Through SITA I have learned the complexity of Indian culture and politics. The classes helped significantly in enhancing my everyday experiences. SITA is a good program to learn about South Indian culture and experience it through the homestay, expressive culture, and even the daily cycle ride to the center. It provides full cultural immersion and you’ll learn so much through it. Bates student 2011

Choose from a diverse range of elective courses and study in Madurai for a semester or an academic year.

South India Term Abroad combines in-depth cultural immersion with academic study to produce a true intercultural learning experience.  Students’ own daily life experiences – in Madurai and with their host families – serve as a basis for class discussion and assignments.  The city of Madurai will spark many unique, challenging, and productive questions. Coursework (all in English) is supplemented with field visits, guest lectures, directed field research, and extra-curricular activities, volunteer work and internships.

South India Term Abroad fall semester (mid-August – late November) and spring semester (early January – mid-April) programs allow students to discover, explore, and immerse themselves in diverse South Indian cultural, religious, and natural landscapes. The fall and spring semester programs follow the same academic program and schedule, so that students can choose which semester fits best into their broader academic program. Each semester, students enroll in 5 courses, including three required courses and two elective courses, as described below.

The SITA academic year program aims to help students build upon base knowledge acquired during the fall to develop more linguistic competence and regional expertise in South India, intercultural skills, and the ability to apply knowledge to real-life settings. For academic-year program students, the required language and anthropology courses continue in their second semester, as Intermediate Tamil and Critical Theory respectively. They also take the two electives they didn’t take in the fall or approved courses designed for them with local professors (examples from previous Academic Year Programs include Dress & Self-Fashioning among South Indian Christians, Development Issues, and Hindi). Learn more about SITA’s curriculum by reading through the course descriptions below. Syllabi are linked to course titles. ** Please note that SITA reserves the right to change the elective course list at any point. Courses are most often changed or cancelled due to low student enrollment or the unavailability of local professors to teach the course. **


Language (Required)

ANTH 3791: Elementary Functional Tamil (4 credits)

Instructor: Dr. Arun Raja Selvan is SITA’s Tamil professor. Dr. Arun holds a Ph.D. in Linguistics from Madurai Kamaraj University. His dissertation was entitled “Problems in Translating English into Tamil.” He has been with SITA since 1993.

Course Description: Tamil is one of India’s two most ancient languages. Its grammatical and literary tradition dates back to the 3rd century BCE. Seventy million people speak Tamil as their native language. It is an official language of India, Sri Lanka, and Singapore, with significant numbers of speakers in Canada, the United States, Malaysia, Mauritius, and Myanmar. The goal of SITA’s course, Elementary Functional Tamil, is to make you functionally competent to communicate in Tamil. You will study all four language skills – reading, writing, speaking, and listening – but emphasis is placed on speaking and listening. In-class drills and homework assignments help and encourage you to use Tamil in your day-to-day interactions in Madurai.


Anthropology (Required)

ANTH 3531: Ethnographic Methods & Theory (3 credits)
ANTH 3991: Research in Madurai (2 credits)

Instructor: Dr. Ted Samuel

Course Description: Ethnographic Methods and Theory will introduce you to the theory and practice of ethnography and will provide an intellectual context for the various cultural issues you will encounter in South India. Through readings, in-class workshops, fieldwork assignments, writing, and peer review, the structured elements of the course are designed to provide a foundation for a final ethnographic research project of your own design. Assigned readings are chosen to provide an introduction to the cultural contexts of South India, the practicalities and ethical considerations of conducting ethnographic fieldwork, and the art and practice of ethnographic writing.  Fieldwork assignments will give you experiential knowledge and practice in various research methodologies. Class activities and peer review aim to create a strong and cohesive group to support engaged learning and critical thinking. Students will:

  • Gain theoretical and experiential knowledge of the practice of ethnography
  • Gain an introductory knowledge of the anthropology of South India
  • Gain experience in constructive peer review and editing
  • Improve skills in analytical thinking, reading, and writing
  • Increase confidence and enthusiasm for exploring the city of Madurai
  • Successfully carry out a multi-stage ethnographic research project, including conception, research design, participant observation, final paper, and presentation

 ** Please note that all independent field research projects must be completed in Madurai and are subject to final approval by instructor. Reasons for not approving a project usually involve ethical or feasibility concerns. **

Second Semester Course Description for Academic Year Program Students:  Feminism, Anthropology, and the Shape of Intercultural Experience is a continuation of the first semester Ethnographic Methods and Theory course. We will focus on theory and methods of feminist ethnography as means to exploring the complex relations across difference that have long formed the core of anthropological theory and practice. Please note that this course is tailored to academic year program students, so is subject to change from year to year.


Environmental Studies (elective)

PSC 2994: Environmental Issues in South India (3 credits)

Instructor: Dr. Chris Singh (Professor of Economics at Lady Doak College, Madurai) and Professor Jeyasingh have led the Environmental Issues in South India course since fall 2009.

Course Description: Environmental Issues in South India is designed to help students achieve an appreciation for the environmental issues of South India with particular reference to Madurai District and the complexity of responses to those issues. The course design explores environmentalism, conservation and sustainability in the study area through a set of readings, classroom discussions and field visits. The course begins with an examination of the Madurai environment in its historic and global contexts. The focus will be on environmental issues pertaining to sustainable development in the South Indian context. For the final course project, students will address a specific environmental issue in Madurai. 

** Not offered Fall 2015 **


Sociology (elective)

SOC 2181 / WMST 3170: India’s Diversity (3 credits)

Instructor: Ms. Anita Tiphagne is Assistant Professor of the Department of Social Sciences, Lady Doak College, Madurai. She holds a Masters degree in Social Work and in Sociology. She is currently engaged in her doctoral research on Denotified Criminal Tribes in South Tamil Nadu. She is also engaged in volunteering in human rights work in the state. Ms. Tiphagne began teaching SITA’s sociology course in fall 2013, after several semesters of well-received guest lectures.

Course Description: 
India is a complex country. We have a rich cultural heritage that we are proud of and yet we have deeply embedded social systems that we are still trying to come to terms with. Any person who is visiting India is curious and sometimes baffled by our realities of caste and gender. We are also in a state of social flux and so contemporary realities are more complex. India’s Diversity: Negotiating Caste, Politics and Gender in Tamil Nadu will help you get introduced to the cultural identity of India by exploring the systems of caste, religion and gender in India. A historical framework juxtaposed with current realities and intertwined with media and politics will be a valid tool to help you understand the intricacies of India’s social institutions. India’s Diversity: Negotiating Caste, Politics, and Gender in Tamil Nadu will have lectures, discussions, film screenings, class presentations, discussion with Indian students and some other interactive learning tools. The students will be expected to relate what happens in the classroom to their everyday experiences in Madurai. There will also be a discussion with students of Lady Doak college to help understand the contemporary view of caste, religion and gender. 


Religion/History/Art History (elective)

REL 3990: Myth, Religion, and Art in South India (3 credits)

Instructor: Dr. Ramaswamy Venkatraman is a retired History professor from Madurai Kamaraj University. Dr. Venkatraman leads the lecture and field visit series for SITA’s Myth, Religion, and Art course. He has lectured and led field visits relating to religion, Hinduism and mythology for South India Term Abroad since its inception in 1990. Read about “Madurai’s most sought after historian” in a recent newspaper article. 

Course Description: Myth, Religion, and Art examines the history and contemporary artistic and ritual expressions of religious beliefs in Tamils’ daily lives. There is a focus on Jainism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. Students accompany their professor on visits to temples, shrines, and festivals within Madurai and in villages surrounding the city as part of this course.

** Not offered Fall 2015 **


Literature (elective)

ENGL 3730: Modern Indian Literature (3 credits)

Instructors: Dr. Premila Paul and Dr. R. Padmanabhan Nair, faculty members in the English Department at American College in Madurai, lead the literature lectures and discussions. Dr. Premila Paul has taught at Oberlin College, Gettysburg College, and Appalachian State University in the United States. They have lectured and led discussions on Indian literature for South India Term Abroad since its inception in 1990.  

Course Description: Modern Indian Fiction will analyze Indian family life, gender roles, and caste in a postcolonial literary context. Student questions, interpretations, and analyses will drive the discussion. Students will read internationally renowned authors like Arundhati Roy, Amitav Ghosh, Salman Rushdie, and Tamil authors they might not otherwise be exposed to like U.R. Ananthamurthy.