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Summer Semester 2024 - Courses

Foundation Course: Indian Civilizations 
Course Code: FC-0201-1
Faculty: Gopalkrishna Gandhi, Professor, Ashoka University
Course Description: The course will reflect on early philosophical and political thought in India, examining  Asokan Edicts, Sangam age thinking in India’s Tamil tracts, the non-religious imaginations of Sarmad and the Sufis. It will also examine Yatric India with the India of Visitors through the ages, studying the journeys of ancient travelers such as Fahein to the current Dalai Lama. It will study  the history of imprisonment in India from early times, including that of a serving emperor jailed- Shah Jehan, through colonial times to our own times when penology has changed from its emphasis on punishment to reform. The Course would reflect on the testamentary role of the Constitution of India in the way we are evolving or not evolving as a people, a nation and a civilisation.
Pre-requisites: None
Grading Policy: Students will be required to write one assignment paper, due at the end of the term, for which students will be given an adequate number of prompts from the subjects discussed in class.


Foundation Course: Environmental Studies
Course Code: FC-0102-1
Faculty: Mitul Baruah, Assistant Professor, Ashoka University
Course Description: This course is meant to introduce students to nature-society dialectics. We will examine the historical, social, and political processes that shape societal relations with the natural environment. The course has three overarching goals. First, it will help students gain an in-depth understanding of some of the pressing environmental issues of our times, such as the agrarian crisis, climate change, disaster and vulnerability, waste, the industrial food system, struggles over water, and neoliberalization of nature, among others. Second, drawing on a variety of theoretical frameworks, including Marxist, feminist, and post-structuralist perspectives, the course will expose students to a breadth of approaches to environmental questions. Finally, through this course, I hope to be able to cultivate a sense of environmental citizenship in students. The course will be taught using a combination of lectures, discussions, films, and group projects.
Pre-requisites: None
Grading Policy: Attendance and Participation: 20% (10% for lectures, 10% for DS) Quizzes: 20% Essays: 40% Group Project: 20%


Foundation Course: Principles of Science
Course Code: FC-0801-1
Faculty: Raja Rosenhagen, Associate Professor, Ashoka University
Course Description: That the scientific revolution has drastically changed our view of the world—both as a whole and of its sentient and non-sentient denizens—that it has led to a massive expansion of our intellectual horizon and of our abilities to interact with and manipulate our environment is indisputable. But what is this thing called science? How do we demarcate it? What, if any, are the principles that must guide an activity such that it merits the honorific ‘scientific’—and when is something mere pseudoscience? Perhaps we can find out by way of looking at what actual scientists do: scientists make careful observations, try to explain and systematize phenomena, make (sometimes risky) predictions, and devise and test scientific hypotheses and theories. If we want to know what science is, we may thus focus our inquiry on these kinds of activities and raise questions that are geared at finding out more about what is characteristic of them. Here are a few examples: What is the role of observation in science? Must all science be grounded in observation?  What is a scientific explanation? Must good scientific explanations be true? If scientists make predictions, how do they arrive at them and what role do unobservable entities play in this endeavor?  Have scientists shown that unobservable entities really exist?  What are scientific theories, how are they generated, and what does scientific progress look like?  How does one distinguish science from pseudoscience?  Does science require the concept of causation?  What importance, if any, accrues to scientific speculation?  Are there laws of nature? What are they and can we find them by inductively generalizing from observations?  How are scientific theories tested? Can one confirm scientific theories? How?  Are all sciences fundamentally based on laws or is that just true of physics? Should we expect that in the end, every scientific theory reduces to physics?  At the basis of physics are certain conceptions of time and space. Do they capture what matters to us qua human beings? If not, do humans fit into the scientific world view? In this course we will discuss a selection of these questions..
Pre-requisites: None
Grading Policy: Reading Quizzes: 20%, Creative Project: 12.5%, Peer Review: 7.5%, Weekly Reflection Pieces: 30%, DS Participation: 15%, Group Presentation: 15%


Economics: Macroeconomics of National Debt
Course Code: ECO -3208
Faculty: Arghya Bhattacharya, Assistant Professor, Ashoka University,
Course Description: What happened in Sri Lanka in 2022, or Zimbabwe in 2006? Or, Greece in 2015, or in the Latin American debt crisis of late 1980s? As of early 2023, the United Nations estimates that over 50 countries are in need of immediate relief to avoid even more extreme poverty while analysts estimate that as much as USD 400 billion of international market debt could be at the heart of the problems. Governments issue two types of public debt – high denomination, interest-bearing debt (e.g. treasury bills, government bonds) and small denomination, zero nominal interest debt (money – coins and bills). This course focuses on the former. The course is divided into four blocks. In the first, we will study what a government does (apart from taxation) to finance their expenditure. This will be done in an overlapping generations model with asset (loans) markets. We will cover topics of continual issue of public debt, debt roll-over, open market operations (OMO), etc.. In the second block, we study the (private) representative individual’s savings, investment, and capital accumulation problem. Different savings instruments such as social security will be considered. In the third block, we combine the first two blocks and analyze the effect of high-denomination government debt on macroeconomic variables such as investment, capital formation, interest rates, etc. In the fourth and final installment we will study the interaction between fiat money and high-denomination government debt. As an extreme case, we will study the relationship between national debt, default, and hyperinflation.
Pre-requisites: Macroeconomic Theory I [ECO-2201], Macroeconomic Theory II [ECO-2202], Microeconomic Theory I [ECO-2101]
Grading Policy: Midterm 1 (20%), Midterm 2 (20%), Final (35%), Homework and Pop Quizzes (15%), Participation including attendance (10%)


Philosophy: Philosophy of Love
Course Code: PHI-2715
Faculty: Raja Rosenhagen, Associate Professor, Ashoka University
Course Description: In this course, we will look at various forms of love, such as friendship, romantic love, or familial love. As we do, we ask several questions: One of course, is of the “what is x” kind: what is love, what is (true) friendship? Another is of the “why does x matter” variety: should love and friendship be important to us? What are they good for? A third question is “what speaks in favor of x and what does x speak in favor of”: are there reasons for love or friendship? Does the question “why do you love me?” have a good answer? Are we obligated to love certain people – and if so, why? Does love itself create special obligations that we have towards our beloved? In this course, you will… – learn about some classical and contemporary philosophical approaches and questions about love (Western and Eastern), – reflect on the nature of love and friendship and their importance, – reflect on the normative characteristics of love, – hone your constructive discussion and peer-review skills, – connect and bring to bear creative skills on class materials.
Pre-requisites: None
Cross-Listings: None
Grading Policy: Reading Quizzes: 15%, Creative Project: 12.5%, Peer Review: 7.5% Weekly Reflection Pieces: 35%, DS Participation: 15% (if DS are required), Group Presentations: 10-25% [depending on whether there is a DS]


History: War: History, Politics, Society
Course code: HIS-2505/SOA-2234/POL-2107
Faculty: Pratyay Nath, Associate Professor, Ashoka University
Course Description: How has war shaped gender identities and political ideologies in our societies? In what ways do race, class, and religion figure in the experience of war? How have computer games, movies, and museums made war an object of popular consumption? These are some of the questions that the present course addresses. It offers a global history of the inter-relationship between war, politics, and society. 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 artefacts (movies, graphic novels, and games) of war.
Pre-requisites: None.
Cross-listing: Political Science and Sociology
Grading Policy: Class Participation – 25% Mid-Term Presentation – 35% Term Paper – 40%


International Relations: The Rise of Populism in International Politics
Course code: IR-2013/ POL-2038-1
Faculty: Ananya Sharma, Assistant Professor, Ashoka University
Course Description: Populism is one of the main political buzzwords of the early 21st century. The rise of populist forces in recent years has generated new challenges in many 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. What explains the rise of these forces? What are the consequences? And what can be done to mitigate the risks? The course aims at bringing together the conceptual analysis of populism with comparative case studies in different regions of the world. Given the highly contested nature of populism, we will look in depth to different theories of populism, including institutional, ideological, discursive and socio-cultural understandings of populism. The course will also explore the conditions of emergence of populism and the relations between populism and key political concepts, such as democracy, security, gender, international organizations and political communication. The course covers: (i) The core concept of populism and the classification of varieties of populist parties and leaders in different world regions; (ii) Explanations focused on ‘demand-side’ cultural value change, economic grievances, and patterns of immigration, and also ‘supply-side’ electoral rules and party competition; (iii) The consequences for the civic culture and the policy agenda; and alternative strategic policy responses.
Pre-requisites: 1000 Level IR course
Cross-listing: Political Science
Grading Policy: Continuous Assessments- Memo submissions, Visual Project, Issue specific Briefs.


Psychology: Psychological Understanding of Trauma
Course Code: PSY-3049
Faculty: Simantini Ghosh, Assistant Professor, Ashoka University
Course Description: The course will cover the neurobiology of trauma, psychological mechanisms and dysfunctions that underlie traumatic response. We will also discuss concepts related to the somatization of trauma. The second section of the course will cover the link between trauma and psychopathology- we will cover the genetics, epigenetics, and behavioral perspectives underlying this link and discuss how trauma affects behavior at an individual and collective level. We will further explore collective and intergenerational trauma perspectives. The third and final section of the course will focus on interventions and trauma-informed care, strengths and weaknesses, pitfalls and planning of future interventions. The instructor will use a flipped classroom in half the classes, where students will present papers, and the instructor will serve as a mediator. We will assume an intersectional lens when we analyze specific examples. The instructor will pick case studies from South Asian and Indian contexts in particular for students to appreciate how cross-cultural differences in norms and attitudes can have long-lasting effects on how trauma is experienced, addressed and processed.
Pre-requisites: Statistics and Research Methods II [PSY-2002]
Grading Policy: Syllabus Quiz 2% Academic Integrity 5% Class Citizenship 3% Check In and Check Out cards 10% Main Points/Muddy Points (MP/MP) Comments on Perusall (6 best scores counted) 20% SLAM Presentations (10% SLAM, 5% collaboration score x2) 30% Weekly Case Response Assignments (Formative) OR Independent Learning Project (Summative) [80% project, 20% collaboration score] 30%


Visual Arts: Understanding Art
Course Code: VA-2079
Faculty: Janice Pariat, Assistant Professor, Ashoka University
Course Description: This course explores the definitions of art developed by societies from the ancient Greeks to our globalised digital world. ‘What is art?’ is the question posed as we consider objects and activities in settings both remote in time and place and present around us. It attempts to build a critical language for classifying and evaluating a broad range of visual forms of expression. The disciplines of aesthetics, hermeneutics, iconography, and iconology are explored in order to find an approach that works across the cultures East and West. The course looks into connoisseurship, taste, and the role of the institutions of the art world.
Pre-requisites: None
Grading Policy: 20% = Class participation: I want you to be attentive, present, and engaged. 40% = Mid-term class presentation 40% = End of term essay (1500 to 3,000 words)


Political Science: Introduction to Comparative Politics
Course Code: POL-1005
Faculty: Bann Seng Tan, Assistant Professor, Ashoka University
Course Description: This course introduces students to Comparative Politics. It is one of the core course for those majoring in Political Science. International relations students may take it too.
Pre-requisites: None
Grading Policy: There are two exams and one term essay (25 % each, 3X25= 75% ), In-class quizzes (15 % each), attendance (10% each).


History: State, Nation, Religion: Buddhism in Asia 
Course code: SOA-3140 / HIS-2510
Faculty: Swargajyoti Gohain, Associate Professor, Ashoka University and Sanjukta Datta, Assistant Professor, Ashoka University
Course Description: This course is an exercise in historical anthropology, and presents a social history of Buddhism in Asia from the ancient till the present time. Despite this sweeping reach, the course remains grounded in three core themes – Buddhism’s close entanglements with (1) nationalism, (2) state-making and (3) place-making amid transnational flows. Buddha’s core doctrines have been adapted, co-opted, and revived in various forms in different geographical contexts and historical periods, from the 6th-5th century BCE to the present. Polities have grown out of Buddhist beliefs, and conversely, Buddhism has had to reinvent itself to fit into various political systems. How can we understand the co-creation of religion and the state through the trajectory of Asian Buddhism? How has Buddhism been involved in place-making politics (including contemporary tourism), which are at once shaped by and shape global, trans-cultural flows?
Pre-requisites: None.
Cross-listing: History
Grading Policy: A combination of class participation, short weekly assignments, film criticism, presentations, short quizzes, end-semester assignment.


Media Studies: Wisdom of the Documentary Film 
Course code: MS-2091
Faculty: Natasha Badhwar, Visiting Faculty, Ashoka University 
Course Description: Wisdom of Documentary: affective analysis of non-fiction films  With a focus on South Asian non-fiction films, this is an experiential course on analyzing the affective impact of viewing documentary film on the self and diverse audiences. Through screenings and moderated discussions, students will develop the practice to observe, appreciate and articulate the form, content and craft of documentary, and connect it to film theory, visual culture and socio-political discourse.  They will write personalized reviews on themes, theory, aesthetics and impact of a range of documentary work. As a final project, they will research and submit a pitch for a documentary project of their interest.
Pre-requisites: None
Cross-listing: Creative Writing, Visual Arts
Grading Policy: Class Participation and Attendance: 20% Response Essays: 45% Mid-term Essay: 15% Proposal for Final Project: 5% Final Pitch with audio-video and script elements: 15%.


Media Studies: Writing Narrative Non-fiction: Craft and Practice 
Course code: MS-2241/ VA-2013
Faculty: Natasha Badhwar, Visiting Faculty, Ashoka University 
Course Description: This course seeks to forge “writing as a lifelong relationship”.  With a focus on interrogating personal experiences, memories and connections, this course focusses on creative nonfiction writing as true stories, well told. In response to prompts, students will speed-write and slow-write essays that are compelling and honest and resonate with readers. This practical course will include reading and writing of reported narratives, profiles, first person essays, reviews, travel, food, history, films, true crime and memoir. The focus will be on both substance and style.
Pre-requisites: None
Cross-listing: Creative Writing, Visual Arts
Grading Policy: The essays are marked on these criteria: 1. creativity in writing 2. conspicuous effort and improvement 3. following specific instructions for each  4. Overall engagement for reader. Class Participation and Attendance: 20% Final Essay 20% Any 6 of the essays written during the course: 60%.


Biology: Python for Research in Life Sciences 
Course code: BIO-3636
Faculty: Sudipta Tung, Faculty, Ashoka University 
Course Description: This is an introductory course to Python to use this versatile programming language for aiding research in Life sciences. This course does not assume any prior knowledge in programming, starts with the basic coding lessons, and builds up upon them. The course will nudge you to think intuitively in terms writing an algorithm. This skill, once mastered, is transferable to any programming language in future. In addition, after first reviewing the basics of Python 3, we shall learn how to use Python scripts to import, organize, analyze and visualize experimental data, and run own simulations to generate new in silico research data. Using a combination of a lectures, and guided hands-on sessions, students will be exposed to a variety of different Python features across various topics in Life sciences. We shall explore examples and case studies with data, inter alia, behavioural experiments, genomics, transcriptomics, epidemiology and biostatistics. Students will also be introduced to the rapidly developing field of image processing and machine learning. Students will get a chance to hone their new Python skills by solving take-home assignments on their own.

Pre-requisites: This course assumes no prior knowledge of computer programming. An open mind and interest to learn the principles of coding will suffice.
Cross-listing: None
Grading Policy: Assignments50% + Exam – 20% + DIY project – 20 % + Classroom participation – 10 % Absolute scores will be considered for letter grades as per the following scheme 85 – 100 A; 80 – 84 A-; 75 – 79 B+; 70 – 74 B; 65 – 69 B-; 60 – 64 C+; 55 –59 C; 50 – 54 C-; 45 – 49 D+; 40 – 44 D; & <40 F.


Media Studies: Watershed Moments of Hindi Cinema 
Course code: MS-2492
Faculty: Aakshi Magazine, Visiting Faculty, Ashoka University 
Course Description: Cinema history can be recounted in multiple ways. In this course, we will engage with selected watershed moments of Hindi cinema – starting from the 1940s to contemporary times. A watershed moment could be an event, a film, a change in technology, a loss or the rise of a new music composer. We will focus on such selected moments that are central to understanding popular Hindi cinema.

Pre-requisites: None
Cross-listing: None
Grading Policy: Attendance and Participation = 20%, Screening Notes = 20%, Class Presentation = 10%, Final essay = 40%.


Political Science : Liberalism, Empire, and the Nation-state: A View from South Asia
Course code: POl-2119
Faculty: Prof. Sushmitha Nath, Visiting Faculty, Ashoka University 
Course Description: Canonical ideas and institutions in modern political thought, such as the state and the civil society, nation and nationalism, liberal rights and equality, democracy and citizenship are generally considered to have emerged in the modern Western world of Europe and North America. At the same time, unmodern or retrograde institutions and practices, such as the caste system or communal politics, are assumed to be culturally and historically embedded in South Asian thought and practice unrelated to the expansion of the Empire and colonial conquest. The underlying assumption of all this being that modern emancipatory and universal ideas originated in the West – the Enlightenment being the well-spring of these modern universals. As such, when the non-West or the so-called global south is engaged with in such contexts it is either to retrieve “raw data” or practices which maybe contrasted to the (Western) universals as “alternative” ideas and practices, or to point out the “degraded” versions of the “original” ideas and institutions of the West. The burgeoning field of global history however seeks to highlight the relational constitution of the modern world by unearthing global entanglements of ideas, institutions, people, and things. It points out how even European universals were shaped as a result of the colonial encounter. While global history highlights the interconnected nature of the modern world, comparative social and political theory challenges the dominant assumption that concept-formation and theory-building is exclusively the remit of Western political theory. In short, universalizable ideas and ideals can also be found in non-western thought. Comparative theory, or “theory from the global south” therefore draws attention to non-western thought, such as in South Asia, Africa, China, and Latin America, and shows how socio-political actors in the global south or in post-colonial societies did not simply inherit ideas and institutions as derivative of the West. Rather, it was not only that the non-Western world actively engaged with canonical ideas and practices and in that process reshaped or rejected them but also that universal ideas and ideals emerged in relation to and in the context of colonialism and conquest. With a focus on modern South Asia, this course brings together insights from global history and political theory from the global south to not only demonstrate the co-constitutive nature of ideas, concepts, institutions and practices but also retrieve forgotten or recessed emancipatory ideas and practices of the non-western world, which were marginalised as a result of the expansion of the empire and colonial domination in the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries, and the emergence of a new world order in the twentieth century based on the model of the Westphalian system of states. We will begin with an examination of liberalism’s relationship to the Empire and colonialism, then look at subject-formation in the context of colonialism, the emergence of the modern state, nationalism, and civil society, and finally look at the effects of such modern ideas and institutions on traditional social formations such as caste and patriarchy. Students are expected to read approx. 80-100 pages per week as preparatory readings.
Pre-requisites: None.
Cross-listing: None.


English : Introduction to Ecocriticism: Climate Fiction
Course code: ENG-3038/ ENG-5038/ ES-3701
Faculty: Prof. Alexander Phillips, Assistant Professor, Ashoka University
Course Description: As if being a serious political and geophysical problem were not enough, the climate crisis is also a cultural problem. Climate fiction, or “cli-fi,” has emerged in recent decades as a corpus of literature marked by its engagement with global warming. Because “climate fiction” is a thematic label, it is not reducible to any single genre, and examples range from the “high-” to the “lowbrow.” If we understand “cli-fi” as being a literary response to the scientific consensus that human activity is warming the planet, then it is a phenomenon of the late 20th and 21st centuries. In this course, however, the climate crisis is understood as a challenge not just to literary production, but to criticism too, one that demands that we not only engage with global warming as refracted in contemporary texts, but that we also re-read historical works with attention to how they think about the relation between human and more-than-human planetary systems. Through both literary and theoretical readings ranging from the onset of the industrial era to the 21st century we will consider such problems as the atmosphere as an aesthetic object, the problem of deep time, the limits of realism and the possibilities of speculative fiction, and questions of environmental ethics. 
Pre-requisites: None.
Cross-listing: Environmental Studies.

Grading Policy: Grades will be based on a sequence of writing assignments.


 

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