South Asia: Beyond Boundaries, Building Solidarities (South Asia Solidarity Initiative Six-Week Course).


The course will serve as a ‘primer’ for progressives and leftists on contemporary South Asian politics in the region, while also providing a historical context for current events.  The purpose of the course is to enable cross-border solidarities between activists in New York City and progressive social movements in South Asia.  The course will serve as both an educational tool and a basis for initiating a more complex understanding of struggles in South Asia.  The course will ultimately help to shift the discourse of the region from “Af-Pak” and India-centrism to a more radical idea of what South Asia means.  We welcome, activists, students, teachers, community organizers, curious bystanders and all those interested in South Asia. The course is designed and facilitated by the South Asia Solidarity Initiative.


Classes will be held at Brecht Forum, 4-6 p.m. (



MARCH 4:  Module 1: Images as Imperial Knowledge


This unit will explore the politics of representation of South Asia in historically popular, scholarly and official (state, transnational institutions) production of narratives and images. Using historical and contemporary sources, this unit will identify patterns and themes around narratives about South Asia including its diasporic populations. The attempt is to show how representations have framed South Asia (its peoples, societies and institutions) in very specific and diverse ways to produce “knowledge” in Western imaginations and ultimately in official policies and practices.


MARCH 11: Module 2: Imperial interventions from colonialism through structural adjustment and the war on terror


This module will offer a continuous historical overview of imperial interventions in South Asia, from the classical colonial period through formal decolonization and the formation of several postcolonial states, to

neocolonialism in the form of neoliberalism, structural adjustment and the so-called Global War on Terror.  In the process it aims to complicate the traditional binaries of colonizer/colonized, empire/nation, bad/good,

active/passive, foreign/indigenous, by offering a more multi-faceted and multi-directional picture of those who have participated in, responded to, or been affected by colonialism in a variety of ways.


March 18: Module 3: Challenging State Sovereignty and Imagined Nations:


National Liberation Movements, Armed Conflicts, and Maoist Movements in South Asia


This module will trace the formation of national liberation movements in Kashmir and Balochistan; and Maoist insurrections in India and Nepal that challenge putative notions of state sovereignty, and seek to evoke the failed promises of post-colonial freedom and development. It will briefly explore the ideology and structure of these movements and their relationship to the people they claim to represent as well as with minorities. The module will attempt to understand both the impact of South Asian states and imperialist interventions, as well as South Asian States as imperial remnants, on the emergence and escalation of armed conflicts. It will look into conditions in which political movements are forced to go underground, take up arms, and the role of military occupations in preventing peaceful political mobilizations like in Kashmir. The module will also seek to understand the impact of militarization and the nationalist rhetoric that accompanies it on the practices of democracy and the states of inequality in South Asia.


March 25: Module 4: State, Economy and Society Formations: State Repression, Neoliberalism and Electoral Democracy in South Asia


Building on the previous three modules, this module takes up the question of development and the narrative of economic growth in South Asia. Providing historical context for the rise of foreign aid in Sri Lanka and the institution of neoliberal economic reforms in the early 1990s in India, we provide a critique of models of development in South Asia as they have been articulated by activists and social movements throughout the region.


The tandem mobilization of anti-terror laws and privatization has together resulted in uneven development and growth, with millions more dispossessed of their livelihoods and land.  Specific instances discussed here include

the movements against land grabs in northern, eastern and central India, and the massive flows of foreign aid to Sri Lanka throughout the 1990s and 2000s.


April 1: Module 5: New Social Movements in South Asia


This module will begin by consolidating themes raised in previous sessions such as popular representations of South Asia, grass roots movements during and after colonialism, and armed and other responses to neoliberalism. The module will provide a rough historical overview of political developments throughout South Asia in the 1970s (including, but not limited to: 1971 war, 1975-77 Indian Emergency, and mid-1970s student uprisings in Sri Lanka) while emphasizing non-party-affiliated responses among ‘people’s movements’ in South Asia. Drawing upon the discussion on Left movements in the previous modules, this session will provide the critique of the traditional left presented by the new social movements and their own attempts to organize. The new social movements we focus on include: Civil Liberty and Democratic Rights groups, Feminist Movements, LGBTQ organizing, and Caste Based political parties and movements in South Asia.


APRIL 8: Module 6:  Culture and Resistance


One of the ways in which South Asians continue to come together across borders and boundaries is through sharing common cultural experiences. The arts can speak to people in ways that policy or doctrine may not be able to do so. It is therefore quite natural that culture has offered a rich source for resistance to power in the South Asian region and beyond. In this module we will explore examples of such resistance by looking at poetry,

films, theatre, music, visual art, and other cultural practices that offer a counter narrative to hegemonic visions of South Asia and help mobilize.


Specifically we focus on how SASI itself and affiliated groups and individuals in the US have used the arts to inform and motivate people to resist injustice. Our purpose in doing so is not merely to offer some inspirational examples but also to identify potential sites of solidarity where individuals and groups can engage with each other.

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