nl en

South Asian Diasporas


Admission requirements



This course focuses on transnational South Asians. Large numbers of people of South Asian descent left their homes to settle in different parts of the world since the early nineteenth century. In many ways migrants are at the heart of modern South Asian history. This course looks at the long history of labour migration to Africa, Southeast Asia and the Caribbean as well as more contemporary movements to the Middle-East, Europe and the Americas through the trope of diaspora. Diaspora originally meant the dispersion of Jews living amongst Gentiles. More recently the term has come to mean a dispersion of originally similar peoples. A diaspora exists when those people living far from home forge some sort of community with each other, and maintain a relationship (real or otherwise) with their community. But this definition is far from adequate and throughout the course we will examine multiple and often contested understandings of what exactly a ‘diaspora is’ or the necessity of such as term.

In twelve lectures we will explore how states attempted to control migrations and how individuals and communities resisted it. We will analyze the impact of South Asian immigration on cultures of receiving communities. We will explore how South Asians abroad negotiate new forms of identity and national citizenship while continuing to cultivate real and imagined social, political and economic ties to countries in South Asia. This course aims at breaking the binaries of home and abroad through a historical and anthropological reading of the global map of South Asia.

The course will make use of literary, historical, ethnographic and cinematic texts.

Course objectives

Read and engage with some of the most current scholarship on diasporas and the South Asian diaspora.

Acquire skills to produce a research paper.



Mode of instruction

Lecture and discussion.

Course load

  • Lectures: 28 hours

  • Studying literature: 60 hours (2 hours per week)

  • Preparing for the presentation: 8 hours

  • Writing paper: 24 hours

  • Writing book review: 20 hours
    Total study load: 140 hours

Assessment method

The course is assessed in three ways

  • A written assessment consisting of an essay type question that requires reading outside the required reading list (60 % of the overall mark)

  • A book review (20% of the overall mark)

  • A class presentation on a text in the required reading list (20 % of the overall mark).

In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of “5,45” or higher. There is no re-sit and all three parts in the assessment scheme need to be completed in the same year.


Students are requested to register on Blackboard for this course.

Reading list

to be announced.


Students are requested to register through uSis, the registration system of Leiden University for this course. General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Registration Contractonderwijs


Contact information

Prof.dr N.K.Wickramasinghe
Mw. N.T. Seneviratne