HIST 2390
Summer 2019


Course Description: This course provides an introduction to the history and cultures of the Indian subcontinent from the 3rdmillennium BCE to the present. Drawing on interdisciplinary methodologies, this course approaches history through visual and material culture, as well as the history of food and civilization. First, we will examine India’s place in the ancient world, then the entrance of Islam to the subcontinent in the 8thcentury, and finally assess the impact and aftermath of European expansion and imperialism. Through readings, field trips, and building a class website, students will learn how questions of history and culture shape identities and animate public life in South Asia.

Student Learning Outcomes: This class fulfills the following University Curriculum requirements:

Historical Contexts

  • Students will be able to identify the main events, actors, and evidence involved in a defined historical period.
  • Students will be able to summarize in their own prose the major changes that took place over time in a defined historical period.

Human Diversity – Proficiencies and Experiences

  • With respect to issues related to race, ethnicity, gender or societies in the developing world, students will be able to demonstrate an understanding of the historical, cultural, social or political conditions of identity formation and function in human society, including the ways in which these conditions influence individual or group status, treatment, or accomplishments.

Required Readings:

Colleen Taylor Sen. Feasts and Fasts: A History of Food in India. Chicago: Reaktion Books, 2015.


Thomas R. Trautmann. India: Brief History of Civilization. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.


Grades will be based on the following:

Field Trips and Field Trip Blogs (15%)
DMA Material Culture Timeline Project (10%)
DMA South Asian Collection Oral Presentation (15%)
Food and Civilization Film Project (25%)
Quizzes – 4 (20%)
Participation/Attendance (15%)

Course Components

Field Trips: Each student must attend all three scheduled field trips. The field trips will take place during class time. For each field trip, students are expected to read the article provided before the field trip. For all field trips we will arrange car pools and/or a group that goes via public transportation. Remember, SMU students can receive free passes to DART services, but will need to apply 3-4 weeks in advance. For more on this, see


Field trip dates are included in the schedule of classes below.

Reflection Blogs (500 words): As part of the field trip assessment, students are expected write reflection blogs. These blogs do not need to be as formal as a research paper, but should be written like a sophisticated travel blog. Examples of this kind of writing can be found in the blog sections of the New York Timesor the Washington Post. Students should refer to the article provided for their field trip of choice when writing their blog post. All blog posts should include a photograph from the student’s field trip experience. Students are required to attend and blog about both field trips. There are three opportunity for blog posts. You must complete 2 out of 3. Blog posts must be posted on both the class wordpress site and Canvas.

Blog Post Due Dates:

Blog posts are due the Monday following the field trips (all field trips are on Thursdays, and due dates are noted below in the schedule of classes). Blog posts must be uploaded to the class website AND Canvas by 11:59pm on the date listed below.

Timeline Project: Each student will choose an object from the South Asia collection at the Dallas Museum of Art. Students will produce a short synopsis of the object and its significance. Students should be able to draw upon themes we have addressed in class. This synopsis should be no longer than 500 words. Each student is responsible for uploading the image and their synopsis in chronological order on the class website. This will culminate in a digital timeline on our class website that will be publicly available. Timeline Projects are dueJune 13, at the beginning of class. Timeline entries should also be uploaded to Canvas for grading purposes.

Oral Presentation at the Dallas Museum of Art: Based on the object chosen for the Timeline Project, each student will make a short 3 minute presentation on their object at the Dallas Museum of Art located at 1717 N Harwood Street, Dallas, TX 75201. Students can reach the Museum by car or public transportation. Class presentations will take place during class on June 13 at 4pm. This is not optional and missing the oral presentations will result in a zero on this portion of student assessment. Please plan accordingly.

Food and Civilization Film Project: The relationship between food and culture is a central theme of this course. The final element of our class website will be films students create based on their own research on food and civilization in India. Students are encouraged to be creative with their films. Students will work in pairs to create their films. Each pair of students is required to submit a script for the film on the day it is due, July 2.Students are responsible for uploading their films to the class website by July 2 at 4pm. Further information on this project will be provided in a class handout.

Quizzes: There will be four pop quizzes given throughout the summer session to ensure that students are doing their assigned reading. This class is both lecture and discussion based. In order for us to have fruitful discussions, students will need to complete the assigned reading beforeclass.

Participation: Your participation grade will include attendance in class and participation in class discussions. The participation grade will also include in-class assignments. You are required to have read and to be able to discuss all of the assigned readings. Failure to do so will negatively affect your participation grade.


Class Policies

Attendance: Attendance is mandatory and absences will affect the final grade.  Students are allowed one absence. After that, the final letter grade will be dropped by 1/3 (i.e. an A becomes an A-, a B+ becomes a B, a B- becomes a C+.) Excused absences are for medical emergencies, funerals, and University extracurricular activities (documentation required for excused absences).

Late Assignments:  In fairness to students who turn in assignments on time, late assignments will be reduced one letter grade for each day (not each class) late.

Laptops and Technology:This is also a laptop free classroom, and you will only be allowed to use your laptops when they are needed for group work in class. Exceptions will be made for students needing academic accommodations (see “Disability Accommodations). All smartphones and tablets should be kept on silent and put away to avoid disruptions in class. Any students that texts, emails, etc. on their electronic device during class will be asked to leave.

For more on the laptop policy in this course, see

Disability Accommodations:  Students needing academic accommodations for a disability must first register with Disability Accommodations & Success Strategies (DASS).  Students can call 214-768-1470 or visit begin the process.  Once registered, students should then schedule an appointment with the professor as early in the semester as possible, present a DASS Accommodation Letter, and make appropriate arrangements.  Please note that accommodations are not retroactive and require advance notice to implement.

Religious Observance: Religiously observant students wishing to be absent on holidays that require missing class should notify their professors in writing at the beginning of the semester, and should discuss with them, in advance, acceptable ways of making up any work missed because of the absence. (See University Policy No. 1.9.)

Excused Absences for University Extracurricular Activities: Students participating in an officially sanctioned, scheduled University extracurricular activity should be given the opportunity to make up class assignments or other graded assignments missed as a result of their participation.  It is the responsibility of the student to make arrangements with the instructor prior to any missed scheduled examination or other missed assignment for making up the work. (University Undergraduate Catalogue)



Schedule of Classes and Activities


June 3, 2019 (M)– Introduction to the Course
Places and Culture in Indian History
Introduction to Indus Valley Civilization

June 4, 2019 (T)– Indus Valley Civilization
Debates Indus Valley Civilization

Reading: Trautmann, Chapter 1-2, Sen Chapter 1

June 5, 2019 (W)– Vedic India
Indian Epics

Reading: Trautmann Chapter 3, Sen Chapter 2

June 6, 2019 (Th)Field Trip to ISCKON Temple, Dallas

Reading: “Thomas J. Hopkins, “ISCKON’s Search for Self-Identity: Reflections by a Historian of Religions,” in The Hare Krishna Movement: Forty Years of Chant and Change, eds. Graham Dwyer and Richard J. Cole [Canvas]



June 10, 2019 (M)Mauryan Empire
Traditions of Renunciation

Reading: Trautmann Chapter 4; Sen Chapter 3

** Blog Post 1 Due **

June 11, 2019 (T) – Classical India
Caste, Religion, and Gender in Classical India

Reading: Trautmann Chapters 5, 6 & 7, Sen Chapter 6

June 12, 2019 (W)  Ahimsa and Vegetarianism

Reading: Sen Chapter 5

June 13, 2019 (Th)

Mid-Term Presentations at the Dallas Museum of Art

** DMA Entries Due **



June 17, 2019 (M)  Indian Ocean Connections

Angkor Wat

Reading: Sen Chapter 4; Trautmann Chapter 8

June 18, 2019 (T) Meeting of the Two Oceans
Delhi Sultanate

Reading: Trautmann Chapter 9

June 19, 2019 (W)Mughal India

Reading:  Sen Chapter 8

June 20, 2019 (Th) Field Trip to Taj Chaat House, Plano

Reading: Arjit Sen, “From Curry Mahals to Chaat Cafes: Spatialities of the South Asian Culinary Landscape” in Curried Cultures: Globalization, Food, and South Asia, eds. Krishendu Ray and Tulasi Srinivas [Canvas]



June 24, 2019 (M)  Europeans Enter the Subcontinent
British Colonial Rule

Reading: Trautmann Chapter 10
Sen Chapter 10, pp. 208-231

June 25, 2019 (T)  The Rise of Indian Nationalism

Reading: Trautmann Chapter 11
Film Viewing: Gandhi(1982) – Watch BEFORE class

June 26, 2019 (W)  Indian Independence
The Partition of India and its Aftermath

Reading: Sen Chapter 10, pp. 231-237; Trautmann Chapter 12

June 27, 2019 (Th) Field Trip to see an Indian Film at Funasia/Fun Movie Grill, Richardson

Rachel Dwyer (2010) Bollywood’s India: Hindi Cinema as a Guide to Modern India, Asian Affairs, 41:3, 381-398 [Canvas]


July 1, 2019 (M) – Final film project presentations – Films and Scripts DUE

** Food and Civilization Film Projects Due **

July 2, 2019 (T) Class Conclusion


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