India: National Identity and the Arts


None, although previous coursework in Asian history, Asian art history, or Asian religions is recommended.

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This program examines the visual and performing arts of India — including architecture, painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, film, dance, music, and drama — in historic and contemporary contexts and the intimate relationship between art and religion. The program studies history, to understand and resolve the past, and then to understand and evolve the present as it has been shaped by the complexities of the past.

Students are asked to analyze the meaning and theories of aesthetic response in one of the world’s founding civilizations. By using the rich and varied arts of India, students look into the fundamental human language of rituals, signs, and symbols.

The program’s coursework encourages students to question what it means to be creative and how we assess the creativity of a society different from our own, asking why it is important for students as Westerners to understand the creative traditions of "The Other."

The program also considers critical theory, aesthetic theory, research ethics, and the methodology of how we study the arts of another society. Students are asked to consider how we educate ourselves to look deeply and develop more sophisticated observational skills.

The following syllabi are either from a recent session of this program or for an upcoming session. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term.

The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.

National Identity and the Arts Seminar - syllabus (PDF)
(ASIA 3000 / 6 credits / 90 class hours)
An interdisciplinary course conducted in English, with required readings, examining the visual and performing arts of India (including architecture, painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, film, dance, music, and drama) in historic and contemporary contexts, as well as the relationship between religion, art, and identity. Lecturers are drawn from institutions such as the School of Arts and Aesthetics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Jamia Millia Islamia, Benares Hindu University, and Delhi University.

Intensive Language Study: Beginning Hindi - syllabus (PDF)
(HIND 1000–1500 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
Intensive Language Study: Intermediate Hindi - syllabus (PDF)
(HIND 2000–2500 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
Intensive Language Study: Advanced Hindi
(HIND 3000–3500 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
Emphasis on beginning speaking and comprehension skills through classroom and field instruction. Based on in-country evaluation, including oral proficiency testing, students are placed in beginning, intermediate, or advanced classes.

Field Methods and Ethics - syllabus (PDF)
(ANTH 3500 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
This course focuses on cross-cultural learning and developing field studies skills. It provides a framework for the Independent Study Project. Material includes cross-cultural adaptation and skills building; project selection and refinement; appropriate methodologies; field study ethics and the World Learning/SIT Human Subjects Review Policy; developing contacts and finding resources; developing skills in observation and interviewing; gathering, organizing, and communicating data; and maintaining a work journal.

Independent Study Project - syllabus (PDF)
(ISPR 3000 / 4 credits / 120 class hours)
Conducted in Delhi, northern India, or in another approved location appropriate to the project. Sample topic areas: challenges of historical preservation in a developing society; “Box Wallah” photography; pilgrimage and environmental degradation; Kathak dancing; Hanuman and traditional wrestling; modern Indian cinema; preservation of the Kashmir shawl; Sufi music and poetry; architecture and urban space; painting; polo and Rajput horse culture; conservation of the tomb of Akbar; culinary culture in New Delhi; seventeenth-century water systems of the Agra Red Fort.

Browse this program's Independent Study Projects/Undergraduate Research

Costs Dates

Credits: 16

Duration: 15 weeks

Program Base: New Delhi

Language Study: Hindi

Prerequisites: None, although previous coursework in Asian history, Asian art history, or Asian religions is recommended. Read more...

View Student Evaluations for this program:

About the Evaluations (PDF)

Fall 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Spring 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Fall 2012 Evaluations (PDF)

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