The Department of Modern South Asian Languages and Literatures, formerly called "Modern Indology", is devoted to the study of South Asia. "South Asia" denotes the Indian subcontinent, i.e. the area that was historically known as "India", and is today home to over 1.5 billion people, i.e. one fifth of the world's population. India is by far the largest country in South Asia, followed by Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldive Islands. Afghanistan is also at times counted as a part of South Asia and has recently acknowledged its belonging to this region. South Asia comprises a great variety of different cultures, ethnic groups and religions, and one of its most remarkable characteristics is its diversity of languages.
The several hundreds of spoken languages in South Asia are divided into four major groups: New Indoarian, Dravidian, Austroasian and Sinotibetic languages. Idioms that did not originate in South Asia (i.e. Persian, Portuguese, and of course, down to the present, English) are of great importance, too, be it as written languages, contact languages or supra-regional communication media. Several South Asian languages have brought forth a remarkable treasure of literature, and some of them are nowadays official state languages.
Language skills, as it were, are a prerequisite for a thorough understanding of South Asia, a world area of increasing economical, political and religious importance. Our department offers high-level education in four supraregional South Asian languages: Bengali, Hindi,Tamil and Urdu. Students may add on to this by attending intensive courses organised by the Institute in Heidelberg or in the respective South Asian regions, by taking part in student drama projects, or by participating in teaching programmes in further South Asian languages.
We aim to offer our students the best possible learning environment, so we are working on providing them with a freely accessible selection of video and audio footage, including a vast variety of movies and audio plays.
In its dealings with modern languages and literatures of South Asia, the department basically adheres to a philological approach. We place special emphasis on the mastery of language and a critical approach to texts. Apart from the investigation of literature in a narrow sense, we consult original sources on intellectual, religious, historical and political aspects of South Asia.
In 2007 we adapted our courses of studies to the Bologna process, which includes the offering of bachelor and master degrees on the basis of compact and tightly organised course schemes designed for the training of young professionals. We offer our students a practical and qualification-oriented education combined with a great variety of courses to chose from. This profound and flexible academic training aims to benefit future researchers as well as upcoming professionals outside the academic sphere.
The tight network of the SAI's departments and its exellent library provide an ideal environment for students and young scientists.
Research at our department, in general, comprises aspects of South Asian literatures, cultures, history, religions etc. Apart from various independent and doctoral projects, the department is part of a number of joint projects and overarching research formats.
An investigation of court rituals in Jaipur is our department's contribution to the Special Research Area 619 on Ritual Dynamics (Sonderforschungsbereich 619, Ritualdynamik), funded by the German Research Foundation.
Colonial Satire is the topic of an interdisciplinarily project lead by the department, with sub-projects on Bengali and Marathi literature. This forms part of Research Area B: Public Spheres of the Cluster of Excellence on Asia and Europe.
The department also takes part in building and maintaining the Hindi data base salCORPORA which was funded by the DFG and is since 2007 looked after in cooperation with the University of Oslo. Containing a growing corpus of Hindi texts from various times and genres, this unique database is intended to serve as a resource for corpus linguistics and for research on Hindi literature.
Another prospective focus of research activities at our department is on regional Islamic cultures in South Asia and among South Asian diasporas in other parts of the world. And last but not least, the department has it as one of its goals to create and permanently improve German-medium teaching materials for South Asian languages.