Program Description


Established in 2007, the Program in South Asian Studies offers students in any department of Princeton University the methodological and theoretical tools to study the political, economic, social, and religious institutions of India and Pakistan. The program is committed to promoting a comprehensive understanding of the pre-modern and modern histories of these two states as well as of their contemporary institutions and relations with neighboring South Asian nations (in particular Bangladesh and Sri Lanka) and the rest of the world.  The program approaches the complexity of the South Asian past and present from a wide range of different disciplinary perspectives, hoping to foster lively intellectual exchanges on issues related to the plural configurations of “modernity” in the global context. The program endeavors to provide a forum for student and faculty interactions, both social and intellectual, and promotes South Asian cultural events.

The program supports learning and scholarship on the region through language instruction, innovative lecture series, workshops, conferences, cultural events, artistic performances, film screenings, and educational activities open to faculty, students, and the general public. The lecture series is designed to keep faculty and students of social science and humanistic disciplines in touch with new directions in the field of South Asian studies.

The program offers a certificate that allows undergraduates to draw on the insights and techniques of a wide range of disciplines involved in the study of South Asia. Courses are offered in the humanities, social sciences, and languages in topics as diverse as anthropology, economics, literature, history, religious studies, and political science.  

The curriculum also covers language, the arts, oral traditions, and performance media (including recitation, musical and dramatic performance, dance, and film), as well as modern literature of the colonial and postcolonial periods. Advanced proficiency in either Hindi or Urdu is a central goal of study, as is the ability to read literary works in that language. Students are encouraged to pursue courses and independent reading that will familiarize them with pertinent methods in the various disciplines (such as ethnographic theory, historiography, and cultural studies theory). Appropriate comparative work, on Asian and non-Asian cultures, is encouraged as well.

Students enrolled in the certificate program should maintain a balance between courses in the humanities and those in the social sciences. The proposed course of study must be approved each term by the director. Students should also identify a faculty adviser from the South Asian Studies faculty in their area of specialization as early as possible.

Certificate Requirements

To obtain a certificate of proficiency, students must complete the normal requirements in their department of concentration as well as the following requirements of the program:

  • Four semesters of Hindi, Urdu, or Sanskrit, or demonstrated proficiency in one of these or another South Asian language through a program examination. See the program director to discuss using a language other than Hindi, Urdu or Sanskrit to fulfill the program's language requirement.
  • At least four courses on South Asia in any of the following departments:  Anthropology, Comparative Literature, Economics, History, Near Eastern Studies, Politics, Religion, the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, or the Program in South Asian Studies.  Please note: No more than two courses in any one department may be used to count toward the certificate of proficiency, and only one course of the four may be taken as P/D/F.
  • A senior thesis written in the student's department of concentration with a significant South Asian component. If there is no possibility for South Asian content in the senior thesis, students must write a separate piece of independent work focusing on South Asia; please consult with the program director.

Students who complete the requirements of the program with satisfactory standing receive a certificate of proficiency in South Asian studies upon graduation.


Photo Credits

Princeton students in India and deity carving (Mallica Kumbera Landrus)
Madurai temple (


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