ANTH 220 Fall 2014 Law and Family in South Asia: Post-Colonial Dilemmas

Cross Listed as ASST318, INST220
The American press frequently depicts countries like India and Pakistan as in the grip of lawless, anachronistic beliefs about how to organize family life. Such beliefs are blamed for "tribal" violence in Pakistan's Frontier Regions, for dowry disputes in north India and for the persistence of corrupt dynasties in leading political parties. Yet these beliefs and practices aren't in fact old-fashioned or lawless, and many of them result from South Asia's unique historical position as a former British colony. In this class, we will use ethnographic and historical research to examine what law and kinship can teach us about how the past shapes the present in post-colonial South Asia. In particular, we'll examine how a perspective that seriously considers law and kinship can help us better understand contemporary dilemmas in South Asia, ranging from controversy over women┬┐s right to inherit property, to the role of caste in contemporary democratic politics. The course is organized into three sections. First, we will discuss kinship, reading classic theories of kinship in the region, as well as critiques of those theories, and ending with a contemporary dilemma, the problem of dowry "pressure". Next, we learn about how family relationships were codified legally, and how laws were shaped to respond to perceived family "traditions," in colonial and post-colonial South Asia. Finally, we will look at specific topics concerning law and kinship. As we do so, we will move from reading ethnographies to producing our own ethnographic observations using film, news stories and first-hand accounts as our primary materials. No prior knowledge about South Asia is necessary.
Class Format: seminar
Requirements/Evaluation: 2 5-page assignments; 1 research assignment (10 pages)
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Prerequisites: none; open to first year students
Enrollment Preference: Anth/Soc majors; students in Asia Studies or International Studies with committed interest in South Asian studies
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Divisional Attributes: Division II
Other Attributes: JLST Interdepartmental Electives
Enrollment Limit: 19
Expected Enrollment: 19
Class Number: 2011
ANTH 220 - 01 (F) SEM Law Family South Asia Division 2: Social Studies Julia L. Kowalski
TF 1:10 PM-2:25 PM Paresky 112 2011
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