Summer Course in South Asia: Contested Histories, Uncertain Futures


Read more about this program on the school's website

Program Description

Due to the situation surrounding Covid-19, we are currently looking into alternative options for teaching our programme this year. Full details will be announced soon, but in the meantime please get in touch with any questions you may have.

How should we go about studying the political aspirations and agency of almost two billion people in South Asia, governed by contradictory and unstable regimes, where religion, language, caste, class, gender, and other identities unite and divide such vast populations? What does it mean when the world’s fastest-growing regional economy, also has the largest number of people living in abject poverty? Why do South Asia’s borders remain contested, even after seventy years? Today’s burning questions of borders, identity, development and democracy can only be understood if we listen to the voices of South Asia, echoing through the ages to the present day. From the philosophies of the heroes of anti-colonial and independence movements including Gandhi, Nehru, Jinnah and Mujib ur Rehman, to the divisive but enduring ideologies of religious and ethnic nationalists including Savarkar and Maulana Maudoodi, this course introduces students to the ideas and philosophies that emerged and evolved within South Asia, and that continue to shape this exciting and turbulent region.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of the course, a student should be able to demonstrate the ability to:

  • Critically engage with South Asia’s unique ideologies, philosophies, and intellectual giants.
  • Understand the questions of identity, security, development and nationalism that drive South Asian politics and define the relationship between state and society in this region.
  • Draw connections between South Asia’s intellectual history and its contemporary social and political debates and discord.
  • Understand the distinct challenges that South Asian states must face collectively.
  • Consider South Asia’s relationship with the wider world from a local perspective.
  • Finally, the module will inspire students to continue with further study or interest in South Asia – provision will be made over the three weeks for students to develop a particular interest within the general structure of course progression.


This course is worth 15 credits in the UK system. 15 credits are equivalent to 4 credits in the US system and 7.5 ECTS in the European system. If you intend to transfer credit to your home institution, please check the requirements with them before you apply. We will be happy to assist you in any way we can, however, please be aware that the decision to transfer credit rests with your home institution.

Current SOAS students selecting this course as an open option module will not be charged the tuition-fee. For further information and assistance, please contact

Key Facts

  • Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings
  • Start of programme: 20 July – 7 August 2020
  • Mode of Attendance: Full-time

Entry Requirements

You will have completed one year of undergraduate study at the time of joining the Academic Summer School. Professional experience can be acknowledged as equivalent to a university qualification.


Week 1: The Ideas of South Asia

  • What is South Asia? How did it come about? This week introduces the ideas and thinkers that have shaped the region. We discuss South Asia’s great intellectual giants and learn what their philosophies and ideas were. We will look at the thought of M K Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru in India, Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Abul A’la Maududi in Pakistan, Mujibur Rahman in Bangladesh, the ‘Integral Humanism’ of Deen Dayal Upadhyay, ‘Hindutva’ of Vinayak D Savarkar and M S Golwalkar, and the ‘social Darwinism’ of S Krishnavarma that is fundamental to the politics of contemporary Hindu nationalism in India.

Week 2: Conflict and Security: In Retrospect and Prospect

  • The second week will unpack major contemporary political questions dividing South Asia, and how they are connected to the various competing ideas of South Asia. In doing so, it will focus on the local discourse surrounding these questions, including the debates among politicians, the opinions in civil society, and the representation in literature and cinema. Topics will include competing and conflicting nationalisms in India and Pakistan, the Kashmir conflict, remaking of borders and boundaries, the impact of social media and digital surveillance on social and political relations, contest over constitution(s), issues of territoriality and sovereignty, conflicts over holy sites, and water rights.

Week 3: Great Power Politics, Small State Interests

  • The third week will shift our focus beyond issues that divide South Asian states and societies, to understanding South Asia’s relationship with the wider world. We will consider the debates within South Asia regarding the international relationships and global identities that South Asian states have sought to develop, and the prospects of regional collaboration and integration. Topics will include relations with China, US, Europe and the Middle East, diaspora politics, and cultural ties that draw South Asian states closer to other regions of the world. We will explore the profound challenges confronting the region’s ability to act collectively to deal with global problems such as climate change.

Sample Reading List:

  • Bose, S., Jalal, A. 2013. Modern South Asia. History, Culture, Political Economy. New York, Routledge.
  • Brass, Paul. 2009. Routledge Handbook of South Asian Politics: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. Routledge.
  • Dasgupta, S. 2019. Awakening Bharat Mata. The Political Beliefs of the Indian Right. New Delhi, Penguin.
  • Devji, F. 2013. Muslim Zion: Pakistan as a Political Idea. London, Hurst.
  • Khilnani, Sunil. 2003. The Idea of India. London, Penguin.
  • Jaffrelot, C. 2007 Hindu Nationalism: A Reader. Princeton, Princeton University Press.

Teaching & Learning

Course Convenors

Dr Simona Vittorini, Dr Yasser Kureshi

Contact Hours:

50 hours (lectures, tutorials, activities). The course will be delivered Monday - Friday over the 3 weeks.

Core Hours:

Monday - Friday 10am-3pm. In addition to regular lectures and tutorials, each course is composed of a range of activities relating to their academic content (e.g. museum visit, company visit etc).


The assessment will be in the form of a written essay of 2500 words to be handed in 2 weeks after the end of the course.

If you have opted to study for credit, you will be required to complete all course assessments. Should you complete the assessment with success, you will receive a transcript confirming your marks and credits. If you have not chosen to study for credit, you will be exempt from any course assignments and not receive a mark.

Fees and Funding

Tuition Fees

  • Credit-assessed: £1,750
  • Non-assessed: £1,600

Application Fee

A one-off, non-refundable application fee of £40 will be charged to cover administration costs. Please visit the SOAS online store to make your application fee payment.


  • 10% early-bird discount when you apply by 31 March
  • 10% discount if you apply for two courses over 6 weeks
  • 15% discount for SOAS Alumni (including Academic Summer School alumni)
  • 20% discount for our partner institutions
  • Other discounts are available for groups. Please contact us for more information.


Academic Summer School Ambassador Scholarship 2020

  • The SOAS Academic Summer School is delighted to offer six tuition-fee waiver scholarships to passionate students with a desire to make a difference in the world.
  • The scholarships will cover the tuition-fee for one Academic Summer School course in 2020.
  • Application Deadline: 2020-03-02 00:00


Entry Requirements

In order to join the Academic Summer School, students should meet the following entry requirements:

  • A university student or a graduate at the time of attending. Professional experience can be acknowledged as equivalent to a university qualification.
  • Participants must be 18 or over at the time of attendance.
  • Fluency in the English language is recommended for non-credit courses, but essential for SOAS Accredited courses. Proficiency can be demonstrated through:
  • IELTS, 6.5 overall or higher, with at least 6 in all subscores.
  • TOEFL Paper-based test we require a minimum of 583 with a minimum 53 in all skills and for TOEFL Internet Based Test we require a minimum of 93 with a minimum 20 in all skills.
  • Pearson Test of English a score of 59-64
  • Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) Grade B
  • If you have studied in an English speaking institution, or have courses taught at your university in English (excluding English language courses) you may meet our requirements without having to supply a certificate. Evidence of this will either need to be included on a transcript or letter from your university.
  • If you are unsure whether you meet the above entry requirements, please contact us to discuss your application.

Enrolment of applicants who do not meet the entry requirements is at the discretion of SOAS – please get in touch to speak to us about your application and we will be happy to help.

Application Procedure

Once you have paid the £40 application fee and submitted the online application form, you will be informed as to whether you have a place on the summer school within 5 working days. Please do not pay your tuition fee prior to having received your offer letter.

Application Deadline

Applications now accepted on a rolling basis for all courses.

Last updated Apr 2020

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About the School

SOAS University of London welcomes the brightest minds to study on its central London campus with like-minded individuals who feel passionately about contemporary world issues.

SOAS University of London welcomes the brightest minds to study on its central London campus with like-minded individuals who feel passionately about contemporary world issues. Read less
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