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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 diasporas.
Acquire skills to produce a research paper.



Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Attendance and active participation are mandatory.

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

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

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

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

In order to pass the course, students must have contributed actively to at least 75% of class meetings, handed in the book review and done their class presentation, and receive an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher.
Students who fail the course (get a total mark of “5.49” or lower) can resubmit the written assignment (3) only. This is only possible if they have handed in a first version.
The course is an integrated whole. All categories must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.


Students are requested to register on Blackboard for this course.

Reading list

To be announced through Blackboard.


Students are requested to register through uSis. To avoid mistakes and problems, students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetable in the column under the heading “Act.nbr.”.

Registration Contractonderwijs


Contact information

Prof.dr N.K.Wickramasinghe