Penn Arts & Sciences Logo


The Department of South Asian Studies is the principal unit within the School of Arts and Sciences for teaching and research on South Asia at Penn and offers a number of modern and classical South Asian languages, as well as courses in a variety of fields related to South Asia. The Department is comprised of faculty with diverse expertise in the languages, literatures, histories, cultures, religions and arts of the subcontinent.

The MA in South Asian Studies is intended to give students a broad background knowledge of South Asia and further their competence in an Asian language so that they may enter a career in business, law, non-profit or government work. It may also be used to prepare for application to a PhD program for those students who have insufficient linguistic or scholarly background in South Asia.

The Department’s PhD curriculum provides a rigorous training in South Asian languages, literature, culture, and history that serves as a foundation for research and teaching in higher education. The Department emphasizes both linguistic expertise as well as in depth disciplinary knowledge. Students will gain exposure to a wide variety of approaches and methods in the study of South Asia, and will also learn how to deal with a diversity of research materials (including texual, documentary, enthographic and material). Penn is one of the leading departments in the US and has trained generations of scholars working on South Asia for over a century.  Penn offers many resources for interested students, including one of the country's leading research libraries on South Asia, with over 3500 Indic ms. and over 200,000 printed volumes related to South Asia.

Interdisciplinary Studies

Philip Friedrich, SAST PhD Candidate

"I have benefited immensely from the department's insistence that the history of South Asian religions not be studied in isolation from wider social and political processes, nor from the manifold interactions between those traditions. Coupled with strong training in languages, this approach has forced me to move beyond reading Buddhist texts and materials at 'face value,' and to instead probe deeper transformations indexed by changes to the classic analytics of Religious Studies - topics like doctrine, ritual, patronage, and sacred kingship. The result is a much more nuanced account of Buddhism's historical development, as well as the idea of religion itself."