Women and Power in South Asian History
Purpose This course addresses women’s roles and statuses, means of gaining and using power, and contributions in political and other realms, during four millennia of South Asian history. With emphasis on the modern, but with relevant background in Indian mythology, classical history and literature, medieval Islamic chronicles, autobiographies, and eyewitness accounts, we will examine original sources, social science studies, fictional works, and secondary material on the following issues: origins, persistence, and revision of socially and religiously constructed gender identities; typologies of autonomy vs. dependence, security vs. risk, oppression vs. liberation; medieval and modern women as political actors and exemplars; female infanticide, self-immolation of widows, and bride-burning; education, health and workplace; Western and Asian feminisms; and women power brokers in what is now India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bangladesh. No previous acquaintance with South Asia, or with history, is assumed. Approach & Focus In this course we will read and write about, report on, and discuss topics concerning gender in South Asia, assessing the various ways in which subjects exercised power (or not) and—whether colludingly, unthinkingly, or defiantly—how they defined their roles in history. Requirements Evaluation will rest on class discussion (30%), six-minute presentations on individually-assigned readings (20%), a book review (20%), and three quizzes (30%).