UI I: The Many Pasts of India’s Present

An inquiry into the​‘origin’ questions of India: Geological, ecological, cultural and political

This course critically unpacks three key, enduring tropes about India that are at the root of social, political, and cultural strife in contemporary times: a) India as timeless,’ b) India as autochthonous’ (or as independently emergent), and c) India as pure’ (in racial, religious, caste or other similar terms). Recognizing that no single academic discipline can provide the methodological and explanatory wherewithal to make sense of these issues, this course takes a decidedly multi-disciplinary approach to analyzing them. Hence, its content is drawn from a range of social science and humanities disciplines, as well as from the natural sciences wherever required. Students are invited to develop an informed, broad-based understanding of the way that India’ has been forged within the cauldron of global, regional and local processes, over (deep-) time, with spatial linkages to other parts of the natural and social world, involving continuous movements of people, goods, and culture within and across its shifting frontiers, resulting in a wondrous, thoroughgoing mixture’ that is India. Overall, UI I serves as a basic and critical introduction to India’s geographical, geological, environmental, evolutionary, economic, cultural, and political pasts, and equips students to historically account for its present diversity and complexity.