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JAN 185: India Through the Senses: The Music, Food, Film, and Fashion of an Ancient Country in the 21st Century
Chennai, India; Goa, India; Kochi, India; Mamallapuram, India; Munnar, India; Mysuru, India (Outgoing Program)
Program Terms: Jan Term
This program is currently not accepting applications.
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Restrictions: SMC-CA applicants only
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Program Description:
Course Title:
India Through the Senses: The Music, Food, Film, and Fashion of an Ancient Country in the 21st Century

Course Description:
To visit Southern India is to experience an array of sights, sounds, smells, and tastes like never before. Whether it is the colorful clothing; the strong flavors of regional cuisines; the grandeur of popular film; or the tantalising mixtures of Indian and Western music and dance, India never fails to enthrall. In this course we will use our sensory experiences to trace the social and political underpinnings of Indian cultural forms in all their diversity.

We begin in Goa, the one-time Portuguese colony, with its unique cosmopolitan culture rooted in its popular beaches and special seafood. We will help organize Goa Sunsplash, an annual independent music festival in January, where students will be able to participate in the growing youth music scene in India by volunteering in an area of their choice (audio/visual, marketing, communication, sustainability). From Goa we take a picturesque train journey—an authentic Indian experience in itself—to the city of Mysuru, where we will visit learn about the production of silk cloth and the silk trade. Mysuru also hosts the historic Mysore Palace. Near the city we will learn about food production by visiting a Food Research Institute and village farms near the mighty Krishnarajasagar dam that controls that precious resource, water.

We then head to Kochi, Kerala, the “Queen of the Arabian Sea,” where we will trace the legacy of the spice trade and explore the phenomena of Kerala’s film and dance theater. From there we will climb the Western Ghat mountain range to the tea estates of Munnar, to learn about the tea industry and its history. From Munnar we travel to the east coast city of Chennai, via Madurai and its classic Meenakshi temple. Chennai gives us a chance to explore a variety of classical and folk musical traditions. Chennai is also the home of Kollywood, India’s second largest film industry, where we will be up close and personal on an Indian movie set. We will debate the dominance of film culture, including its impact on social change and electoral politics. We will round out the month with a final trip to the historic beach town of Mahabalipuram for R&R spiced with group discussion and reflection.

Culture is constantly contested and reinvented. Once we get past the initial culture shock--absorbing the intense sounds, tastes, smells, and sights--we will apply the theoretical perspectives on Indian culture that have been honed during the preceding fall semester on campus. By the end of January, we will be able to critically examine social inequalities and power struggles that are represented in Indian food, clothing, music, and film. Conversely, we will have a chance to discuss the creativity and hope of artists’ visions, and how Indian cultural innovations might challenge the paradoxes and oppressions of the past. We are confident that it will be the trip of a lifetime.

Upper Division

Permission of Instructor + Seminar 2 (or 102) and English 5 (or equivalent).

Reading List:
Amartya Sen, The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian Culture, History and Identity (2005)
Gitanjali Kolanad, CultureShock! India: A Survival Guide to Customs & Etiquette (2012)
Select one:
  • Samanth Subramanian, Following Fish: One Man's Journey into the Food and Culture of the Indian Coast (2011)
  • Mukulika Banerjee and Daniel Miller, The Sari (2008)
  • Gregory D. Booth and Bradley Shope, More Than Bollywood: Studies in Indian Popular Music (2013)
  • Selections from Tejaswini Ganti, Producing Bollywood: Inside the Contemporary Hindi Film Industry (2012) and Selvaraj Velayutham (ed.), Tamil Cinema: the cultural politics of India’s other film industry (2008)
Watch the feature film “Bombay” (1996) at a screening in the Fall

Basis for Final Grade:
Critical book review and presentation in the Fall (20%)
Book quiz due prior to departure (10%)
“Subject expert” group presentation (20%)
Class Participation, including two meetings in the fall (20%)
Two integrative projects/essays during travel (20%)
Final Group Project/Presentation (10%)

This program is currently not accepting applications.