Indian Culture I

A.Y. 2020/2021
Overall hours
Learning objectives
The course means first of all to
- develop a solid and consolidated knowledge, both diachronic and synchronous, and a deep understanding of different aspects of Indian culture, traditions and habits;
- develop the understanding of the main features of the different, religious and social, communities Indian society is made of and divided in, also in order to learn how to properly and effectively interact with Indian people depending on their social and cultural profile;
- develop the ability to relate and interact properly with Indian people living both in India and abroad using different linguistic registers and communicative skills depending on the social and cultural features of the community the Indian speaker belong to;
- develop different ways of relating to people based on their social identity;
- develop the understanding of the social, political and cultural relationships among the different communities living in India;
- train the students to understand and decipher the Indian point of view on a number of subjects ruling everyday social life;
- train the students to detect the problems and the difficulties Indian people living abroad do usually experience. The course also is supposed to give the students the instruments both to understand the social and cultural experiences Indian immigrants have to go through in order to integrate into the new social and cultural scenario and to detect the main problems they usually face depending on their social and economic status and on their religious identity;
- the course is also supposed to develop the students's ability to explain to someone who is not aware of any features of Indian culture, society and traditions its main aspects and contents. The students at the end of the course should be aware of the cultural and historical meaning of Indian demeanors, behaviors, and automatic physical and mental patterns. They should also be able to increase their knowledge of Indian culture autonomously, orienting themmselves in the vast array of available studies and researches on Indian culture.
Expected learning outcomes
After attending the course, students should be able to recognize the main theoretical positions emerging in the contemporary debate on the historiographical and anthropological representation of the development of Indian society. The course is also supposed to promote students' ability to critically deal with methodological problems and to use appropriate scientific terminology. Students are expected to become familiar with academic and specialist literature and the course means to promote students' autonomy in studying topics related to Indian culture.
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
Second semester
Whether it will be possible to return to in-person lessons will depend on the evolution of the current health emergency. So, since the course will be taught in the second term, updates will be provided as soon as possible.
Online teaching will be delivered through the Teams platform, which is part of the Office 365 suite. The Office 365 package can be downloaded by UNIMI students from the university website free of charge.
Updates on any issue concerning the course (exams, online teaching/in-person teaching, etc.) will be provided promptly on the course website (Cultura Indiana) on the Ariel platform.
Course syllabus
The course means to introduce the students to the peculiar Indian healthcare system, explaining how and why it reflects India's great cultural, political, social and economic diversity. Indian plural system of health knowledge and practice, besides Western biomedicine or allopathy and folk or popular medicine, includes seven officially recognized schools of medicine that make Indian healthcare system unique. AYUSH is the current official acronym representing six of the seven official, traditional systems, that is to say Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy, each of them having its empirical base of codified, textual knowledge. While outside India they are labelled as alternative medicine, in contemporary India they are considered to be establishment medicine, like Western biomedicine or allopathy. Since medical systems emit both medical messages and meta medical messages, treating ailments as well as expressing identities, through the introduction to Indian traditional schools of medicine, the history as well as the culture and society of India will be approached. Indian medical traditions far from being static, have in fact been constantly evolving and changing according to important transformers such as the state, the market, modern science and society. After a brief introduction to the history and the features of contemporary India's healthcare system, the course will deal with two of the AYUSH medical schools: Ayurveda and Yoga. To start with, a close examination of Ayurveda's and Yoga's basic principles, their development through the centuries, their religious frame and spiritual implications will be conducted. Later, it will be explained how and when Ayurveda acquired, especially in Western perception, the status of Indian classical medicine and came to be considered a sort of synonym, an equivalent of Indian traditional medicine. With regard to Yoga, the course will focus on its medicalization: Yoga has in fact migrated from being a religious and spiritual practice and school of thought, deeply rooted in Hindu religious tradition, to becoming part of a globally accepted, transnational healthcare regime. Detached from its traditional cultural and religious roots and transplanted into a secular landscape, its practice no longer requires that its participants engage in a religious or cultural life. A discussion on these topics will be encouraged during the course classes. Besides outlining the basic principles, the past and the present of Yoga and Ayurveda, the course will also put under close scrutiny the concepts of body, health and illnes as elaborated and perceived by Indian culture and society. Particular attention will be paid to the following topics addressed according to a legal point of view: freedom of medical choice, health promotion and disease prevention, gender recognition and gender rights protection as implemented and governed by Indian Law and Indian current law system.
Prerequisites for admission
The students are supposed to know thoroughly Indian history as well as the composition and the main features of Indian society, the history, development, contents and characteristics of Indian religions and of Islam in India.
The students who are not familiar with Indian history are invited to study the following volume:
M. Torri, Storia dell'India, Laterza, Roma-Bari, 2000.
Students who are not familiar with Hinduism and with Indian variations of Islam are invited to study the following books:
G. Flood, L'induismo. Temi, tradizioni, prospettive, Einaudi, Torino, 2006.
D. Bredi, Storia della cultura indo-musulmana, Carocci, Roma, 2006.
Teaching methods
Classroom-taught lessons, practical exercises and role-play.
Teaching Resources
- L. Acquarone, Tra dharma, Common Law e WTO. Un'introduzione al sistema giuridico dell'India, Unicopli, Milano, 2016.
- M. Torri, Storia dell'India, Laterza, Roma-Bari, 2000 (CAPITOLI: dal XI al XVII)
- A. Comba, La medicina indiana, Promolibri, Torino, 1991.
- M. Angelillo, Tra spiriti, yoga e paracetamolo: fenomenologia della salute e della malattia in India, in M. Vaghi (a cura di), I mondi dell'Asia, Mimesis, Milano, 2016, pp. 145-165.
- D. Wujastyk, Introduzione, in D. Wujastyk (a cura di), Le radici dell'Ayurveda, Adelphi, Milano, 2011, pp. 19-56.
- The Focus: Traditional Indian Medicine, in The Newsletter, IIAS, No. 65, Autumn 2013, pp. 21-36. (…)
- D. Wujastyk, Indian Medicine,…
- M. Singleton, Yoga Body. Le origini della pratica posturale, Ed. Mediterranee, Roma, 2019.
1. E. De Michelis, A History of Modern Yoga, Continuum, London, 2004.
2. J.S. Alter, Yoga in Modern India. The Body Between Science and Philosophy, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2004.
3. E. Goldberg, The Path of Modern Yoga. The History of an Embodied Spiritual Practice, Inner Traditions, Ronchester, 2016.
4. M. Angelillo, Modern Yoga, RCS, Milano, 2017.
Assessment methods and Criteria
The exam is oral and it means to verify the acquisition of both theoretical knowledge and skills in discussing and presenting effectively and properly the subjects the course revolves around. Grading, besides student's preparation, will also take into account her/his ability of analysis and synthesis, clarity in exposition, use of an appropriate terminology. An organic vision of the topics discussed in the course, the capacity for critical analysis and the use of a precise and appropriate language will be positively evaluated. The student may write and discuss a short paper dealing with one of the subjects analysed during the course. The student who would like to write and discuss a paper instead of having an oral exam based on the course bibliography should send his/her paper (not shorter than 10.000 characters) to professor Angelillo one week before the day of the exam. Without the following formal characteristics the paper will not be taken into consideration: 1) quotations always accompanied by the bibliographic reference of the source; 2) short final bibliography written according to one of the bibliography models accepted in the academic publications.
The assessment will take into consideration the strength of the preparation, the student's ability to critically deal with methodological problems, the clarity and the ability to use appropriate scientific terminology.
Lessons: 40 hours