• Offered by School of Culture History and Language
  • ANU College ANU College of Asia and the Pacific
  • Course subject Asian Studies
  • Areas of interest Anthropology, Cultural Studies, Asian Studies
  • Academic career UGRD
  • Mode of delivery In Person

This course introduces students to the most urgent issues in India today, looking at the remarkable impact of technology on Indian culture and society, from infrastructure to media and digital. It uses the anthropological lens to bring technology alive, as it is encountered in everyday life by people and institutions. The course begins with an examination of key institutions in India: its social system and cultural practices. It draws on the history and ethnography of South Asia, and the major concepts that framed the discipline of anthropology, as inseparable from the colonialism in Asia. The first part of the course will  primarily focus on the foundations of Indian society, its social, cultural and political make up, before moving to main part of the course which focuses on technology.

The second part of the course investigates the multiple effects of technological schemes and innovation in India and their implications for social life. What do we mean by technology? What is the relationship between technology and social order and cultural values? How has technology, as part of India’s embrace of economic reforms, reshaped society and the politics of identity? What is the role of the state and private enterprise in promoting technological innovations? These are some of the question we will cover.

The final part of the course will focus on the effects of neoliberalism on both private and public spheres, in promoting policies and ideologies that continue to be key drivers in shaping ideologies and everyday practices in India and its vast diaspora. While the course will focus primarily on India, readings and classes will also cover aspects related to other countries in South Asia.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

Upon successful completion of this course, students will have the skills and knowledge to:
1. demonstrate an understanding of and evaluate historical and current events and developments that have shaped India and South Asia,
2. identify and critique contemporary systems of Indian culture, technology, religious beliefs, and past traditions,
3. examine current debates relating to culture and power in the context of anthropology, 
4. analyse the regional significance of cultural events, institutions and technological developments in Indian society,
5. demonstrate an understanding of the anthropological approach, its method and theoretical underpinnings through which current knowledge about India and South Asian studies has developed.

Indicative Assessment

1. Tutorial participation assessment 10% [LO 1, 2, 3, 4,5]  Informed participation and contribution to discussion

2. Summary essay (1) 15% [LO 2, 3]Short essay (500-700 words) summarizing the argument of an assigned journal article - Due week 5.

3. Argument and critique (2) 15%  [LO 1,2,3]Short essay (700-900 words) summarizing the argument of an assigned journal article and offering critical reflections. - Due week 8.

4. Final project. Students can choose to complete and essay and presentation or a creative project. 60% in total [LO 2, 3, 4, 5]
i) For students completing the essay project:- written essay of 2500 words (including notes and bibliography). 40%- Power point presentation (to be submitted in PDF format) and evaluation in class. 10%- verbal presentation, including Q & A. 10 %
ii) For those generating a creative project, such as documentary, or pod-cast:- A pod-cast or documentary on a relevant topic discussed with the lecturer in advance. 30%- An essay of 1500 words to accompany the creative project, reflecting on the process and content. 20%- A short presentation about the creative project in class followed by  Q & A in class. 10%
Due week 12.

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The workload for this course is 130 hours including independent study, and 3 hours per week of in-class time. 

Prescribed Texts

Mines, D. and S. Lamb, Eds. (2012 sec ed.). Everyday life in South Asia. Indianapolis, Indiana University Press.
Fuller, C. J. (2004). The Camphor Flame: Popular Hinduism and Society in India. Princeton, Princeton University Press.
Jeffrey, C .and Harriss J. (2014) Keywords for Modern India (New York, Oxford University Press)

Preliminary Reading

Appadurai, A 1988. “Putting hierarchy in its place”.  In Cultural Anthropology Vol.3, No.1, pp.36-49. Breman, J. (2013). At Work in the Informal Economy of India: A Perspective from the Bottom Up. Delhi: Oxford University Press.
Carswell, G. and G. De Neve. (2013). T-Shirts and tumblers: caste, dependency and work under neo-liberalisation in South India. Contributions to Indian Sociology 48 (1): 103-131.
Corbridge, S, J. Harriss and C. Jeffrey. (2013). India Today: Economy, Politics and Society. Cambridge: Polity Press. (Chapter 12: Does caste still matter in India?).
Cross, J. (2014). Dream Zones: Anticipating Capitalism and Development in India. London: Pluto Press.
Donner, H. (2008). Domestic Goddesses: Maternity, Globalization and Middle-Class Identity in Contemporary India. London: Ashgate.
Doron, A and Jeffrey R (2013) The Great Indian Mobile Phone (Harvard University Press)
Doron, A. (2010). "Caste Away: Subaltern Engagement with the Indian State." Modern Asian Studies 22(4): 753-783.
Dumont, L.  (1980 [1961]). Homo Hierarchicus. The University of Chicago Press. (Introduction and chapters 2 & 3)..
Fuller, C.J. and H. Narasimhan. (2008). Companionate Marriage in India: The Changing Marriage System in a Middle-Class Brahman Subcaste. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 14:4, 736-54.
Gooptu, N. (2009). Neoliberal Subjectivity, Enterprise Culture and New Workplaces: Organised Retail and Shopping Malls in India. Economic and Political Weekly Vol.44(22), pp.45-54 .
Grover, S. (2009). Lived experiences: Marriage, notions of love, and kinship support amongst poor women in Delhi. Contributions to Indian Sociology, 43:1, 1-33.
Harris, Andrew. "Smart Ventures in Modi's India." Dialogues in Human Geography 5, no. 1 (2015): 23-26.
Lessinger, J. (2013). ‘”Love” in the Shadow of the Sewing Machine: A Study of Marriage in the Garment Industry of Chennai, South India’ in Kaur, R. and Palriwala, R. Marrying in South Asia: Shifting Concepts, Changing Practices in a Globalising World, Orient Blackswan, New Delhi.
Marsden, M. (2007).  Love and Elopement in northern Pakistan. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 1391): 91-108.
McGuire, M. L. (2013). The Embodiment of Professionalism: Personality Development Programmes in New Delhi. In Gooptu, N. (ed.) Enterprise Culture in Neoliberal India: Studies in youth, class, work and media. Routledge.
Münster, D. and C. Strümpell. (2014). The Anthropology of Neoliberalism in India: An Introduction. Contributions to Indian Sociology 48(1): 1-16.
Noris. Recycling Indian Clothing: Global Contexts of Reuse and Value. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010.
Nisbett, N. (2013). Youth and the Practice of IT Enterprise: Narratives of the Knowledge Society and the Creation of New Subjectivities Amongst Bangalore's IT Aspirants. In Gooptu, N. (ed.) Enterprise Culture in Neoliberal India: Studies in youth, class, work and media. Routledge.
Osella, C. (2012).  Desires Under Reform: Contemporary Reconfigurations of family, Marriage, Love and Gendering in a Transnational South Indian matrilineal Muslim Community. Culture and Religion 13(2).
Raheja, G.G. 1988. India: caste, kingship and dominance reconsidered. In Annual review of anthropology 17: 497-522.
Srinivasan, S. (2005). Daughters or Dowries? The Changing Nature of Dowry Practices in South India. World Development, 33:4, 593-615.


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6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2023 $3960
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2023 $5100
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

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