THEO-151 Untouchables in South Asia
Fall for 2013-2014
Untouchability is a social practice of discrimination and exclusion most commonly associated with the Hindu caste system. Untouchability aims to separate and ostracize a segment of people from mainstream society on account of perceived social, theological, and ritual pollution. The term "untouchable" is most commonly associated with Dalit (literally: oppressed and crushed) members of South Asian society who are at the very bottom of the Hindu caste system. In this course, we focus on the theological, social, and political emergence of untouchability among different religious groups including Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, and Muslims. The class material will focus primarily on India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, three countries with a shared history and vibrant religious diversity.
In the first part of the semester, we will analyze the caste system and caste practices in detail and determine whether untouchability is limited in size, scope, and practice to the Hindu religious tradition. We will discuss how caste practices emerged among other religious communities and have evolved in the contemporary period. In the second half of the semester, we will engage untouchable political movements in South Asia and analyze their discourse and methods of social empowerment and political engagement. As there is not enough time to study each untouchable community in depth, we will focus on the following case studies: Buddhist, Christian, and Muslim untouchables in India; Hindu untouchables in Pakistan; and Muslim untouchables in Bangladesh to see the distinctness of each of these communities. Students are encouraged to choose one untouchable group to research throughout the semester for the final project and paper.
Other academic years
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