India then and now: studies in literature and political economy

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Winter 2015

Jeanne Hahn, Lab II 2247, x 6014;

Ratna Roy, Com. 358, x 6469;

Program Description:
It is often said that an inquiry into the past helps make the present more understandable. Certainly this claim appears to be the case for India. The roots of today’s India lie deep in its early history and can be seen clearly in today’s everyday life and politics. One of the world’s oldest civilizations, with a body of literature in Sanskrit dating back to 1500 BCE, India is the birthplace of Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism and the home of diverse philosophical thinking that relates to concepts of birth/death, duty, citizenship, nation building, and governance. Today, India is considered to be the world’s largest democracy and a nation undergoing rapid change and modernization. Yet India’s ancient inheritance continues to shape its modern form, while at the same time it creates tensions and contradictions as the nation changes and becomes more fully integrated into the global world-system. A major question, much debated, is the nature of the relationship of this long past to contemporary India.
In this program we will study aspects of India’s past and its present to develop an understanding of its long historical trajectory as well as its present society and what it is that connects past to present. Beginning with a consideration of ancient and medieval India, we will read the great epic, The Ramayana. We will then build on this foundation to consider India’s two-hundred-year colonization by Great Britain (first through the East India Company and then through direct crown rule) and conclude with an investigation of the defining cultural and economic issues facing India since its independence in 1947. Throughout this long history from ancient to colonial to independent India to the present moment we will see the various ways in which The Ramayana has been returned to, reinterpreted, and reshaped to explain, justify, or oppose changing historical circumstances. We will conclude the quarter with a consideration of India’s current direction under the new government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
In addition to the ancient texts, our understanding of India’s past and present will be developed through historical and contemporary literature, political economy, and cultural studies. You will be introduced to the principles of literary theory, historical interpretation, and political economy. Through our work with this material we will explore and question the ability of literature to influence and interpret history. Writing will include a carefully developed two-part essay that synthesizes and analyzes the program themes.


Tuesday: 10 – 12 lecture, film Com. 110

Tuesday: 1 - 3 seminar Ratna: Sem2 A2105

Jeanne: Lib 2205
Wednesday: 10 -- 1 lecture, film Com. 326
Friday: 10 – 12 seminar Ratna: Sem 2 A 3107

Jeanne: Sem 2 A 3109

The Ramayana of Valmiki, condensed and transcreated by P. Lal

Sugata Bose and Ayesha Jalal. Modern South Asia: History, Culture, Political Economy.

(be sure to get the Third Edition)

Bankimchandra Chatterji (trans. Basanta Roy, 1941). Anandamath, or Dawn over

India. [Ratna’s seminar]

Bankimchandra Chatterji (trans. Julius Lipner, 2005). Anandamath, or the Sacred

Brotherhood. [Jeanne’s seminar]

Amitav Ghosh. Sea of Poppies.

Perry Anderson, The Indian Ideology.

Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India.

Githa Harihanan. In Times of Siege.

Mary Lynn Rampola. A Pocket Guide to Writing in History.

It is the policy of the college bookstore to return used books in the sixth week and new books in the seventh week. Please plan accordingly.
In addition to these books, we will read and discuss a number of articles (noted in the syllabus). They are either available on line (the url is in the syllabus) or will be sent to you as PDFs. You are expected to print copies of these materials for active reading and seminar discussion.
Finally, we expect you to read the twice-monthly current affairs magazine Frontline. It is available in full at An understanding of the issues discussed in Frontline over the ten weeks is critical for a good grounding on current issues and often their historical background. A regular reading will enhance your understanding as we move into the post-independence period. On occasion, the seminars will discuss designated articles directly related to a particular reading or time period.


There will be four types of program writing:

  1. A “benchmark” essay written in the first week to establish your point of entry into the program (see handout)

  1. A Progressive Essay:

This will be in the form of two interpretative essays of synthesis and analysis which together will constitute one “essay” in which the first is revised, deepened, and extended in the second. Instructions and guidelines will be handed out.

  1. Film review essays on “Gandhi” and “1947 Earth”. Instructions and guidelines will be handed out.

  1. Two pre-seminar questions for each day’s seminar designed to frame your discussion of the material’s underlying arguments and themes. The purpose is to clarify your understanding of the material and enhance and deepen the seminar discussion. The papers are due at the beginning of each seminar. (see handout).


Sixteen credits will be awarded to all students who successfully fulfill the program expectations. As the material and assignments are tightly integrated, ordinarily no partial credit will be awarded. Only under exceptional cases and with the agreement of both faculty will partial credit be awarded.
In order to receive full credit, students will be expected to:

  1. Work at an acceptable college level

  2. Regularly attend all program meetings. Six class absences will result in an automatic no credit {Note: each Tuesday session – am & pm – counts as a separate class; in other words, two class sessions on Tuesdays]

  3. Prepare and participate in seminar, group discussions, and group work

  4. Write a “benchmark essay” on the first reading

  5. Write and, if necessary, revise a two-part progressive essay of synthesis and analysis that draws on the program material

  6. Write film review essays on “Gandhi” and “1947: Earth”.

  7. Prepare two thoughtful discussion questions for each seminar session

  8. Write end-of-quarter self and faculty evaluations and participate in an evaluation conference.

All program work, seminars, and workshops in particular, require collaborative and cooperative efforts from both faculty and students. Students should familiarize themselves with the Evergreen Social Contract and the Student Code of Conduct regarding issues such as plagiarism and disruptive behavior. Normal adult behavior, of course, is expected; and disruptive behavior will be grounds for being asked to leave the program.

Finally, please make sure that your cell phones and other electronic devices are turned off during all program sessions.


*** Friday 9 January: Benchmark essay due in seminar ***
*** Friday 6 February: Progressive Essay Part I due in seminar ***
*** Friday 13 February: “Gandhi” film review due in seminar ***
*** Friday 20 February: “1947: Earth” film review due in seminar ***
*** Friday 6 March: Progressive Essay Parts I & II due in seminar ***

******** SYLLABUS ********

Weeks I-IV: Ancient and Medieval India
Week I: 5 – 9 January:

Sugata Bose and Ayesha Jalal, Modern South Asia, Preface to third edition,

chs 1-3 and bibliographic notes
Tuesday am: Ratna and Jeanne: Introduction to the program

Tuesday pm: Seminar: Bose & Jalal, Preface, ch 1 and bibliographic notes (219-225)

Wednesday: Lecture: Ratna, “On Literature”

Lecture: Jeanne, “On History and Political Economy”

Friday: Seminar: Bose & Jalal, chs 2 – 3

Week II: 12 – 16 January

Ramayana, Introduction and Books I-IV (pp. 9-156)

Robert Goldman, “Resisting Rama: Dharmic Debates on Gender and

Hierarchy and the Work of the Valmiki Ramayana” (PDF)
Tuesday am: Lecture: Ratna, “Introduction to Indian Religious Philosophies”

Documentary: “India: Land of the Spirit”

Tuesday pm: Seminar: Ramayana and Goldman

Wednesday: Documentary: “Great Tales of Asian Art: Ramayana”

Begin individual conferences with your seminar leader

Friday: Individual conferences with your seminar leader

Week III: 19 – 23 January

Ramayana to end

Mandakranta Bose, “Reinventing the Ramayana in Twentieth-Century Bengali

Literature” (PDF)

Bose & Jalal, ch 4

Brajadulal Chattopadhyaya, “Introduction: The Making of Early Medieval India” (PDF)

Tuesday am: Lecture: Ratna, “Introduction to the Ramayana: Many Ramayanas” (Tulsidas/

Meghnad Badh)

Tuesday pm: Seminar: Bose; Ramayana

Wednesday: Guest Lecture: Douglas Ridings, “Yoga: Then and Now”

Friday: Finish Ramayana

Bose & Jalal, Chattopadhyaya

Week IV: 26 – 30 January

Bose & Jalal, chs 5 - 6


NOTE: Ratna’s seminar reads Roy translation; Jeanne’s seminar reads Lipner

Tuesday am: Lecture: Ratna, “Wrap up on Indian Philosophy and Introduction to


Tuesday pm: Seminar: Bose & Jalal and Introduction to Anandamath

Wednesday: Cross-seminar discussion on the Lipner and Roy introductions
Friday: Seminar: Anandamath

Weeks V – VI: Colonial India

Week V: 2 – 6 February

Bose & Jalal, chs 7 -11

Amitav Ghosh, Sea of Poppies

G. Aloysius, “Homogenization of Power within Culture” (PDF)
Tuesday am: Lecture: Jeanne, “British in India: Textiles, Cotton, Opium, and World

Hegemony, Part I”

Tuesday pm: Seminar: Bose & Jalal and Aloysius
Wednesday: Lecture: Jeanne, “British in India: Textiles, Cotton, Opium, and World

Hegemony, Part II”

Lecture: Ratna, “Sea of Poppies as Literature”
Friday: Seminar: Ghosh

Week VI: 9 – 13 February

Bose & Jalal, chs 12 – 15

Perry Anderson, The Indian Ideology, Forward and ch. l, “Independence”
Tuesday am: Lecture: Ratna, “Gandhi as controversial figure”

Tuesday pm: Seminar: Bose & Jalal; Anderson

Wednesday: Film: “Gandhi” (dr. Richard Attenborough, Columbia Films, 188 min., 1982)
Friday: Seminar: Peer review/seminar on synthesis essays

Weeks VII – X: Independent India
Week VII: 16 – 20 February

Bose & Jalal, chs 16 – 17

Anderson, ch 2, “Partition”

Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India

Tuesday am: Lecture: Ratna, “Partition”

Tuesday pm: Seminar: Bose & Jalal; Anderson

Wednesday: Film: “1947: Earth” (dr. Deepa Mehta, 101 min. 1988, Hindi)
Friday: Seminar: Cracking India

Week VIII: 23 – 27 February

Bose & Jalal, chs 8-19

Anderson, ch 3, “Republic”

Ramachandra Guha, “Adivasis, Naxalites, and Democracy” (PDF)

Aseem Shrivastava & Ashish Kothari, “Prologue” & ch 2, “The Drunken Stunted Dog:

Imbalanced Growth in India” (PDF)

_____________________________, “Crony Capitalism, Land Wars, and Internal

Colonialism” (PDF)

Tuesday am: Lecture: Jeanne, “India’s Development Trajectory, Part I”

Tuesday pm: Seminar: Bose & Jalal; Anderson; Shrivastava & Kothari, “Prologue”

& ch 2.

Wednesday: Video: “Lifting the Veil” (Shonali Bose, Jonai Productions, 61 min, 1997)

Lecture: Lecture: Jeanne, “India’s Development Trajectory, Part II”
Friday: Seminar: Guha; Shrivastava & Kothari, “Crony Capitalism, Land Wars,

and Internal Colonialism”

Week IX: 2 – 6 March

Radhika Desai, “Gujarat’s Hindutva of Capitalist Development” (PDF)

Human Rights Watch, “India: A Decade on, Gujarat Justice Incomplete” get at:

Parnima Mankekar, “Mediating Modernities: the Ramayan and the creation of

Community and Nation” (PDF)

Tuesday am: Lecture: Jeanne, “Ahmedabad: Hindutva’s Laboratory Prefiguring 21st

Century India”

Tuesday pm: Seminar: Desai and Human Rights report
Wednesday: Film: “Final Solution” (dr. Rakesh Sharma, Associated Cinema and

Television, In., 149 min, 2004)

For a full documentation of the 2002 genocide see Human Rights

Watch report, “We have no orders to save you: State participation and

complicity in Communal violence in Gujarat” -- optional – get at:

Friday: Seminar: Mankekar

Week X: 9 – 13 March

Bose & Jalal, ch 20

Githa Hariharan, In Times of Siege

Articles on Modi gov’t and BJP, readings TBA
Tuesday am: Lecture: Jeanne, “The Battle over Memory, History, and Literature”

and introduction to Anand Patwardhan and “War and Peace”

Tuesday pm: Seminar: In Times of Siege
Wednesday: Film: “Jang aur Aman/War and Peace” (dr. Anand Patwardhan, First

Run Icarus Films, 147 min. 2002)

Friday: Bose & Jalal, articles, and final considerations

Week Xl: 16 – 20 March *** EVALUATIONS ***

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