teaching

Courses at UH Manoa

Undergraduate

ASAN 101 Introduction to Asian Studies

This course is an introduction to Asian Studies. It examines the history and cultures of “Monsoon Asia,” or South, Southeast, and East Asia. Students will explore systems of values and their expression, history, social and political institutions in these regions. We focus on change and continuity within the various regions of Asia, and this vast region’s interrelationships with the rest of the world.

Stirr ASAN 101 Syllabus

ASAN 310 Asian Humanities

This course looks at various societies in Asia through their written and oral literature, cultural expressions, religious beliefs, and convergent histories. We look at the humanities as the study of living expressive practices, with a ‘long view’ that includes the historical developments to which contemporary practices relate. Our approach to the humanities is interdisciplinary and incorporates ways of knowing situated in particular Asian contexts. Communication and the senses are a theme that unites the course. As this is an upper division course, both mastery of content and the development of critical thinking skills are course goals, and learning draws on students’ own experience and backgrounds. This course is taught both online and face-to-face.

ASAN 320I Asian Nation Studies: South Asia

This course focuses on modern, postcolonial South Asia. The course is divided into four topical sections. First, we get our geographic and historical bearings, and begin to examine the nature of the postcolonial nation-states in South Asia. Then, we approach modern South Asia through the perspective of gendered interaction within the family, drawing on ethnographic studies of rural India and urban Pakistan, along with music and TV serials. Our third section of the course addresses social inequalities on the basis of caste, ethnicity, and religious divisions, and how different groups continue to change and challenge social hierarchies since independence from colonial rule. Our final section looks at global flows in and through South Asia, examining persistent contradictions between economic growth and poverty, and the increasingly globalized ways in which South Asians address these problems from the state level to the level of the home. Throughout the course we pay attention to current events in South Asia and incorporate them into our class discussions.

ASAN 320Z Asian Nation Studies: Himalayas

This course is an interdisciplinary introduction to a region of the world that crosses the borders of Asia’s contemporary political divisions. It critically interrogates perspectives on the Himalayas as a border and a link between South, East, Southeast, and Central Asia, as a peripheral area of states in the region, as an area with its own nations and nationalisms, and as an area of “non-state space”, among others. We examine how these perspectives impact understandings of how places along the mountain chain are connected culturally, politically, economically, and ecologically, on different scales from local to global. We will examine how these connections have changed throughout history and how historical relationships continue to impact the present. Though we touch on places along the length of the Himalayas, we will focus on the central Himalayan region including Nepal, Bhutan, adjacent Indian states, and Tibet. Some topics of discussion will include trade, empires and colonialism, arts and culture, religions, environmental and ecological conflict, social change, political movements, and the Himalayan region in global context from the twentieth century to the present.

ASAN 478I/MUS 478I Musical Cultures: India

This course approaches the cultural study of music and performance through a specific focus on South Asia. This course does not aspire to be geographically comprehensive, but rather to give students an idea of the diversity of musical styles and social situations in which music is important in South Asia. We focus on Hindustani and Carnatic classical music traditions of the Indian subcontinent, film song, Sufi Qawwali performance, and regional folk, popular, and indigenous music. Each of these genres and music cultures are described locally – with attention to their roles in society, religion, politics, and identity and in context of postcolonial, technological, and transnational development. We listen to music and watch films in addition to reading scholarly articles. Points of discussion include the changing balance of traditional and modern ideas of music in systems of learning, performance techniques, ways of writing and recording music, and the social concept of music itself. No previous background in music is required, and all musical technical concepts are explained in class.

ASAN 491G (1) – Emotion and Music in Asia

How does music move us? Discussions of music, sound, emotion, and culture in Western scholarship continue to deal with the idea of a mind/body split, whether it is accepted or rejected. How might perspectives from Asian societies broaden our ideas about how music affects us? This course focuses on the sociocultural aspects of music and emotion, and related ideas about feeling and embodied affect, in relation to music and sound. We will read some of the classic scholarship on music and emotion in the disciplines of ethnomusicology and anthropology, focusing in particular on those dealing with Asian societies. We will pay particular attention to the similarities and differences between conceptions of emotion cross-culturally, and look at how some concepts, such as rasa, have evolved through centuries of musical and philosophical changes, the migration of ideas, and cross-cultural exchange. Topics will include how understandings of music and emotion relate to religious and philosophical concepts; politics; ideas of modernity; nationalism; and health and healing, among others

ASAN 491G(2) Islam in Contemporary Asia (undergraduate version of ASAN 611, below)

Graduate

ASAN 600I South Asia: Scope and Methods

This course introduces students to the history and practice of South Asian Studies. We engage with foundational texts, trends that have shaped the field, and contemporary material on issues of particular importance. We pay particular attention to historical and ethnographic methods, and the schools of thought that have shaped South Asian Studies in the past few decades.

ASAN 611 Comparative Muslim Societies in Asia

This course takes a comparative, topical approach to the study of modern Muslim societies in Asia. Though Asia is home to over half of the world’s Muslims, Asian Muslim societies have often been thought of as peripheral to a Middle Eastern “core” of the Islamic world. While this course focuses on South, East, and Southeast Asia, it aims to challenge this center-periphery model through attention to the historical spread of Islam and the development of Muslim networks connecting Asia and the Middle East, to the contemporary manifestations of these networks and their relations to local practice, and to local, lived experiences of life in varied Muslim societies in Asia. We draw on literature from anthropology, history, religious studies, and area studies to analyze Muslim societies in relation to each other, discovering commonalities and differences and understanding the processes by which these have developed. We also critically examine how the comparative method has been used in studies of Islam across disciplines. Throughout the course, we address key issues including colonialism, Orientalism, cosmopolitanism, Islam and the nation-state, education, gender, violence, popular culture, and everyday lives of Muslims in Asia.

ASAN 620 Asian Public Spheres

What is “the public sphere”, and how have this concept and its material manifestations developed in Asia, and in global networks of circulation that include Asia? What role have colonial powers and contemporary cultural and economic globalization come to play in Asian public spheres, and representations of Asia in global public spheres? What is the relationship between popular culture and politics? With attention to various forms of art and media, this course begins with theories of the public sphere, related ideas of publics and imagined communities, and debates on the definitions and uses of concepts of public, private, and intimate spheres. We then look at various case studies that develop these theories in detailed local contexts, including transnational circuits united through music, dance, and popular cultural imagery, in which “the local” is hard to pin down. Much of this class will focus on South Asia and globalized South Asian popular culture, along with studies from Southeast Asia and Japan. Through these case studies we will examine the defining aspects and shifting limits of particular public spheres. We will look at how they relate to histories of colonization or proximity to colonial power, local nationalisms and their resignification across space and time, processes of circulation and exchange, intercultural interaction and appropriation, and cultural and economic globalization.

ASAN 623 Gender and Asian Performing Arts

The performing arts are one venue for cultural analysis and critique; in some cases they are a principal venue for such activities. They represent one way of culturally “knowing.” The course undertakes an exploration of various cultural constructions of gender, with the performing arts as focus. Gender will be examined in selected genres on four levels:1) narrative of the form, 2) role and persona of the character, 3) identity of the performer, 4) and demographics of the audience. One subtext is the applicability of Western models and definitions of gender for the domain of the arts and for Asia-Pacific as a cultural region. A secondary interest is the applicability of the approaches of cultural studies and performance studies. The perspective is interdisciplinary and multimedia, emphasizing live performance but with attention to screen performance as well.

ASAN 750I South Asia Research and Writing Seminar

This course is designed for graduate students specializing in South Asia. It has two main goals: to familiarize students with current research on the area across the disciplines, and to familiarize students with the process of research and writing. By engaging with scholars studying South Asia and their current research, attending to their particular theoretical, methodological, and regionally oriented perspectives, and working through the writing and revision process of their own work, they will experience the process of research scholarship from start to finish and hone the skills needed to complete their thesis research and writing.

Selected Independent Studies

ASAN 499 Contextually Understanding the Devadasis of South India

ASAN 499 Citizenship and Gender in Nepal: The Case of the Badi Caste

ASAN 699 Music and Contemporary Tibet

ASAN 699 Readings in Contemporary South Asia

ASAN 699 Modern Nepal

Private Lessons

Nepali Language and Culture

I teach private lessons in Nepali on a case-by-case basis, tailored to the individual student’s ability level and goals.