University. Dr. Kumar has also held visiting positions at LMU Munich, SOAS London, UC Berkeley, EHESS and EPHE Paris, and has authored prominent texts, such as The Emergence of the Delhi Sultanate, and The Present in Delhi’s Past.

Excursions: Past program excursions have included 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 230: The Politics of Cultures: Religion, Education, Environment, and the Arts (4 credits)

The aim of the Varanasi 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. Students 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 students will learn are ethnography, i.e., fieldwork, and interpretation through four main perspectives: cultural Marxism, developmental/modernization theory, cultural studies/deconstruction, and feminism. Students 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.

Dr. Nita Kumar, Brown Professor of South Asian History at Claremont College and Director of NIRMAN, an educational NGO in Varanasi, is the lead faculty for the Varanasi segment of the program, which focuses on the arts, religion, and social elements of life in India. Dr. Kumar’s lectures and discussions related to classical music, Hinduism, Islam, arts and modernity, development, and education provide fundamental principles for understanding the complexity of issues when studying Indian culture. Dr. Kumar invites students to look beneath the surface of Indian stereotypes to examine how Indians reproduce themselves in successive generations and the effect of colonialism on current social systems in India.

IS 231: Beyond North India (4 credits)

The Chennai module follows the Delhi module. At this point in the program, students have 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 guided trips.

Dr. A. R. Venkatachalapathy, Professor of History at the Madras Institute of Development Studies, is the lead faculty for the Chennai segment. Dr. Venkatachalapathy’s research focuses on the social and cultural history of colonial Tamil Nadu. Dr. Venkatachalapathy has been working with Lewis & Clark students since 2013 and helps students gain understanding of the Tamil South and the colonial history of Chennai. He guides students in learning about the founding of the city and growth over the centuries through various field trips and guest lectures. Chalapathy is excited to share his knowledge on coffee and other aspects of cultural history in Tamil Nadu.

Excursions: Past program excursions have included St. Thomas Mount, Fort St. George, Pondicherry, Thanjavur, Kapaleeshwarar Temple, Mylapore, Parthasarathy Temple, and Triplicane.  

IS 233: Area Studies: South Asia (4 credits)

This course uniquely covers the entire semester and draws freely on subjects taught, discussed, independently investigated and researched. The course includes lectures and independent research and serves as a bridge that reflects on this mix of spaces and intellectual stimulation that each program location offers. The course will include a series of student projects that draw on field research and exploration in all program sites.

Student Life

Housing: Accommodations vary throughout the program depending on location. Students have the opportunity to stay with a host family for six days in Varanasi, which gives them a taste of what daily life is like in an Indian household. The group stays in long stay apartments in Delhi and Chennai, and on an urban and rural campus in Varanasi. Students eat most of their meals together at the various accommodations, and are given a stipend to cover the cost of meals not provided during the program. Students will choose their own housing during the independent travel weeks.

Independent Travel: 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. Students assume responsibility for moving about and exploring India on their own within smaller groups. Students will choose their independent travel destinations while consulting with in-country staff.


2021-2022 Fee Breakdown*

Total Fee (includes Tuition, Program Fee, and Health & Wellness Fee): $36,259

Tuition: $28,485

Program Fee: $7,737

Health & Wellness Fee: $37**

Included in the program fee are room/housing, board/meals, and administrative fees. Not included are airfare, passport and visa expenses, primary insurance coverage, photographs, books, immunizations, and incidentals. 

*Fees are updated every February for the following academic year.

**The Health & Wellness Fee supports the operations of Wellness Services staff in delivering pre-program orientation services, as well as in providing health-related consultation regarding participant health needs. All students in the College of Arts and Sciences pay a mandatory fee of $37 per semester.

Stipend: Students will receive a stipend to cover the cost of meals and transportation costs not covered by the program fee.

Estimated Airfare (Round Trip PDX to DEL): $1,000 - $2,000

Estimated Travel Document Fees: $350 - $450

Estimated Health Insurance Fee: $1,350.50

All students participating in overseas programs are automatically enrolled in iNext, a supplemental travel insurance program. The fee for iNext is covered in the program cost. However, students are also required to have comprehensive health insurance during their time abroad. All students participating in overseas programs, both abroad and domestic, are automatically enrolled in the College’s student health insurance program. Similar to a regular semester on-campus, students participating in overseas programs may waive enrollment in the student health insurance program if they have other comprehensive health insurance (e.g., through a parent, guardian or employer) that 1) provides coverage for them in the geographic region in which they will be studying and 2) includes mental health benefits. Click here for more information regarding health insurance & overseas programs.

Program Preparation

Application Process: Applications are due one year before the start of the program. The semester before the program, students who have been accepted will meet regularly for orientation. This orientation is meant to prepare the students for life in India by exploring literature and culture, and provides an opportunity for students to learn more about the logistical details of the program.

For more information about the application process, click here.

Travel: Students usually fly into Indira Gandhi International Airport airport (DEL), where they are met by onsite staff and transported to their hotel.

Visa: Students will be required to apply for a visa in order to participate in this program. More information will be provided upon admission to the program.

Country-Specific Health Information: Click here to view specific health information for people traveling to India.

State Department Country Information: Click here to visit the State Department’s India page.


Blog Posts

  • Indian Cinema as a Cultural Mirror

    1) At the beginning of May, I had an internship at the Cannes International Film Festival in France. In a taxi ride home one evening, I struck up conversation with the lead curator of the annual Chennai Film Festival. I mentioned our upcoming stud...