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Department's presentation

South Asian Studies at Unil

The Department of South Asian Studies in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Lausanne introduces students to some of the main languages and cultures of the Indian subcontinent. The training it offers is built upon three epistemological axes: language and literature, culture and history, and comparison.

The LINGUISTIC AXIS involves the acquisition of the grammar of two Indian languages together with their respective bodies of literature. By learning a language (Hindi or Sanskrit to begin with, followed by Urdu or Pali), students acquire competency in writing, speaking (for modern languages), translation, and analysis of mainly textual sources, but also of oral and visual supports. Students who choose Hindi as their major topic specialise in the history of pre-modern and modern South Asia; those opting for Sanskrit become familiar mainly with early Buddhism and its interactions with Brahmanism (and Jainism) in ancient India.

The CULTURAL AND HISTORICAL AXIS focuses on the study of South Asian cultures in a diachronic perspective and in relation to their various components. Particular emphasis is placed on the history of religions, not only in their scholarly and popular aspects, but also to that pertaining to their literary, philosophical and political dimensions. Indeed, the latter aspects constitute an important part of these studies. It is the view of the department that any serious study of South Asia requires the inclusion of the many different cultures that have shaped its history.

The COMPARATIVE AXIS precisely allows students to locate the Indian subcontinent in its interactions with other cultures, especially European. Students are encouraged to reflect on specific themes and to identify cross-cultural constructions of cultural differences, in contexts both past and present. The comparative study of South Asian cultures also involves a reflexive and evaluative approach to the process and place given to knowledge produced in the Humanities. In addition, our close collaboration with the Slavic Studies section (with whom we share the Department) nurtures a comparative, differentiated and critical perspective.

Training in South Asian Studies prepares students for activities in the areas of research, culture and intercultural communication, and the education sector. The shift in perspective required by this training prepares students for a globalized and challenging world in which Asia is playing a more and more prominent role.

The Department represents a dynamic centre of research, being so in regards to its members’ publications and research projects or to its PhD students and the many international relationships it shares with South Asian institutions. Interdisciplinary research and teaching is at the core of its curriculum, for instance, through the collaboration with the Département interfacultaire d’histoire et de sciences des religions (DIHSR).

Important and considerable documentary sources are available from the collections facility of the Department at the Bibliothèque Cantonale et Universitaire (BCU).


Anthropole - CH-1015 Lausanne  - Suisse  -  Tél. +41 21 692 28 96  -  Fax +41 21 692 30 45
Swiss University