New Course! REL 305/ MLS 488 Topics in Culture and Religion: South Asia

Spring 2011
W 6-9:15
Dr. Kalyani D. Menon

This seminar will focus on the cultural politics of religion in three countries in South Asia – India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Clearly distinct in many ways, these three countries, like others that make up this region, have also interacted with each other, and shaped one another’s religious, cultural, and political worlds for centuries. These interactions have often led to political conflict and violence – both historically and in the current political moment. Yet, importantly, they have also enabled the creation of shared religious, cultural, and political worlds, albeit shot through with unequal relations of power and hierarchy. Both these historical currents are central to understanding contemporary politics in these countries.

Students will study how religion is central to understanding this region since religious identities, interpretations, texts, hierarchies, and indeed the politics of belonging and difference that these enable, have often been central to conflicts in and between these countries. At the same time, students will learn that religious discourse and practice have also been central to contesting hierarchies and imagining new and alternative political worlds. Paying close attention to the complexities of gender, class, ethnicity, and nationality in India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, in this course we will examine the cultural politics of religion in South Asia.

For more information please contact Dr. Kalyani Menon at or (773) 325-4998