ASIAN 400: India and the West

Course Level: Undergraduate 

Course Description: This course examines the intellectual and cultural encounter between India and the West from the 1770s to the present day, a period that coincides with the entry of India into the historical experience of colonialism and modernity. It looks at how the discovery of knowledge about India affected debates in modern European philosophy and conversely examines the reception of European ideas in modern Indian thought. One of the outcomes of this encounter is that national culture in India and Europe developed in relation to a shared experience of colonialism in which notions of religion and secularity were crucial in evolving the idea of the nation in both regions. This course will examine how Western discourses of race, religion, secularity, gender, and spirituality were internalized by Indian elites and eventually deployed in the formation of socio-political and religious movements of reform and anti-colonial resistance. We shall look at how these reform movements shaped the nationalization of three distinct communities in colonial North India – Muslim, Hindu, and Sikh – and how encounters between these communities and the British helped to define some of the central problems of Indian democracy today.


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Arvind-Pal S. Mandair
Professor, Asian Languages and Cultures 

Tara Singh & Balwant Kaur Chattha, Gurbax Singh & Kirpal Kaur Brar Professor of Sikh Studies

Philosophy/Religion/Postcolonial Theory/Sikh Studies/South Asian Studies

Office: 202 South Thayer Street
Office 6016
Ann Arbor, MI 48104-1608

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