Gandhi and Friends: (Non)Violence and Politics in Modern South Asia

History R1B.004

Spring 2017
214 Haviland
Day & Time: 
MWF 4-5
Class Number: 
  • This course satisfies the second half of the Reading and Composition Requirement.
  • This course does not count for credit toward the History Major but may fulfill other requirements.
  • Gandhi is famous in the West for his leadership of non-violent protests and is widely recognized as an inspiration for American Civil Rights leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. But how and why did Gandhi develop and practice his theories of political resistance? This course will place Gandhi and his philosophies in their broader historical context by examining the theories and practices of violence and non-violence as well as national identity that developed as part of the Indian struggle for independence from the British in the first half of the twentieth century. We will study these issues by reading the writings of key leaders of the Indian independence movement including Gandhi, Ambedkar, Nehru, and Savarkar, as well as by reading recent historical scholarship on these leaders. The final weeks of the course will focus on the culmination of the Indian independence movement in freedom in 1947, the ensuing mass violence of Partition, and the legacies of violence and non-violence in modern South Asia and beyond. While developing critical reading and writing skills, students will gain an historical understanding of debates around violence and non-violence in South Asia and their role in politics, identity, nationalism, and the birth of the modern nations of India and Pakistan.

    Elizabeth Thelen is a Ph.D. Candidate in the History Department. Her research interests include community identity and social networks, religious violence and toleration, and urban history in South Asia. She is writing her dissertation on the responses of social and religious communities in western Indian pilgrimage towns to political change during the eighteenth century.