Courses for Summer Term 2019
Foundation Course : Indian Civilizations
Faculty: Prof. Gopalkrishna Gandhi
Course Description: The course will contrast the philosophical and the political thought with the priest-ordained commandments in India, examining the non-religious imaginations of Sarmad and the Sufis as also the Asokan Edicts, Buddhist-Brahmana contestations, Nyaya, Vaiseshika, Sankhya, Sangam age secular instructions in Tamil. It will also compare the Yatric India with the India of Visitors through the ages, studying the journeys of ancient travelers such as Fahein to the current Dalai Lama. A study of imprisonings from early times including that of a serving emperor jailed- Shah Jehan, to our own Tihar times would reflect the way we are evolving or not evolving as a people that believe in the rule of law and civilitas.
Foundation Course : Foundations in Environmental Studies
Faculty: Mitul Baruah
Course Description: David Harvey famously said: “All ecological projects (and arguments) are simultaneously political-economic projects (and arguments) and vice versa.” This course introduces students to the historical, social, and political processes that shape the interactions between humans and the natural environment across multiple scales. The course will focus on some concepts and perspectives that are central to the understanding of nature-society relations. These include the Anthropocene, population and scarcity, production of nature, sustainability, neoliberal nature, political ecology, environmental ethics, and environmental justice. It will then move to discussing various important issues concerning three fundamental resource sectors that we engage with every day of our lives: food, water and energy. The final section of the course focuses on climate change, with a special emphasis on the politics of climate change.
Foundation Course: Literature and the World
Faculty: Saikat Majumdar Department of English, Ashoka University & Anjali Prabhu, Wellesley College
Course Description: This course considers literature written in the former colonial languages of French and English and includes materials drawn from film, advertisements, the press, and historical documents. French texts will be read in English translation (originals may be used by those fluent in French). How does the view of the world change when languages of domination are taken up by those dominated by the structures that allowed for domination? How does culture, taken broadly from regions with colonial pasts bringing together areas with vastly different relationships with the respective colonial powers -- in Africa, the Indian subcontinent, the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean, New Zealand, Ireland, and Australia -- reshape Europe's modernity? And how do immigration and the presence of formerly colonized peoples within Europe interact with this contested notion of modernity? In what ways do newer forms of hegemony, understood as global capitalism, environmental threats related to unchecked capitalism, or the specter of artificial intelligence, get theorized through cultural production from spaces of vulnerability? In considering these questions, this course will focus on the theoretical ideas of postcolonialism and decoloniality in grappling with the notion of modernity, while also affirming a myriad of strategies that contest and bring nuance to these theories.
Foundation Course: Mind and Behaviour
Faculty: Aditi Chaturvedi
Course Description: In this course, we will look at some different theoretical models of human nature in the history of western philosophy, from antiquity until the present day. We will examine, critically, different claims about the essence of humanity and we will also consider the coherence of the very notion of ‘human nature’. We will consider both historical conceptions of human nature and contemporary debates about human nature. The course will be divided into three units: 1) politics, ethics, and human nature; 2) the self; 3) humans and nonhumans. Apart from philosophical texts, we will also consider films, TV shows (such as ‘West World’) and literary texts.
Critical Writing: Introduction to Creative Writing
Faculty: Arunava Sinha
(200 level course)
Course Description: In this course, students will experiment with two creative genres—poetry and prose—as a means of developing different imaginative approaches to experience. The emphasis will be on generating substantial amounts of raw material, and advancing a body of this toward completion. Each craft lecture will be tied to a set of readings that will be discussed in class. At the end of the course, students will learn how to look at literature from the point of view of a practitioner and apply writing techniques to a variety of rhetorical situations. Anyone who wants to earn this minor or take creative writing courses, must successfully complete this course. There is no prerequisite for this course.
Critical Thinking Seminar: Bad Music
Faculty: Aditi Chaturvedi
(100 level CT, cross-listed with Philosophy at 200 level)
Course Description: I can’t stand Coldplay. There's a good chance it’s one of your favourite bands. This isn’t really surprising: everyone has different tastes when it comes to art. Aesthetic disagreements usually get relegated to the basket of things people ‘agree to disagree’ about. In this course, we’ll take a different approach. We’ll ask ourselves why we disagree about music and we will ask ourselves what this tells us about music, society, and ourselves. Is there such a thing as objectively bad music? Are some people better judges than others? Or is nothing to be disputed when it comes to taste? How tastes are even formed? Can tastes be reduced to class or other identities? What role does education play in all this? The goal of this class is not to get you to hate Coldplay; rather, the goal is to understand what it means to disagree about art, through which you will learn how to respond more intelligently and with greater empathy to such disagreements as you encounter them in your everyday life.
Biology and Environmental Studies: Introduction to Anthropogenic Climate Change and Biological impacts
Faculty: Imroze Khan, Department of Biology, Ashoka University and Sambuddha Misra, Centre for Earth Sciences, Indian Institute of Science
(100 level course)
Course Description: Human activity has changed the climate of the planet. To understand and quantify the extent of anthropogenic climate change one needs to first learn about the natural rhythm of climate. In this course we will learn about the forces that control natural climate, how human activity has perturbed the present climate, what are the different climate change scenarios, and what impact would climate change have on the planet’s biota. The natural climate variability will be studied from a non-technical point of view to ensure that non-science majors are able to participate. A synergistic approach will be adopted in terms understanding the chemical changes in the ecosystem and how that influences the biological world, with a special emphasis on ecological and evolutionary impacts on biodiversity and spread of disease.
Environmemtal Studies: The natural history of South Asia: an introduction
Faculty: Madhusudan Mysore, Nature Conservation Foundation
(200 level course)
Course Description: South Asia presents a unique confluence of nature's diversity with a vast and vibrant human society. How nature can be secured while humanity is sustained is perhaps among the region’s biggest challenges. To students of the humanities who learn about the history, society, economics and politics of this region, this course aims to provide a foundational understanding of the facts and concepts of the natural history of this region. Among other things, it aims to bring an understanding of how the region's geological history and climatic regimes have given rise to its staggering variety of biomes and life forms. It will introduce students to the ways in which such natural diversity can be understood, not only in terms of their forms and patterns, but also in terms their functions and processes. This will mainly be a factual course on South Asian natural history, with the concluding section discussing recent changes, causes and consequences of these changes, and ways forward. The emphasis of this elective on natural history is meant to complement the students’ understanding of South Asian society, and to provide depth to the research, analyses and policy engagements they may subsequently undertake at the interface of nature and society.
Environmental Studies: Biodiversity and Conservation in the Developing World
Faculty: Ghazala Shahabuddin, Senior Fellow, Centre for Ecology, Development and Research (CEDAR)
(200 level course)
Course Description: Many of the national policies relating to biodiversity conservation in developing countries are framed and implemented without adequate knowledge of natural ecosystems or the deeper socio-political and historical contexts of the crisis. Further, biodiversity conservation as practiced, often compromises social justice, sustainability and equity principles and is often ineffective in solving human-wildlife conflicts. The primary aim of this course is to help students develop a holistic understanding of the causes of today’s biodiversity crisis, to explore the implications of species losses for human welfare and ecosystem services; and to use the essential ingredients of scientific rigour, environmental justice and economic sustainability to understand these complex problems that developing countries face today.
Economics: International Trade
Faculty: Anuradha Saha
(200 level course)
Course Description: This course will provide an overview of world trade. It will cover theories of trade including the Ricardian model, specific factors, and Heckscher-Ohlin models; new trade theories. Other topics include the international location of production; firms in the global economy and outsourcing and multinational enterprises, trade policies and international macroeconomic policy.
Economics: Monetary Theory
Faculty: Argo Bhattacharya
(This is a 300 level course. It is an elective course only for 3rd year Economics and Economics + Finance majors. The prerequisite for this course: passing grades in Microeconomics I and II, Macroeconomics I and II, and Mathematics for Economics).
Course Description: This course provides a rigorous yet accessible treatment of modern monetary economics with the goal of understanding the role of money, the reason for the existence of money, coexistence of money and interest-bearing assets, the role of banks and central banks, the cost of inflation and other pertinent monetary issues. Instead of teaching monetary economics as a collection of facts about institutions for students to memorize, this course adopts an approach where students are introduced to dynamic, micro-founded models of monetary exchange namely the Overlapping Generations (OLG) class of models of money.
English: Trauma and Event: The Triple Disaster of 3.11 and Its Afterlife
Faculty: Sharif Youssef, Ashoka University and Brian Bergstrom, McGill University
(200 level course in English)
Course Description: The triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear accident that occurred in Fukushima, Japan, on March 11, 2011, provides a font of rich material for the study of trauma and its relation to large-scale events that have local, national, and global ramifications long after their occurrence. The 3.11 triple disaster show how the “eventfulness” of disaster is prolonged through the continuous political, legal and affective working-through of its ramifications on multiple scales at once. Mass media, literature, popular culture representation and political action taking place in and around the event will provide the materials that theories of trauma and eventfulness will be applied to, asking students not only to think about how theory can be applied responsibly to such an event but also how the theories themselves may be tested and modified.
English: Literature and Empire: 1660-1947
Faculty: Sharif Youssef
(200 level course in English)
Course Description: Starting with the consolidation of the East India Company in the 17th century, this course will examine the wide variety of pamphlets, travel narratives, poems, novels, and prose fictions that pivot on the idea of empire and travel, from Aphra Behn’s Oronooko to E. M. Forster’s A Passage to India. Moving across countries and centuries, this course will study literary and social formations that continue to affect us to this day.
English: Introduction to Bhakti Literature
Faculty: Swapna Sharma, Yale University
(200 level course)
Course Description: The goal of this course is to provide an introduction to the medieval bhakti (devotional) literature of North India. A brief introduction to the philosophy of bhakti will be followed by a study of some of the rich hagiographical literature that recounts the life and great deeds of the Bhakti poets. Students will then read selections of the devotional poetry that has been written in honor of Krsna, Rama, the formless god or Nirguna bhakti. The course concludes with a section on contemporary expressions of devotion. Among the poets we read are Surdas, Mira Bai, Kabir, Tulasi, and the Muslim poets Rahim and Raskhan, and the founder of the Sikh tradition, Guru Nanak. All readings will be in translation.
History: War, Culture, Society
Faculty: Pratyay Nath
(200 level History elective, cross-listed with Political Science and Sociology)
Course Description: Course Outline: How have military techniques of human societies evolved over time? In what ways has war served as a contested site for defining gender roles? How have computer games, movies, and museums made war an object of popular consumption in modern societies? These are some of the questions that the present course grapples with. It offers a global history of the inter-relationship between warfare, politics, and society. In the first two weeks, we will study the evolution of military techniques from the prehistoric times to the twentieth century. In the third week, we will analyse the role of infrastructure – labour, logistics, animals, and resources – in war-making. In the fourth week, we will unravel the world of war-propaganda and anti-war protests. Next, we will delve into the realm of cultural representations of war. By focusing graphic novels, movies, photographs, letters, and computer games, we will explore the politics of representing war in popular culture. In the final week, we will study how societies have defined and contested ideals of masculinity and femininity against the backdrop of the real and prescribed gender roles for men and women in war. We will also look at issues of war-memory and war-trauma. The present course will study this rich history through a close reading of recent scholarly literature on the subject as well as a hands-on experience of analysing modern cultural representations (movies, graphic novels, and games) of war.
History: Religion, Politics and Literature in North India (1922-1947)
Faculty: Purushottam Agrawal, Former Professor, JNU
(300 level History elective, cross-listed with English)
Course Description: The period between 1922 and 1947 is very significant for the study of sharpening of communal divide and articulation of Hindu and Muslim ‘nationalism’. The failure of ‘Khilafat’ movement led to virtual withdrawal of Muslims from the INC led national movement and eruption of communal violence. The basic text of political Hindutva (‘Hindutva: Who is a Hindu?’) by V.D. Savarkar was published in this period. (1923 and 1928). RSS was established in 1925. On the other hand, Muslim League got a new lease of life and propagated the ‘two nation theory’. This course will seek to explore the individual and institutional literary response to this transformation of the traditional religious identity into a ‘modern’ political one. It is interesting to see that it was during this period that Malik Muhammad Jayasi’s ‘Padmavat’; academically edited collections of Kabir and Gorakhnath’s poems were published and the other hand ‘Gita Press’ was established with avowed intention of ‘protecting the Sanatana Dharma’. Urdu public sphere also, on the one hand, we see great energy and activity for the separate Muslim political/ national identity, and on the other hand spread of ‘progressive’ trends in Urdu literature. The publication of Angare (collection of short stories, 1932) is considered a landmark event in the history of Urdu literature. The literary world of both Hindi and Urdu was apparently abuzz with democratic ideas, (PWA was established in 1936 and IPTA in 1943), but was it really able to influence the larger public sphere? The collective, cultural memories play a major role in construction of any identity, in what ways these memories were being articulated in literature? how the religious community, its cultural contours and its history were being imagined in larger public sphere and what were the literary reflections on it? These are important historical questions with deep bearing on the contemporary Indian social and political scene. The proposed course will explore these questions. Many of the important literary texts from the period covered in this course are available in English translations.
International Relations: The Rise of Populism in International Politics
Faculty: Ananya Sharma
(200 level course)
Course Description: Populism is one of the political buzzwords of the early 21st century. The rise of populist forces in recent years has generated new challenges in many affluent societies and long-established democracies, such as the US, UK, Germany, Italy, Greece, and France, as well as destabilizing states worldwide, such as in Venezuela, Brazil, Hungary, Turkey, the Philippines, Thailand, and India. The course aims at bringing together the conceptual analysis of populism with comparative case studies in different regions of the world. It studies populism from a conceptual, theoretical and comparative perspective. Given the highly contested nature of populism, the first weeks will look in depth to different theories of populism, including institutional, ideological, discursive and socio-cultural understandings of populism. It will then move to explore the conditions of emergence of populism and the relations between populism and key political concepts, such as democracy and political participation. The second half of the course will seek to apply the conceptual tools presented in the first half of the course to regional case studies and look at the impact of populism on foreign policy and international politics.
Political Science: Indian Democracy in Motion
Faculty: Prof. Pratap Bhanu Mehta
(300 level course)
Course Description: Many political scientists have described India as an “unlikely democracy.” As Tocqueville argued, democracy, in principle transforms all the other social forms it touches, from religion to intermediate associations. This course will examine the ways in which the workings of Indian democracy have shaped and transformed the meaning of five institutional formations: constitutionalism, religion, the economy, caste, and the city. The aim is not to provide a conventional or comprehensive overview of Indian democracy. It is rather to provide snapshots into the ways in which the Indian democratic experience is unsettling identities, unleashing new forms of mobilization and in the process transforming the meaning of citizenship as Indians experience it.
(Registration for this course will open separately)
Psychology: Violence as a human behavior
Faculty: Simantini Ghosh
(300 level course)
Course Description: Violence is a widespread and complex issue that has been part of human behavior through time. In this class, we will tease violence apart in multiple axes, but usually in a data driven fashion. In the first half of the course we will break violence down to its elemental blocks using concepts from neurobiology, biochemistry, genetics, psychology, evolution and epigenetics. The second half of this course will reassemble fundamental types of violence based on religion, politics, gender, age and socioeconomic structures using the concepts discussed. Prospective students are encouraged to approach the material as part of a journey to understand violence. Each member of the class might arrive at a different conclusion about violence at the end of the course, but the goal of the class is to provide them with different frameworks to interpret and analyze data about violence to reach at their conclusion.
Documentary and Video Storytelling: Concept, Elements and Execution
Faculty: Veda Shastri, Immersive video journalist and Producer, The New York Times
(200 level course in Media Studies)
Course description: This course will teach the technique of digital video storytelling and documentaries. It will introduce the building blocks of video storytelling, and impart how to develop a story idea and execute it. We will discuss the concepts of place, space, character and sequence, as well as access, framing, ethics to understand the significant aspects of visual story development, and place them in context of documentaries and videos that have received a wide audience.Students will learn to watch and deconstruct standout examples of video storytelling. They will learn to strip such examples into story ideas, characters, and film verite scenes. In addition, we will focus on the skills needed to produce on the ground. Students will also be taught to evaluate which style of video storytelling to use with examples from digital and social video, long-form documentary and immersive media such as 360 video and VR. In addition to verite, the spectrum of contemporary video storytelling includes narrative devices such as voiceover, text, animation.