Seminar in South Asian History

Spring 2014

HISA 4501 (1)

Seminar in South Asian History

"Migration in Modern South Asia"

Catherine Warner

Tracing the histories of migration in colonial and post-colonial South Asia reveals much about the cultural, social and economic history of the subcontinent. We gain a sense of how non-elite, urban and rural poor, tribal, landless and itinerant South Asians experienced and shaped colonial modernity just as actively as migrant intellectuals in urban areas. The British colonial government’s wide-scale efforts to police itinerant groups and coerce them into adopting fixed agriculture, as well as efforts to promote massive movements of people to internal and external land frontiers, re-shaped the human and physical geography of the subcontinent. Further, elite and non-elite migration to urban areas from the late 19th century created rural and urban networks through which ideas about gender, nationalism, and community identities and ethics circulated. No less significant were imperial circuits of indentured migration to the West Indies and South Africa and the movements of students, administrators, Indian native rulers and activists between the British metropole and colony. Changes to migration networks in post-colonial South Asia following the decline of the British empire and the rise of new imperial powers will be compared with the earlier period.    

This seminar will examine a number of studies on colonial and post-colonial South Asia in order to outline a historical narrative of migrations, as well as to analyze the historiography of migration studies. We will also discuss methods of interdisciplinary engagement while working with innovative literary and ethnographic migration studies. Readings include both primary and secondary sources, including several historical monographs, a memoir, a classic ethnographic study of landless migration, excerpts from colonial reports, and scholarly articles and chapters from books. Students should expect a minimum of 150 to 200 pages a week. The seminar includes studies on the regions of present-day India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Himalayas, as well as sites in the former British empire, from about 1800 to 2000.

Students will write an approximately 25-page research paper on a topic of choice using primary and secondary sources.

This seminar fulfills the second writing requirement.


Corcoran Department of History
University of Virginia
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Charlottesville, VA 22904

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