The Department of South Asian Studies offers programs of study leading to the doctor of philosophy (PhD) and, in exceptional cases, the master of arts (AM) degrees. While graduate work is tailored to individual intellectual interests, all doctoral students are expected to ground their work in primary language materials and participate in broadly interdisciplinary studies of South Asian languages, histories, and cultures.
The department has historic and well-defined courses of graduate study in Sanskrit and Indian studies and Tibetan and Himalayan studies. It is our expectation that candidates for doctoral study will propose other programs in South Asian studies. Such programs may have a regional emphasis, a disciplinary or multi-disciplinary emphasis, or an emphasis on a particular era of South Asian history, including modern South Asia. Some of the most exciting multi-disciplinary work in the global academy today has been pioneered by scholars of South Asian Studies, and this program intends to provide a platform for such study here at Harvard.
All of the department’s PhD programs emphasize the study of South Asian languages as foundational for scholarly work. Currently, members of the department focus in their own work on Hindi-Urdu (including Avadhi, Braj, and modern dialects), Middle Indic (Pali, Prakrit), Nepali, Sanskrit (Vedic, Classical), Tamil (Classical, Modern), and Tibetan (Classical, Modern). The department also supports instruction in Bahasa Indonesia, Bengali, Burmese, Gujarati, Sindhi, and Thai. Persian is regularly offered through the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations.
We emphasize a rigorous approach to South Asian texts and traditions, the cultural, intellectual, and social practices that they inform, and the diverse disciplinary perspectives that are needed to study and write about them. Students are encouraged to view their chosen topics in their historical contexts while also exploring their significance to ongoing South Asian traditions and/or to contemporary issues in the humanities and social sciences.
In exceptional cases, the department will admit to a one year AM program particularly promising students who would like to strengthen their background in South Asian studies but who may not have all of the qualifications for doctoral study. Applicants should be aware that there is no funding available for AM candidates.
Admission to the PhD program is offered on the basis of an outstanding academic record, letters of recommendation, a writing sample, and, ordinarily, GRE scores. A strong background in one or more areas of South Asian studies is required. For admission to the Sanskrit and Indian studies program, prerequisites include two years of Sanskrit, and for the Tibetan and Himalayan studies program, two years of classical Tibetan. These language requirements correspond to the first and second years of Sanskrit or Tibetan taught at Harvard. For the South Asian studies program, candidates should have at least two years of study in a South Asian language. The student’s command of the relevant languages will be evaluated during the first term.
Applicants with the requisite background should e-mail the department well before the admissions deadline. Please describe your previous academic work in South Asian studies and your specific research interests. Include the names of faculty members with whom you might wish to work.