Asian Studies 280-81, Lelyveld

Welcome Letter for Civilizataions of South Asia

Professor: David Lelyveld
Department: History
Course No. & Section: ASN280-81
Phone: 973-720-3316
Office Hours: 217 Atrium

Hello and welcome to Civilizataions of South Asia!

Welcome to ASN 280-80, Civilizations of South Asia. This online course is intended as an introduction to the variety of historical civilizations in the subcontinent of India, particularly in India and its larger neighbors, Pakistan and Bangladesh, though it is also relevant to Nepal and Sri Lanka. We are using a Blackboard site for this course, which will lead in turn to other sites that you will find useful, particularly for illustrations. Although this is a distance learning course, I will be available in person in my office hourse or by appointment. I would also like to organize one or two expeditions for interested students who are able to go to the museums and other South Asian sites in the New York metropolitan area. I will keep you informed about them. The course will serve as background for other courses in our Asian Studies program, but more generally for your general education about one of the world's great civilizations, which is also of growing relevance to the lives of people in the rest of the world.


An online course will require at least as much time in preparation and participation as a regular classroom course. As in any other course, you must attend class regularly by logging onto Blackboard several times each week; you will not be able to make up weeks in which you have been absent.

Course Objectives

1. To introduce major themes in the cultural history of South Asia from approximately 500 B.C.E. to the present: the formulation of ideas of a unified civilization as well as variation, conflict, resistance and change.

2. To compare alternative approaches to historical understanding, including colonial knowledge systems, nationalist historiography, class and cultural analysis, the history of events and of long durations.

3. To familiarize students with the historical geography of South Asia.

4. To familiarize students with the ways history has been used in contemporary controversies.

5. To introduce students to primary historical documents and ways they have been interpreted by participants in the culture as well as outsiders.

6. To train students in analytic reading and clear presentation of cultural analysis. Student Learning


Students will be able to:

1. To complete a map assignment including topographic, cultural and political information as well as major historical sites

2. Read critically and comparatively both primary and secondary historical sources.

3. Formulate questions and strategies for answering them.

4. Develop an analytic appreciation of what is unique and what is comparable in the experience of different societies at different periods of history.

5. Understand the ways in which popular media, such as film, compare with scholarly approaches to history.


Ainslee Embree et al., eds. Sources of Indian Tradition: Volume 1 (Columbia University Press, 1988) - ISBN-13: 9780231066518
R.K. Narayan, The Mahabharata : A Shortened Modern Prose Version of the Indian Epic (Penguin Classics, 1998) - ISBN-13: 9780226568225
Jawaharlal Nehru, Discovery of India Penguin ISBN#: 0143031031
Salman Rushdie, Midnight's Children, Random House - ISBN-13: 9780812976533


1. Participation in discussion on blackboard (20%): You are expected to log on AT LEAST twice a week. Check the course Welcome Letter for details. 2. Essay assignment (20%): We will ask you to write a paper (about 1500 words) responding to Salman Rushdie's novel, Midnight's Children in the light of the other readings in the course. 3. 2 Map assignments (10% each): These assignments will be based on maps of South Asia. 4. Midterm and Final exams (20% each): These exams will be take-home, i.e., we will give you questions in advance and you will have one week to complete them. Note: The universitys rules about grades, incompletes, attendance and academic integrity will be observed. If you violate the standards of academic integrity, for example by plagiarism, you will fail the course. If you are unsure about what counts as plagiarism, consult me in advance.

How to Access Blackboard:
To log on to Bb point your web browser to and click the Login button in the upper left. Then enter your username and password in the spaces provided and click login again -- you'll find your course Bb sites listed on the right.

Some things to be aware of as you work with Blackboard:

  1. You probably won't find all your courses listed; the only ones that will appear are those that have been activated by the professor teaching the course. Professors who don't use Blackboard will not activate their courses.
  2. Your username is comprised of your lastname and firstinitial, usually appended with a numeral. If you don't know your WPUNJ system username password you can use the Username lookup link at , or go to it directly at:
  3. If you are already logged in to the WPUNJ system through WPConnect you won't have to re-enter your username and password -- just click the first login button.
  4. Blackboard documentation can be found in two places: at Bb Home,, before one logs in, and in the Blackboard Support tab after one has logged on.
  5. You can always obtain Bb help by using the Problem Report form at, or by going to it directly a

WPUNJ Student Email:
To access WPUNJ Student Email point your web browser to, enter your username and password, then select the Mail tab.  If you are logging on for the first time you'll be asked to set your time zone and language.

Blackboard courses will use student email; third-party email addresses will not work on Bb

Good luck and have fun in the course! David Lelyveld