Religions of Modern India

Spring Semester 2016

Course Outline:



Readings and Assignments

Readings are due for the day
on which they are listed




New Sections:

Universalist Hinduism

Swami Vivekananda, "The Common Bases of Hinduism," "Plan for My Campaign," and "The Future of India," The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda (course pack)






Week One

Jan. 19: Introducing the study of religion and modernity in India




Conceptualizing Indian modernity


Jan. 21: Modernity and Identity: Caste

Video: Caste at Birth (documentary, 2000)
by Mira Hammermesh


Š      Ramanujan, A. K., “Annayya’s Anthropology” [BB]

Š      Dirks, Nicholas, “The Modernity of Caste” [BB] SQ1


Week Two

Jan. 26: Modernity and Tradition: Communalism



Š      Pandey, The Colonial Construction of Communalism [BB] SQ2

Jan. 28:  The Idea of Westernization


Š      Srinivas, “Westernization” [BB] SQ3

Š      Tagore, Rabindranath.  Gora, chs 1-6




On pre-modern Indian history

Week Three

Feb. 02: Interpreting “ancient India”


Š      MSA ch. 2 HO1

Š      Tagore, Rabindranath.  Gora, pp. 7-12

Feb. 04:  Accommodations of difference and the making of Indo-Islamic cultures


Š      MSA, chs. 3-4 HO2 & 3





Company Raj and Empire Imagined

Week Four

Feb. 09: The British East India Company



Š      MSA, chs. 7 & 8 HO4 & 5

Š      “The company that ruled the waves,” The Economist, Dec. 2011 [BB]


Feb. 11: Liberalism, Christianity, and Empire

Š      Metcalf, Thomas R. “Liberalism and Empire” [BB] SQ4

Š      Roy, Rammohun, “The Brahmunical Magazine or the Missionary and the Brahmun, being a Vindication of the Hindoo Religion against the Attacks of Christian Missionaries” (1821) [BB] SQ5



Š      Roy, Rammohun, “Remarks on Settlement in India by Europeans” (1832) [BB]



Hindu Reform Movements

Week five

Feb 16: Brahmo Samajh:

Rammohun Roy and Debendranath Tagore




Feb. 18: Arya Samajh: Dayananda Saraswati





The Sati Debate

Week six

Feb. 23: The Sati Debate in Colonial India


Š      Mani, Lata.  Contentious Traditions: The Debate on Sati in Colonial India [BB] SQ8

Š      Roy, Rammohun, “Translation of a Conference between an Advocate for and an Opponent of the Practice of Burning Widows Alive” (1818) [BB] SQ9

Š      “Petition of Hindus Against the Abolition of Sati” (1829) [BB]

Š      Bentinck, William.  On Ritual Murder in India, 1829. 


Feb. 25: Perspectives on Sati:
Traditional, Colonial, Contemporary


Š      Courtright, The Iconographies of Sati [BB] SQ10



Crown Raj

Week Seven

Mar. 01: The Revolt of 1857



Š      MSA ch. 9 HO6 & 7

Š      Premchand, The Chess Players [BB]

Mar. 03: Crown Raj, Religious Reform, and Swadeshi Nationalism


Š      MSA, chs. 10 & 11 HO8



Modern Saints

Week Eight

Mar. 08: Ramkrishna



Š      SQ11

Mar. 10: Vivekananda and a Universal Hinduism

Š      SQ12

Š      Tagore, Gora, pp. 35-228  SQ09



Week nine

Mar. 14 - 19: No Class (Spring Recess)




Week ten

Mar. 22: Devi.  A film by Satyajit Ray

Š      MSA chs. 12 & 13 HO9 & 10

Mar. 24: Gandhi’s Nationalism and Critique of Modernity


Š      Gandhi, M. K., Hind Swaraj SQ13




Week eleven

Mar. 29: No Class (All Day Advising)


Š      MSA chs. 14 & 15 HO7


Mar. 31:  Gandhi’s life and writings


Š      The Essential Gandhi

1.    Preface & Part One SQ14

2.    Part Two (chapters 8, 11, 14, 15, 16, 24)



April 3rd: Viewing of Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi



Week twelve

April 05: Criticism of Gandhi / Critics of Gandhi


Recent published photos of the last ten years of Gandhi’s life (BBC)

Š      Attenborough’s Truth: The Politics of Gandhi [BB] SQ15

Š      Lal, The Gandhi Everyone Loves to Hate [BB] SQ16

April 07: Gandhi and Ambedkar


Š      Zelliott, E., “Gandhi and Ambedkar: A Study in Leadership” SQ17



Gender, Marriage, and the Women’s Question

Week fourteen

April 12:




April 14:


Š      SQ20



Week fifteen

April 19:




April 21:


Š      SQ20





Week thirteen

April 26: Independence and Partition


In Pictures: India’s Partition


Š      MSA chs. 16 HO8

Š      Butalia, “Blood” and “Facts” [BB]



Hindu Nationalism and the Babri Masjid

April 28: The Ayodhya Campaign and

the Babri Masjid


Š      Tambiah, S. Hindu Nationalism, the Ayodhya Campaign, and the Babri Masjid SQ18




Hindutva: The Great Nationalist Party





Final Exam:  Monday May 9th, 2:00-4:15 PM









Due by 9:00 May 13. 
Please leave your portfolio in the tray outside of my office






Assignments and Grading

Summaries and Questions [SQ]

200 (10 each)

History Outline [HO]

Midterm Exam

100 (10 each)


Final Exam








Final Grade Values
1000 Points Possible

920 to 1000 = A

         900 to 919 = A-

880 to 899 = B+

820 to 879 = B

800 to 819 = B-

780 to 799 = C+


720 to 779 = C

700 to 719 = C-

680 to 699 = D+

620 to 679 = D

600 to 619 = D-

599 & below = F


Track your progress on Blackboard


My Office Hours:

My office number and hours are Fridays, 11 AM to Noon. 
Please make an appointment if you can, but feel completely free to drop by with your concerns, ideas, questions, etc. 
I will always make time if I can.  If need be, we can certainly communicate by email, but in-person is always best.

Descriptions of Assignments

Summary and Questions:  This should be done for each reading assignment on the syllabus.  The summary and questions should include one single-spaced page on which the student summarizes -- separately and in the student’s own words (full sentences) -- the central points of the reading.  Please number each central point. After the summary page there should be a separate page with three of your own discussion questions.  These must not be factual questions.  Each question should be written to lead a discussion into a deeper consideration of the reading )see the link below for how to compose a good discussion question).  Label the first page of each assignment at the top with the exact reading title, taken from the syllabus.  If  the reading is a selection from M&B, please label the assignment with the major sub-headings.  All of the summary and questions assignments must be in print, single-spaced with 12-point font and 1” margins.


Paper: The paper is an opportunity to develop your knowledge and thinking about a focused topic of interest to you.


Take-Home Midterm: The take-home midterm gives you the opportunity to show your knowledge of the content of the course readings and lectures, and to apply their theoretical aspects to the novel that we read in class.


The Portfolio:  Students will compile a portfolio of their work through the semester.  The portfolio will help me to grade holistically, taking into consideration the overall trajectory in the level and quality of your work.  The 150 point score will reflect the apparent care that went into creating the portfolio, and the apparent thoughtfulness that went into your integrative reflections.  The contents of the portfolio should be organized into the following sections, divided by labeled tabs for each section:


1.    Table of Contents

2.    Summary and Questions pages for all reading assignments

3.    Class Notes

4.    Take-Home Midterm


5.    Paper

6.    Integrative reflections:  Minimum 1000 words, nomaximum. 

In this section, please reflect upon the following:

a.    The meanings of the word “modern” that we have brought to bear on India

b.    What you understand as the “modern” dimensions of Indian religion and society, present and in recent history

c.    How these dimensions set modern India apart from pre-modern India (e.g., what you studied in the first class on Indian cultures and religions)

d.    The most interesting aspects of the class for you and where you would next like to develop your knowledge of India

The portfolio will be due to me (in the tray outside my office) by 9:00 AM on Wednesday, May 13.

Class Policies

Participation” means (1) wakeful presence, (2) preparation of reading assignments, (3) active involvement in class interactions, (4) punctual arrival at the beginning of class, (5) having the assigned text and/or printed article in hand (running out of pay-for-print does not justify coming without the text), and (6) completion of all in-class writing assignments, (7) keeping of any appointments made outside of class.  Lack of any of these will affect the grade, excessive lack is reason for dismissal from the class. Participation will be evaluated after the last class before Spring Recess and at the end of the class.  For this purpose there will be two participation scores.

Attendance is required, though I will allow two free days-off during the semester.  Without regular attendance, students do not tend to do well in the class.  A note from a doctor, dentist, coach, or funeral director will render any absence excused.  The note is due to me within one week of the absence.  Without such a note, of after the one week period, the absence will not be excused.  Please note that a phone call or email message saying that you are ill is not sufficient, nor is a note from the health center confirming an appointment. Leaving class early will result in an absence.  Each unexcused absence results in a 20 point reduction from the final score. 

Website, Online Syllabus, and Computer Failure. 
This online syllabus can be accessed through the Blackboard course page but I recommend that you bookmark it so as to bypass BB when it goes down.  Computer failure is not a valid excuse for a late assignment.  Broken or unreliable computer?  Use the computers at the college.  The syllabus is my best projection of how our time will be organized.  I might alter the assignment schedule as appropriate or necessary, but I will not change the grading policies.

Academic dishonesty
in any form -- including plagiarism of self or others, falsified documentation of a doctor
s note, etc. -- will not be tolerated.  Cheating of any kind results, without exception, in an F” for the course.

Food in class:
Very quiet snacks are acceptable.

Electronics in the class: 


Š      Use of cell phones and smart phones is not allowed in the classroom at any times (please turn them off at the beginning of each class period).  Anyone who is seen texting will be asked to leave the classroom and will be counted as absent for that day.  Continued use is grounds for dismissal from the class.

Š      Use of computers and readers is not allowed in the classroom at any time, unless the student is authorized through student services to use one as a result of a disability.  The reason for this policy is the widespread misuse of computers in class when allowed.  The reduced cost in using downloaded texts does not outweigh this problem; plus it is important for students to be able to make notes and marks in their texts.

Email:  Please Note


Š      Students are responsible for checking the online syllabus and their email every day.  I will announce any and all changes via email -- e.g., a changed deadline or altered reading assignment.

Š      I do not accept any assignments by email unless I have indicated in the syllabus that the assignment should be sent by email, or we have made prior arrangements.