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India | Course Description

February 15, 2018


Essential Question: How does India face the challenges of modernization and globalization while also
maintaining its rich traditions and diverse religious and cultural identities?

India is an ancient and diverse country, comprised of many ethnic groups, religious traditions, and
languages. It is also a nation in transition, with many of its people recently moving from poverty to the
middle class. The process of modernization, however, presents significant challenges—cultural, political,
and environmental. This ECS explores India’s efforts to face these challenges by visiting two distinct yet
emblematic Indian communities, Balla and McLeod Ganj. After arriving in New Delhi, students will
travel to Balla, a rural village located in the foothills of the Himalayas, to aid in construction of
community sanitation facilities, which the Indian government, despite its efforts to expand sustainable
access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation into rural areas, has struggled to fund sufficiently.
While working to bring Balla into the twenty-first century, students live with host families and learn their
traditional cultural practices, such as local food, dance and yoga. From Balla we move to McLeod Ganj to
consider India’s special encounter with a major political challenge in today’s world—refugees and
statelessness. McLeod Ganj is home to both the Tibetan Government in exile and a large Tibetan
population that has been fleeing Tibet since the 1960s. Students will encounter aspects of refugee life as
they experience first, second, third, and fourth generation Tibetan refugees and their stories. Working
with Tibetan language partners, students learn their personal narratives, and also meet with guest
speakers, such as former political prisoners, poets, activists, and Buddhist monks. Students will leave
McLeod Ganj with a deeper understanding of the Tibetan struggle, which has been ongoing for over 50
years, and the ability to compare and contrast India’s refugee crisis with similar situations in the United
States, the Middle East, Europe, and Africa. Through these and other encounters, this ECS experiences
both India’s rich cultural traditions and its growing pains as it struggles to take its place in a modern,
globalized world.

Instructors: Amanda Abrahams and John Longo