South Asian Studies

South Asian Studies has Merged with the India Initiative to form the Center for Contemporary South Asia.

Visit our new website here:

Brown and RISD in Solidarity with JNUBrown and RISD in Solidarity with JNU

On February 25th, South Asian Studies partnered with RISD to host a teach-in entitled University and Dissent: Universities Under Siege in response to the Delhi Police storming Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), one of India's most prestigious universities, on the pretext of “anti national” slogans being raised by students during a Kashmir-related event on campus on February 9th.

Protests at JNUProtests at JNU
The elected president of the student union, Kanhaiya Kumar, was arrested on charges of sedition, sparking one of the most polarising and explosive debates in recent times on dissent and the university, nationalism, democracy, and state violence in India. This raises critical questions for us as members of a university but also as citizens. What do these events mean for the university as a space for critical thought and political action? What are the boundaries between freedom of expression, dissent and hate speech? In the charged context of the politics of hate, how does nationalism come to be defined from positions of dominance and marginality? When is the intervention of the state through direct and indirect forms of violence justified? How does this political moment resonate with struggles in South Africa, Turkey, Chile and right here in the United States, particularly with #BlackLivesMatter?     

Click the image below to watch a chronology of events, as told by Jawaharlal Nehru University's (JNU) students.

Read articles curated by Brown graduate students who work on South Asia:

  • India's Crackdown on Dissent: New York Times piece
  • We are of this country and love the soil of India: Full text of Student Union President Kanhaiya Kumar's speech, for which he was arrested
  • An ominous operetta: Opinion piece in The Indian Express by Alok Rai
  • Knock on the Door?: One woman's account of the everyday terror she and other student activists are being subjected to
  • How Not to #StandWIthJNU: A piece on the complexity of solidarity around the question of Kashmir's self-determination
  • An act of tyranny: 'Modi govt threatened democracy; that is the most anti-national of all acts': Opinion column  on The Indian Express by Pratap Bhanu Mehta
  • Fifth Column: Celebration India's destruction: "The more JNU-type slogans we hear, the more Hindu rage we will see." Opinion column on The Indian Express by Tavleen Singh

This event was co-sponsored by the South Asian Studies, Brown-India Initiative & RISD.

The nation-states of South Asia are home to one-fifth of the world’s humanity and a complex diversity of religions, languages and ethnicities. The South Asian Studies Program supports faculty, graduate and undergraduate research and teaching on this region, as well as provides space for interdisciplinary, comparative and collaborative projects that connect this region to critical themes and issues of wider significance. As such it complements the Brown India Initiative in broadening engagement with the region as a whole and directs the undergraduate concentration in South Asian Studies.

While area studies programs have historically been organized around the study of regional languages and cultures, one of the goals of the South Asian Studies program at Brown is to build critical conversations between the humanities and social sciences such that they centrally challenge the divide between empirical and theoretical knowledge – where the geography of South Asia and the very theories we think with, social, political and aesthetic, are interrogated, shaped and remade.

Furthermore, while supporting transnational, global and thematic projects, the South Asian Studies program seeks to strengthen “deep” regional knowledge that can engage social and ethical questions, grapple with the politics of knowledge and shape visions for change and justice.

The new website now provides updated information on the undergraduate concentration and a list of courses with South Asia content that can count towards the concentration. It also provides information on graduate and undergraduate fellowships and study abroad programs, and announces theSouth Asian Studies Student Fellowship for summer projects. In addition, it hosts the Watson Collaborative Grants Project Theory from the South.

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