This course is designed to introduce students to the study of Asia and the Middle East within the context of the global humanities. It serves as a sampler, which exposes students to the rich diversity of Asian and Islamicate humanities. The seminar explores a wide range of primary sources from different places and historical periods. These may include such diverse materials as the memoirs of the medieval Muslim traveler Ibn Battuta, "The Analects of Confucius," readings from the "Vedas" and "Upanishads," Farid ud din Attar's "The Conference of the Birds," Kurosawa's "Rashomon," Rabindranath Tagore's "The Home and The World," short fiction from the modern Palestinian author Ghassan Kanafani and examples of contemporary Chinese science fiction. This interdisciplinary course does not count toward the completion of any diversification requirement. Only open to first-year students.
"The Silk Road" is a rather misleading term coined in 1877 by Ferdinand von Richthofen. It refers to a vast network of trade routes that connected East, South, and Southeast Asia with the Mediterranean region, North Africa, and Europe. While travel and migration along these routes date back to prehistoric times and continue today, communication via the land routes across the Eurasian continent primarily flourished from the second century B.C.E. through the 15th century C.E., most notably linking China with western Asia and the Mediterranean region. And while silk was one of the major products transported from China to the West as far back as the Roman Empire, the trade, especially in such other luxury goods such as spices (from India) and gemstones (from western Asia), was active in both directions. Along with the trade in material goods, the Silk Road was the medium for cultural exchange. One of the prime examples of this was the spread of Buddhism from India into Afghanistan, China, Korea, Japan and Southeast Asia. As an extensive and many-layered system of economic and cultural exchange, the Silk Road can therefore can be considered a pre-modern example of what today we call globalization. This course will surveys the history of economic and cultural exchange along the Silk Road from prehistoric times to the present day. We specifically will examine geographic factors, the various ethnicities and empires that contributed to Silk Road history, the exchange of goods and technologies, the religions of the Silk Road, and the spread of artistic traditions across Asia. The general aims arewill be to enable students to think critically about Asia (or Eurasia) in a more holistic way, to understand the interconnections of our various academic disciplines and to appreciate some of the rich cultural heritages and exchanges that have contributed to our world. This counts toward the social science diversification requirement when paired with a course in HIST. No prerequisite.
Muslims have been an integral part of South Asian and Indian history for more than a millennium. While Islam may have first come to the region as the religion of immigrants and converts, the Muslims of contemporary South Asia are now overwhelmingly their native-born descendants. Islam has so successfully settled into South Asia that the Muslims of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh collectively account for approximately one-third of the world’s Muslims. South Asia’s Muslims and “Hindus” have seldom lived in isolation from each other. There has been continuous cultural interaction between them. This seminar examines interactions between “Hindus” and Muslims by reading a series of recent scholarly monographs on the topic. Questions to be addressed include: How did Muslim rulers and the scholars in their courts deal with the question of “Hinduism?” How did Sufis and Yogis understand each other’s religious beliefs and practices? How did Muslim historians write the history of Hindustan? Conversely, how did “Hindu” historians write the history of the Muslim presence in South Asia? Is the culture of pilgrimage to Sufi shrines truly Islamic? Is contemporary “Hindu” nationalism “othering” the culture of South Asian Islam? There is no specific requirement for this class, but students should have some background in the study of Islam, or Islamicate or South Asian history. This course is an intensive seminar and counts toward the upper-level seminar requirement for the Islamic civilization and cultures concentration.
This capstone seminar is taught by Asian Studies Program faculty in rotation and is organized around a common theme that integrates the various disciplines and regions of Asia. Through readings, films, guest lectures and other activities, the course leads students to synthesize their academic and personal (e.g., off-campus) experiences in a broader comparative perspective. Students produce work that examines one or more topics of their own interest within the comparative Asian framework. Required for Asian studies concentrators and joint majors. Permission of instructor required. This interdisciplinary course does not count toward the completion of any diversification requirement. No prerequisite. Offered every spring.