Academic Programs

M.A. International Studies – South Asia

M.A. in South Asia Studies Handbook 2019-20

M.A. in South Asia Studies Handbook 2020-21

Program Description

The Master of Arts program in South Asia Studies offers students a framework within which to carry out the interdisciplinary study of the peoples and nations of the South Asian subcontinent – India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Afghanistan, and Bhutan. The curriculum combines rigorous training in one or more South Asian languages with study of various aspects of modern and classical South Asian civilizations. The University has a distinguished faculty of scholars who provide instruction in diverse areas of South Asia studies, offering a rich variety of courses on these topics.

Students in the Masters Degree program in South Asia studies may specialize in one or more areas of expertise represented by the faculty. These include language, religion, culture, cinema, environment, international development, human-animal-interactions, ethnicity and nationalism, human rights, gender, migration, and contemporary politics.

Students may draw on the notable strength the program has in classical South Asian languages, literature, and religions, especially Hinduism and Buddhism. Several of the South Asia faculty teach courses in Comparative Religion. Areas of expertise include the religious literature of northern India in the late middle ages, and South Asian Buddhism.

In modern and contemporary South Asia, topics covered include international development, public affairs, architecture and urban planning, law, business, women and gender studies, environmental protection and nature conservation, health and demography, communications, dalit studies and postcolonial literature. For instance among these faculty are experts teaching courses on international feminism, cultural aspects of international development, social ecology of the tropics, South Asian architecture, media and communications, international relations and human rights, , contemporary political changes and government. Faculty with research and teaching interests in South Asia work in departments or interdisciplinary programs including Anthropology, Architecture, Art History, Business, Chemistry,  Comparative Literature, Cinema and Media, Comparative Religion, Communications, Economics, English, Ethnomusicology, Geography, History, International Studies, Law, Political Science, Public Affairs, Psychology, and Women Studies.

Languages of South Asia offered on a regular basis by the Department of Asian Languages and Literatures include Hindi, Bengali, Urdu, and Sanskrit. There are special offerings of other major languages, such as Pali, Gujarati, Panjabi, and Nepali, as well as special fields such as sociolinguistics, Vedic literature, Bhakti literature, epigraphy, and Paninian grammar. Instruction is available both in English and, for advanced students, in the languages involved. South Asia Studies graduates have gone on to graduate programs in various academic disciplines, as well as careers in government service, journalism, teaching, research, international trade, and the travel industry.

Admission Requirements

Applicants must meet the basic requirements set by the Graduate School which include a 3.00 grade point average for the last 90 quarter (60 semester) graded credits, a baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution, and test results from the general Graduate Record Exam (GRE). Applicants also must meet all application requirements and deadlines set by the Jackson School and described in its application guidelines. Meeting minimum standards, however, does not ensure admission. Previous training in a South Asian language is desirable, but not required.

Degree Requirements

All students must complete a minimum of 36 credits. The expectation is that students will complete this degree within two years. The components of the degree are as follows:


Students must reach a proficiency equivalent to completion of the third year in a South Asian language. Beginning, intermediate and advanced Hindi are taught during the academic year, intermediate Hindi is sometimes taught also in Summer Quarter on an intensive basis. Sanskrit is taught during the academic year.


Required Courses:

  • JSIS A 508/Interdisciplinary Study of South Asia I
    Basic introductory course taken in Fall quarter of the first year. Examines how the disciplines of history and the humanities analyze political transitions, social change, and cultural transformations in South Asia through the twentieth century.
  • JSIS A 509/Interdisciplinary Study of South Asia II
    Continuation of basic introductory course taken in Winter quarter of the first year.
  • JSIS A 510/Seminar on South Asia
    Designed to provide each student with an opportunity to prepare a proposal for the second year thesis or exam papers through research and writing on an individual research topic. Taken in the Spring quarter of the first year.

Other Coursework:

Students must complete at least 21 credits in course work from at least two different departments. Most of this course work should be focused primarily on South Asia, or in courses taught by South Asia faculty on topics relevant to specializations the student has chosen. Students may take a maximum of 10 credits not focused on South Asia, nor taught by South Asia faculty, but help to fulfill disciplinary or professional objectives. All courses are planned in consultation with the program adviser to ensure that both individual and program goals are met.

Final Papers and Oral Exam:

Students have the option of submitting either two seminar papers or a thesis to a supervisory committee, and must pass a comprehensive oral examination. One of the seminar papers will normally be written for JSIS A 509. Students should constitute a committee of at least two South Asia faculty members 2.5 quarters prior to their intended graduation date.

Funding Opportunities

Visit the South Asia Center website for details on funding opportunities