Nepal: Tibetan and Himalayan Peoples
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This interdisciplinary program balances an overview of traditional Tibetan civilization, emphasizing political and religious — Buddhist — history, with the analysis of some of the most pressing contemporary issues in exile, as well as in Tibet and other Himalayan communities. Students learn appropriate field methodology through the Field Methods and Ethics course, ultimately equipping them for their Independent Study Project. Language instruction provides students with a basic understanding of Tibetan and a direct entry into the culture’s concepts.
Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term.
The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.
The Politics of Tibetan and Himalayan Borders – syllabus (PDF)
(ASIA 3020 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
This course will trace Tibetan history from current political dynamics back to ancient times. The course will challenge the prevalent analysis of Tibetan(-oid/-ish) politics synchronically and in emic terms, disconnected from change, larger dynamics, and regional events. Individual political systems will be examined, such as the Tibetan Government in Exile and the birth throes of the projected Nepalese constitution. This course will also examine the politics inherent in processes of everyday life in an exile community, covering themes such as individual articulations of identity as well as the politics of language and of religious practice. Students will examine politics on the geo-political scale, including the significance of various regions in the Himalayas as well as the maneuvering between Asia’s giants, India and China. Through examination of current conditions in Tibet, students will be asked to reflect on and re-conceptualize ideas of power, autonomy, authority, and vulnerability on individual, group, and state levels.
Religious Change in Tibet and the Himalaya – syllabus (PDF)
(ASIA 3010 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
This course explores religious preferences amongst Himalayan peoples in the midst of the region’s colorful diversity. Tibetan Buddhism is examined in relation to the broader Tibetan(-oid/-ish) cultural sphere and civilization, incorporating but not limited to the realms of politics (including the “Tibet issue”) and of ritual. The course goes beyond the typical focus on Himalayan culture in terms exclusively of a core Tibetan Buddhism. Instead, students will investigate varieties of beliefs and practices amongst different groups of people, e.g., other Buddhism(s) such as that of the Newars, the sole surviving continuous tradition of Indian Buddhism; Indian tantra; Hinduism in the Kathmandu Valley; Islam in Tibet and South Asia; and Bön and pre-Buddhist Himalayan traditions. Furthermore, the course will assess how emerging systems such as secularism and spiritual materialism, whether or not sprung from Communist ideologies, also play determining roles across the region.
Intensive Language Study: Tibetan – syllabus (PDF)
(TIBE 1000 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
Beginning oral comprehension skills are emphasised, along with basic literacy. Formal classroom instruction in Tibetan language is given daily during the program period in Kathmandu, with less formal instruction while on excursion. Optional Nepali language instruction is always provided, not least since students will often wish to pursue Independent Study Projects in Nepali-speaking areas (much of the Himalayas including Sikkim/Darjeeling and Bhutan).
Field Methods and Ethics – syllabus (PDF)
(ANTH 3500 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
A course in the concepts of learning across cultures and from field experience. Introduction to the Independent Study Project. Material includes cross-cultural adaptation and skills building; project selection and refinement; appropriate methodologies; field study ethics and the World Learning/SIT Human Subjects Review Policy; developing contacts and finding resources; developing skills in observation and interviewing; gathering, organizing, and communicating data; maintaining a work journal; and twentieth-century ethnography.
Independent Study Project - syllabus (PDF)
(ISPR 3000 / 4 credits / 120 class hours)
Conducted in Tibetan and Himalayan communities in Nepal, in Dharamsala, India (where we have a branch SIT program centre and resident program assistant), or in another approved location appropriate to the project (including Bhutan when the semester’s excursion is to Bhutan). Sample topic areas: the politics of language and education in Tibetan communities; reflections from former political prisoners; traditional Tibetan medicine; the reemergence of the Bön tradition; Tibetan Muslims; the economics of the Tibetan carpet industry in Nepal; critical thinking in Bhutan’s education system; a case study of a traditional Buddhist college; nuns and Tibetan female mystics; migration and Tibetan exile settlements.
Duration: 15 weeks
Program Base: Kathmandu
Language Study: Nepali, Tibetan
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